Frugal yet Fancy Homebrewing – with 30 Seconds of Work

discoSummer seems to have started a little early this year here in Colorado, and brought along all of its pleasant side effects. Abandoning the socks and shoes, gathering with local friends to play in the park and watch the sunsets, and of course an increased consumption of cold beverages.

Long ago, I wrote a post about brewing your own beer. It was an amazing experience and it produced great beer. Many readers are advanced brewers and they wrote in with advice and encouragement. It is still a great hobby for the many people who enjoy it. But unfortunately for my friends and me, we found that after a few batches the habit just didn’t stick.

It was all in the practicalities: the brewing process takes a couple of hours and involves quite a bit of repetitive labor that can be guilt-inducing for those of us who like to use all our time productively. Bottling is a particularly slow chore, and the more efficient alternative of keg storage encourages excessive beer consumption because you end up with your own refrigerated beer tap taunting you at all hours. To top it all off, the home-brewed beer was only slightly cheaper than the local microbrews, which can be found for just over a dollar a bottle around here if you pick them up during a sale.

To create a winning home brewing situation for lazy people like myself, I needed an impossible combination of attributes: a low time commitment, small batches, low cost, no major research, and no bottling. I didn’t think such a thing existed, but a local friend of mine who is known on this blog as The Honey Badger has proved me wrong. He has rediscovered an age-old method to convert good fruit juice into very good summer party beverages with about 30 seconds of work (plus of course two weeks of fermentation).

The end result is a sparkling beverage that is extremely tasty, much drier (less sweet) than the original fruit, and contains about 6% alcohol – the perfect level for adult relaxation and a factor in the easy breezy style of this very article which is being written with a large mug of cider right next to the laptop.

At less than 60 cents per 12 ounce serving, this is a truly frugal way to get the party started. Replacing a portion of your microbrew consumption with some innovative drinks you ferment yourself could save you hundreds per year. And pulling out a fresh gallon jug of this fine hard cider from the fridge is a prestigious way to impress your party guests. As long as you don’t use it as an excuse to consume more, something we laid down the rules for in the old Beer ‘o’ Clock article.

So let’s make some right now.

1: Procure the largest, fanciest bottle of juice you can find

yeastI chose this lovely one-gallon jug bottle of North Coast Sonoma County unfiltered apple juice from the new hipster market in town called Lucky’s. It runs about $5.99 for a bottle this size. The key is to look for something without preservatives, and with a very good natural taste. You can ferment pretty much anything with sugar in it, but we are fancy people here, so we use fancy juice. Apple, grape, mango, pineapple, pear, and berry juices work beautifully.

2: Take off the cap and dump in 1/2 teaspoon of Champagne Yeast
You might give it a little swirl or shake to disperse the yeast nicely through the juice. Save the cap, for you’ll be putting it back on once the brewing is done.

3: Put a cork with an airlock* in it.
stopperThen put an ounce of clean water (or a sterile liquid like whiskey as shown here) into the airlock. I recommend setting the bottle in the center of your kitchen table at this point so you can watch the show. Within 24 hours, it will start gently bubbling and fizzing, as the yeast works its incredible alchemy of turning the useless sugar molecules into useful alcohol ones. This bubbling will go on for about two weeks. At that point, you may notice that it slows down as the yeast runs low on sugar.

And you’re done! After those two weeks, put the cap back on, and put the jug in your fridge. A small amount of additional fermentation will happen, which will release more carbon dioxide that gets forced back into solution to make the mixture slightly bubbly. It will store well for many weeks in the fridge, or you can use it immediately. Dispense freely to self and friends, and watch the pleasant results.

Update: In response to the idea of in-bottle carbonation, some readers brought up the concern that it is possible to break certain bottles if the pressure grows too large. The thing is, you don’t know what “too large” is. Therefore, I will start a new dangerous experiment today that may cost me a whole bottle of cider: I’ll brew a new batch, cap the bottle tightly after two weeks, and leave it in a a protected enclosure in my warm garage for several additional days. Then see if it explodes, gets extremely fizzy, or just ends up perfectly carbonated. Plastic bottles will also eliminate the risk of dangerous explosions, because they have a great capacity to stretch. Update 2: I tried it and the bottle did not explode. But others report that explosions do occasionally happen (especially with larger/thinner glass bottles), so make sure you do it in a safe place if you try this.


The key to this whole deal is that we have eliminated the time-consuming parts of beer and wine brewing. Instead of boiling grains for hours and adding multiple ingredients, we use just one ingredient. Instead of washing carboys and siphoning from one to another, we ferment in just the bottle supplied with the juice. And instead of sterilizing and capping dozens of bottles afterwards, we just throw that same bottle in the fridge and serve directly from it. The result is obviously not beer, but the variety of fruits and other sweet things that Nature makes available will still keep your taste buds entertained.

I just started this experiment two weeks ago. We cracked the first bottle last night, and it was such a success that I decided to share the results with you as well as start a few more bottles for future use.

Bottoms up!


*The Honey Badger has been brewing interesting concoctions to share at his own parties for several years now, and he even started a website called Simple Brew Kits to sell the extremely simple parts needed to ferment beverages like this at home. A rubber stopper/cork, an airlock, and some yeast. Under 15 bucks and you’re set for the summer. 

** Mr. HB is also the guy I teamed up with for The Foreclosure Project, and the one who introduced me to the Badass nature of Fasting. He is also known occasionally as Poppa from Poppa’s Cottage and Hirsute Pursuit.


  • Chris April 22, 2014, 9:18 pm

    Just bought my kit. Why do you have to put liquid in the airlock?

    • Mr. Frugal Toque April 23, 2014, 6:23 am

      The liquid in the airlock, um, locks the air in.
      Otherwise it’s just a funny shaped tube.
      You’ll realize this when you see the bubbles going through. The airlock allows the carbon dioxide to bubble out and go up without letting any air get in.

  • Jochen April 23, 2014, 12:33 am

    To extend this idea, i have to tell what our familiy is doing each year.
    We have some apple trees on the greenfield. Each year in September/October we collect a bunch of apples and bring them to a semi-prof juice squeezer (5 kilometers) costs 50Euro. We carry the plastic barrels(each 60 liters) to our house and heat up(with wodden fire) the apple juice (>60 degrees C). This hot juice we fill up to bag-in-box(google), but a serveral other systems are possibel, just simple bottles too. So we produce our own juice for approx. two years at once – quality for this long period is really no problem!

    Second part for the other fresh juice are these 60 liter or more platic barrels with airlock :-)
    So you can produce Äppelwoi http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%84ppelwoi
    by yourself for one year. Or a few month, depending on your consumption…

    Costs 50€ squeezer + 5 € transportation +
    for the first year barrels ?€ + bottles or bag-in-box + 6 hours work

    Have a try and enjoy!
    PS: if you don´t have own apple trees, just ask people with trees you should get for free or less money.

  • Genevieve Hawkins April 23, 2014, 7:06 am

    I love this…I’ve brewed beer before. back in a way back time ago in California…in the US it is time consuming and not very economical.
    I could use some can-do advice on my situation with brewing. I am in Thailand (the Feds will leave me alone, I think? But I don’t get mail here). We’re building a bungalow in the backwoods (long story involving a delay on my husband’s visa). We have a lot of things we cannot get easily (like a bottle cork. Or champagne yeast. I’m lucky to know of one store in Phuket that sells Red Star yeast, period. It’s probably meant for making bread?). What we do have is a virtually unlimited supply of fresh whole mangos, papayas, usually bananas, and sometimes coconuts. By fresh supply, I mean rotting on the forest floor because nobody can use them fast enough. We also have (thanks to my brother in law’s drinking habit) about 400 bottles of many sizes and shapes. Most are glass (Chang beer), but some are plastic. I’m sure we can find balloons, rubber bands, and we do have refrigeration (the temperature outside is 80-90 degrees f, year round)…so I’m trying to figure out the logistics of this in my situation. It would subsidize the drinking and housebuilding habit greatly…and we have all the time in the world…

  • Joe Archer April 23, 2014, 7:29 am

    I have been doing this myself for a few years. I use the natural fermentation method. I will take the juice put it out side with some cheese cloth over top for a couple of days. Every time you walk by agitate it to keep it from growing anything. You will begin to see it turning slightly cloudy, that is the natural yeast. You can now do it the same way you did your batch, move it inside and seal, if you use a regular lid on the container make sure to burp the air out of it often so the pressure doesn’t build up, after you have it ready to go transfer and strain the yeast through cheese cloth and use the yeast and a small amount of juice as a starter for another batch. If it doesn’t taste right then throw that batch out and start again, once you get a good batch you can make it consistently using the same starter. I do this with apple juice to make a good hard cider.

  • Jason Murdey April 23, 2014, 7:56 am

    Great article! I do hard cider every fall here in Michigan, I can get great UV-pasteurized (so nothing left to kill the yest) cider for 4 bucks a gallon, so a 5 gallon batch ends up running me maybe 22-23 dollars counting the Montrachet yeast (I prefer it to champagne yeast) and some brown sugar/cinnamon sticks. I do beer too so I just ferment it for 6 weeks in a plastic or glass fermenter then either bottle it if I’m carbonating it or transfer to old wine jugs if I’m leaving it still. If you prefer a slightly sweeter beverage and don’t mind it non-carbonated, what I sometimes do is make up a 5 gallon batch of cider that comes out at about 10% ABV, then kill the yeast with a couple campden tablets and add in another 2 gallons of unfermented cider, or another one gallon with some brown sugar or honey dissolved in it. It increases the calorie count to alcohol ratio but makes a tasty beverage for people who don’t like stuff too dry. You could carbonate this afterward witha keg setup but I never got into that. Its a pretty thrifty way to get your alcohol overall and it tastes great.

  • Bex April 23, 2014, 11:48 am

    WOW this looks so simple. my BF and I have brewed several batches using typical home brew equipment and techniques. (In fact I started a sweet red cranberry wine Friday) BUT this is SO MUCH SIMPLER. I can’t get over it. I am definitely going to show him this post and try this soon!
    My dad has said he has made wine using Welch’s frozen juice concentrate with water (he also noted it’s KEY to use preservative free) but that doesn’t come with the convenient and squeaky clean glass jug!

  • Bobwerner April 23, 2014, 12:51 pm

    Interesting technique. Instead of a stopper you can just use a balloon with a pin hole on top and will probably have similar results with a 33 cent yeast packet from the baking isle.

    While waiting for your next batch, getcha a box of wine, add some 7 Up and a little of your favorite fruit juice. Been doing these since 82. Taste great, easy to make and as cheap as the homebrew method, although, not as fun or unpredictable. Or cheap vodka is around 25 cents per serving and tastes great mixed with just water or ad a little juice. Let’s see, that would make the 6 pack costs around $1.20. (use glass bottles and print your own MMM labels on the ink jet!)

    My wife always said I was a cheap drunk!

  • BillMc April 23, 2014, 12:57 pm

    About your dangerous experiment. When I first started brewing beer at home I had trouble with a batch that never seemed to fully ferment. Anyway I decided to bottle it. I added the usually amount of priming sugar, bottled it in regular 12 oz beer bottles and put it in a closet to carbonate. I tried a bottle after 2 weeks and the taste was awful. Well I forgot about the beer until one day, several weeks later my young daughter went into the closet to get the vacuum. She starts yelling Dad, there is glass all over the clothes and the closet floor is all wet! Well, the bottles had turned into beer grenades. Out of 2 cases about a third had either blown their caps off or exploded and sent shards of glass over the closet. I nervously carried the rest out to the trash. So please be careful.

  • TheGoyWonder April 23, 2014, 2:10 pm

    I’m not so sure homebrewing is expensive…

    10-12 pounds grain, $12-15
    2-3 oz hops, $3-5
    yeast varies by method and degree of recycling. $1-2 a batch
    misc (CO2/bottle caps/energy) $1

    So it should really cost about $20, or $.40 per serving. Dunno how you get 3x that.

  • Kyle April 23, 2014, 2:48 pm

    I have been brewing beer for about 5 years or so now. Every once in a while I have that thought.. Damn! I should just drop beer and go to wine or hard cider etc. It’s so much quicker and easier. my friends have dabbled in wine making, but I still stick to beer pretty much. Key is to make it easy to brew, I agree it doesn’t save much money especially if you’re doing extract brewing. but all grain consumes another hour or more. Kegging saves time, but 5 gallons is a lot to go through unless you throw a lot of parties. The issues of drinking i guess lol.

  • OmNomCider April 23, 2014, 2:49 pm

    I experimented with hard ciders from apple juice concentrate two years ago. I still have bottles aging, and they taste great. I found chardonnay wine yeast produced the best tasting cider. Champagne yeast produces a very dry product. Chardonnay yeast leaves a lot of apple flavor, making a more interesting flavored product.

    Most “true” hard ciders are made from juice pressed with many different types of apples, some of which include higher tannins than the sweet, dessert apples we find in the grocery store and which most apple juice is made from. You can try adding some oak chips (bought from the home brew store that sells your yeast) to get the tannins into your juice: this will also help the cider age.

  • Joe April 23, 2014, 6:36 pm

    Great post. After starting to brew beer and reading Michael Pollan’s new book “Cooked” I came across “The Art of Fermentation” by Sandor Katz and checked it out at the local library. This book has a great deal of useful information about traditional and home fermentation, including alcoholic fruit juices like this, beer, wine, mead, etc. as well as other ferments like sauerkraut (which is incredibly easy), yogurt, cheese, and a whole bunch of other practices from cultures around the world. I’ve just started dabbling in this myself, but wanted to recommend it because it navigates many of the issues people are posting about here, like what yeasts to add (if any), temperature, how to avoid exploding glass bottles, and more.

    • Sarah April 24, 2014, 9:18 pm

      I second that recommendation! I’ve really enjoyed a lot of the tips and history in Katz’s book, which is incredibly informative and rich in details. His section on alcohol ferments inspired me to start two gallons of blackberry mead brewing last summer…just blackberries, honey, and water. No yeast needed because there is natural yeast on the berries and in the honey that starts the fermentation process. Honey ferments much more slowly than sugar, so it’s definitely not a 2 week process, but cheap and fun for sure!

  • Carlsky April 24, 2014, 7:50 am

    I started two batches last night using wine yeast. One bottle of apple juice and another nice drink of pomegranate and blueberries. This morning the yeast pellets were rising up and down quite a bit in the bottle.

    I had to use wine yeast since the local brew store did not have champagne yeast. We’ll see how it turns out in 2 weeks.

  • Kevin April 24, 2014, 1:57 pm

    This looks really neat, but I remember from when I was debating dabbling in homebrewing beer, that cleaning the equipment with various cleaners was essential. I purchased airlocks and stoppers the other day, but if I’m planning on fermenting in the same container it was purchased in, do I need to go that far or should some soap and water cover it?

  • herbert salisbury April 24, 2014, 4:31 pm

    i’ve brewed lots. beer, cider, mead. in almost all cases 2 weeks is not long enough to cap. i know, i have had to clean up exploded glass chunks and beer more than once. you should use a refractometer or hydrometer to be certain, or better yet for a lazy person like me, wait at least a month. it gets better with age anyway, i swear.

  • 2flit April 24, 2014, 9:34 pm

    Something fun to do when trying to make Cider is to use a “Mead Yeast” instead of the regular stuff. I have also tried It has a different taste that is nicer when used with apples. We have brewed our own apple wine for maybe thirty years, made from our own apples. Mostly wine, occasionally cider and even distilled it a few times.. I have blown up bottles once or twice like you are trying to experiment with. I have heard them explode but never been there when it happened.

  • Just Riding Along April 24, 2014, 10:32 pm

    Oops, this ended up in the wrong section and I’m not sure how to move it….

    I would love to see some posts on gardening too.

    I have had some success in Colorado. I’m probably 60 miles south of you, slightly higher elevation with plenty of hot days. The things I’ve found to be helpful include:

    – Good soil. I have a raised bed system which I chose more for practical reasons than for Mustachian reasons. The batch of soil I started with was not very good and it took a lot of amendments before it grew anything. I’m sure the folks in this forum have much better and economical solutions than what I ultimately came up with. Compost from my backyard compost pile was only part of the solution.

    -Mulch is essential for minimizing water use and keeping plants from withering away on the hot days. Some of the plants look a little sad in the afternoon sun, but they perk back up once it cools off in the evening. I use straw for mulch; a bale goes a long ways. Unfortunately the straw I got was not weed free; but scattering some of it on the bare spots of my lawn has done wonders for it.

    -The Square Foot Garden approach is the Mustachian approach to gardening, imo. Divide your garden into grids 1 square foot each, and plant one kind of plant in each square. My raised beds worked out perfectly in this regard. You get a lot of food in a small space, and it really keeps the weeds down. He even goes through how many of each kind of plant you can put in a square foot. Some plants like zucchini require more than one square. He also had suggestions for trellises that were fairly economical, sturdy, and worked well for me.

    -Finally, figure out what grows well here and stick to that. For whatever reason, I’ve had little luck with spinach or lettuce. But I’ve literally harvested collards by the bathtub-full. Kale, chard, beets, zucchini, winter squash have also done well. The season is usually too short for cantaloupe, unless we have a very warm spring, and peppers just don’t seem to thrive. Herbs can also do very well. I still experiment with things to see if I can figure out how to grow them, but I plant a lot more of what I know works.

    Even better is when the garden gets established, as a lot of plants can over-winter and come up in the spring with little to no work on my part. Some are ready to eat now (chives, collards, scallions) and some are not quite ready yet (kale, chard, thyme) but will be soon.

    I’ve stayed with a fairly simple irrigation system and had no problems with it, even the section I added on to an existing zone and cobbled together with parts from Home Depot.

    Love the blog and bring on the gardening posts!

  • Dr. Doom April 25, 2014, 6:28 am

    Back in high school, before me and my posse were of legal drinking age, we stumbled upon a similar but somewhat less fancy recipe for homebrew. It involved yeast, frozen-from-concentrate grape juice, empty two liter Shasta bottles, and a safe hiding place. End result? Really drunk kids with mouths that smelled like wet sourdough bread. Compared to that, this recipe sounds super-posh. Viva la homebrew!

  • Smalliswell April 25, 2014, 8:57 am

    Can this be accomplished with fresh juice or other other types of fruit?

  • Peter R. April 26, 2014, 8:19 am

    I would suggest you at least rack-off or filter the dead yeast cells ( lees ) at the bottom after the primary fermentation is finished .

    You will get a cleaner truer tasting beverage and not one that taste yeasty.

    • Joe May 31, 2014, 3:48 pm

      Peter – Thanks for the tip on filtering. I’m enjoying my first batch right now and it is decidedly better after running it through some coffee filters. Not ideal, but it worked in a pinch! I’ll pick up some cheesecloth soon since my next batch is already working ;-)

  • John DeLancey April 26, 2014, 11:25 am

    Just started my first batch (with my kit from Simple Brew Kits — thanks for the quick, painless service dude!).

    Added 1/4 cup of sugar to hopefully up the sweetness just a tad in the end product (not planning to let it ferment any longer, so I’m hoping it won’t all convert — may just have an extra fun batch, I suppose #novice).

    Also: if you, like me, sometimes fail to think things through, remember to get an extra airlock if you want to try two batches at once — the kit came with two stoppers, but not the other airlock… :-D

  • Retire early April 26, 2014, 11:29 am

    Found a sale on some apple juice, contains Malic acid and Ascorbic acid. Will this work. Great sale at the local Kroger. It is from concentrate.

    Can’t wait to try making my own alcohol.

    • Winston April 27, 2014, 1:56 pm

      Malic acid and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) are fine, just make sure there are no preservatives (e.g. potassium sorbate). IMO if you’re going to take the time to do this, you should start with the best juice you can (i.e. not from concentrate).

  • Kathryn April 27, 2014, 12:00 am

    This sounds great, will have to try it.

    I have to ask though, don’t you have beer kits?

    Here in Australia the kit would cost anywhere between $10- $20 depending on the brand. Pour kit in the drum with the water, yeast and sugar, leave till fermented then bottle. So for approx. $20 you will get three cartons (375ml bottles) of beer instead of paying on average $40 per carton. Or you can bottle them into larger 750ml bottles.

    Thanks for some great thought provoking posts :)

  • Tom April 27, 2014, 1:54 am

    This article got me thinking about how to garden easily and with limited effort. Prices here in Germany for organic produce are sky high, so anything I can do to bring down that item in the budget would be welcome. Not to mention, the nearest organic market is 45 min away, and we all know how I should be chided for driving that far!!!

    I came across EarthBox, a container gardening system that doesn’t require much in the way of maintenance once you fill the boxes with soil and plants. Just water every few days (it’s self-watering) and boom, a few months later, “free” veggies. The two leading brands are EarthBox and Garden Patch, but you could even build your own (however, I don’t think the ROI is worth it personally). Something to think about. Also, you could grow your own hops if you ever decide to do a brew ever again.

    Have you ever considered growing your own veggies? I’d love to hear from other mustachians who have gone down this road and what their experience’s are, both from the practical standpoint of container gardening and also from the economics of it.


    • Moonwaves April 27, 2014, 2:45 am

      Tom, just yesterday I picked up a leaflet in the bakery for http://www.ackerhelden.de/ – have you heard of that? You can “rent” a 40 or 80 square metre plot of land from May to November, which has already been planted with various vegetables. So you basically pay to harvest and weed your plot. I’m trying to figure out now if the 248 euro would be a saving on organic prices I’m paying at the market (luckily only a few minutes walk from my house).

      • Tom April 27, 2014, 5:09 am

        I love the idea of this, and I’ve heard of it before in the U.S.; I didn’t know they did that here in Germany though… Unfortunately, we’re 60 minutes from the nearest one in Nuremberg so it’s not a very good option for us.

  • Stuart April 27, 2014, 6:43 pm

    You really don’t need an airlock. Just secure the top with a clean piece of foil and it will allow the CO2 to escape. It’s not as if airborne contaminants are going to climb up the side of the bottle.

    Try making this with different amounts of your local honey to strengthen it, you’ll love it (although it will take longer to ferment out the honey depending on how much you use.)

    If you want to make it sparkling just put it in a proper bottle that can be pressurized. It’s a hell of a lot easier than mopping up a huge sticky mess and taking glass shards out of people.

  • Nathan April 29, 2014, 1:17 am

    I started this exact process today. However, I have a 1 gallon PLASTIC jug instead of a GLASS jug. Is this safe, or is there a chance its going to explode?


  • John DeLancey May 3, 2014, 4:01 pm

    How much further fermentation occurs in the second week? I added 1/4 cup of sugar at the beginning (28g/serving juice), and the bubbling appears to have stopped almost completely.

    I’m thirsty.

    Ready to drink, or give it another week?

    Gonna start a second batch as soon as I pull the airlock from the first. Unfiltered juice this time + higher sugar/serving (32). Wee!

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 4, 2014, 7:31 am

      The Honey Badger would tell you to pour yourself a glass whenever you feel the time is right!

      I bet the fermentation is one of those decaying exponential deals: it happens really fast for the first few days, and the rate drops rapidly, then trails off to virtually nothing by the end of week two. Even if you add sugar initially, it would just raise the initial bubble blast and steepen the slope but not make the fermentation take much longer.

      The day before publishing this article, I started a second batch using some apple/pear/mango juice. Poured some into wine glasses last night to go with dinner and it was perfect.

      • John DeLancey May 4, 2014, 9:12 am

        Thanks! I did indeed crack the seal and sample a glass last night. Definitely dry and delicious.

        Once I got past the smell….

        Did some research, and apparently a sulfurous smell is somewhat common (lovingly called, “rhino farts”), particularly in cider drinks — the apple juice doesn’t contain certain nutrients that the yeast needs, which causes the yeast to be “distressed” and release byproducts that create the smell.

        Theoretically the smell will eventually dissipate on its own, which is good — kinda hard to enjoy a beverage that smells like a fart (even if it tastes great)…. :-D

        May try adding supplementary yeast nutrients in a batch. Guess I’ll wait and see in the meantime.


        • PeachFuzzStacher May 4, 2014, 1:40 pm

          Hey man, cool name. Ever get mistaken for this guy? http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/John_de_Lancie

        • Kit May 6, 2014, 8:26 pm

          Rhino farts can be a few different things, sometimes the yeast is stressed from under pitching, and sometimes just because… Actually certain strains of yeast are known for their “unique” aroma during fermentation. If it happens again during fermentation, raise the temp for a few days and that may solve it.

  • Better World Biker May 6, 2014, 10:10 am

    This is brilliant. I have always wanted to try home brewing, but haven’t been willing to justify the upfront cost of equipment, as I’ve always viewed alcohol consumption as a luxury choice, not a necessity. This makes it much cheaper, and looks like you can make some really killer hard apple cider. I will be ordering the starter “kit” and trying this soon!

  • Kit May 6, 2014, 7:29 pm

    I have read a few posts where the thought of sweetening up their cider by adding sugar, not right. As long as there is yeast, there is alcohol to be made, and the product is even dryer by adding sugar. I realize this sounds backwards, but it is true. The only ways to sweeten your cider, are Splenda or the like, lactose, or pasteurizing your cider bottles to keep the added sugar from fermenting. I realize I am new to this forum, but i am not new to making hard cider, or brewing my own beer. Personally, I like to freeze concentrate the best tasting of my hard ciders, making something similar to Apple Schnapps. Price wise, I get a half pint plus of “Apple Jack” as it is known, for less than two dollars, and I get to make whatever flavor with the apples I bottle. I have bottled and stashed away last September’s Apple Jack, and, at a recent tasting with my wife, it was spectacular. I can’t wait for the holidays to come, so I can share something I am really proud of with my loved ones. I have one daughter I believe will be married in less than five years, and I can’t even imagine how heartfelt, sharing something I made just for them for their special day will be.

  • Samburger May 10, 2014, 9:48 am

    Just tried my first batch of this stuff. Turned out great!

    The champagne yeast was $0.38 at my local homebrew store and the airlock cork was $2.80. I spent a hilarious $9 on a gallon of fancy organic locally-sourced apple juice (I’ve since figured out where it buy cheaper. Never fear!).

    After sitting at room temperature for two weeks, I poured the cider off into a plastic jug ($0.25) to avoid the sludge and to avoid an explosion. All in all, it took about 5 minutes of work, not counting the walk to the store for supplies.

    I’m stunned by how great it tastes. I really thought it was going to be sweeter than it is, but it’s tart, not sweet, and it has a little bit of an earthy apple flavor. I can only barely taste any yeastiness.

    I’ll definitely make this part of my regular rotation. Thanks for the tip, MMM!

  • stuckinmn May 12, 2014, 9:38 am

    I tried my first batch Friday night (an apple juice/raspberry blend) and loved it. Went to Costco on Saturday and purchased some mango juice, apple juice and cranberry juice for 3 more batches. The apple and mango are already bubbling away, but the cranberry is a bit slow- perhaps it does not have enough natural sugar?

    This was a great idea, thanks for sharing MMM. Of course, my kids think I’m an alcoholic now because of my obsessive monitoring of “Dad’s booze”, but I figure they will thank me once they are in college and can make their own cheap drinks.

  • taekvideo May 14, 2014, 12:56 pm

    I tried this out right when the post was made and just finished my first batch (2 containers, about a gallon and a half total).
    It came out really great.
    I split one packet of champagne yeast between them and covered with balloons… added 1/4 cup sugar to one and 1/2 cup to the other to see how they’d turn out… let them primary ferment for 16 days (letting air out every other day), then split a can of apple juice concentrate between them and let it go another 40 hours with the cap on tight. Then I stuck them in the fridge to stop the fermenting and keep what was left of the sugar from the concentrate.
    The result is a nice sweet and carbonated hard cider and I love it!

    The only problem I had is that the bottoms of the plastic containers warped badly when doing the carbonation, so they can’t stand on their own anymore and have to be leaned against the wall of the fridge lol. Going to use some half-gallon containers from Aldi next time which have a better shape and shouldn’t have that problem. Will also be trying out lots of flavors other than apple juice, and probably try adding more sugar for an even stronger cider ;)

    Thanks very much for introducing me to this MMM, much cheaper than buying commercial beer, and far bore exotic :)

  • Biscuit May 18, 2014, 6:25 pm

    Thanks for this! We spent almost 8 months in New Zealand, where we discovered and grew accustomed to the joys of extra-dry, unsweet ciders – the best being Slack Ma Girdle by Auckland-based Zeffer (http://www.zeffer.co.nz/) – only to return to the states and find that even the dryest of ciders sold here tastes like syrup. We just popped open our first home-brew with stellar results! Huzzah! Huzzah! Three Times Huzzah!

  • Joey May 22, 2014, 7:10 am

    Hi, just wanted to say this is a great article. I have tried it with a 2L jug of apple juice with great success!

    However, yesterday I tried a second batch this time with organic lemonaid with sugar added. This morning I noticed that the yeast seems to have fallen to the bottom with no movement (not the normal sediment). Also, inside the air lock there is no movement from CO2 (nor has there been overnight). I seem to remember it bubbleing by the second day with the apple juice? Did the yeast die?

  • dan May 25, 2014, 11:14 pm

    For my cider I use us o5 yeast (not a s dry). I add 1.5 cups of splenda in a 5 gallon batch for a sweetness the same as the cider in the stores. I use yeast nutriments (or a hand full of raisins chopped and boiled for 15 min) and shake the cider after removing a few oz juice. The yeast needs to breathe. I use 5gal bucket with a spigot for bottling. You can reduce this to to smaller batches. You can reuse the yeast a few times if you pour off the brew to a clean sanitized bottle. Then add the yeast to the next batch.

    5 gal of cider from albertsons’ in 1/2 gal bottles on sale is about$10$, 3$ for yeast $.08 for splinda , $.02 bottle caps . caper $25.00 this cost shared on the batches, sanitizer (5 star) about 15$ , mix just what you need , half gal at a time about $.40 a use. 3/4 cup of sugar and a few cups of water boild for 15 min the added to the bottling bucket for carbonation . COST FOR 5 GAL =

    128X5 gal = 640/12=52 12 oz bottles It should be about .50 a bottle
    a 6 pack is 8.00 =1/33 per bottle


  • Amanda May 26, 2014, 3:14 pm

    Just finished my first batch! I always thought making your own adult beverage would be so difficult, time-consuming, and complicated; so, thank you MMM for enlightening me! It was such a fun and easy project, and I’m looking forward to tweaking my ingredients on future batches. I was surprised at how dry the cider turned out; the best way to describe it is apple-beer, without the bubbles. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.

  • rjack June 13, 2014, 4:23 am

    The Update about potentially exploding bottles never got updated. Did they explode?

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow Jeff July 9, 2014, 2:14 pm

    MMM, I am really looking forward to trying this but I wanted to know the outcome of your pressure experiment. Did the jug you left in your garage explode?
    Thank you!

  • Andy July 20, 2014, 7:08 pm

    I just want to say that I have made four gallons of cider using these directions. I’m on my second pint of the evening. It works and is delicious. I buy organic local cider and have tried it with spices and cherry, with great results. YEAAHHHH!!!!

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 24, 2014, 4:07 pm

      Yeehaw! Posting while drunk is really the perfect way to celebrate this subject matter. I encourage others to do the same :-)

  • Daniel August 22, 2014, 7:36 pm

    I can attest that plastic can and will explode when storing hard apple cider. In college I made some in my dorm room and stored in a dark corner over Christmas break. When we returned in January my room had quite an interesting smell and it didn’t take long to find the jug of hard cider was the culprit. The whole side was split open. Luckily no one was the wiser, as I went to a school with a zero tolerance alcohol policy in a dry town!

  • Seth September 9, 2014, 4:09 pm

    So we are 9 days in to our experiment with the process MMM outlined in this article. Our gallon of apple juice bubbled nicely for the first 7-8 days, but has since all but stopped. Should we cap it, and put it in the fridge? It’s almost completely still, and the airlock is no longer going up and down and releasing gas. Anyone have any tips for me? I don’t want to spoil this batch. Thanks!

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 9, 2014, 4:30 pm

      Don’t worry, it’s almost impossible to spoil it. Your fermentation has just neared the end, and it is going slowly. You could refrigerate it and start enjoying some tomorrow, or you can wait another week to get a slightly stronger drier brew.

  • Abigail September 14, 2014, 6:43 pm

    As I prefer cider and champagne to beer anyhow, this makes me far more excited than I care to admit! Will be trying ASAP.

  • RubeRad October 24, 2014, 10:46 pm

    Hey, I know this thread’s been dormant for a long while, but question for all you experts, I have a batch going, but due to complications with the size of the of the stopper I bought, and the mouth of my gal jug, I ended up having to swap it into a 3qt container (and just drink the 4th quart of non-fermented cider).

    SO, my question is (a) is it bad that I forgot to dial back the teensy half-teaspoon amount of yeast? (b) will the fermentation take more like 10 days instead of a full two weeks?

  • Lisajram December 2, 2014, 7:48 pm

    I tried using your friend’s website to order this product (simple brew kit), but the order won’t go thru. I get errors despite trying to order on different browsers. What’s the deal MMM and Honey Badger?

  • Max January 10, 2015, 10:18 am

    Apeflwein (Apple Wine) is also delicious, and really easy and cheap to make. You can make it carbonated or not. In Germany, they don’t carbonate it and instead mix with a little bit of 7 up. It cuts down the ABV but also gives it some bubbly magic.

    Apple Juice (no preservatives except vitamin C)
    Red wine or champagne yeast (Red Star Yeast or Lalvin are my go to)
    Corn sugar (amount ranges on how alcoholic you want it to be)
    Equipment: something to ferment in (you can use a leftover Carlo Rossi 1 gallon jug), airlock (or foil, as you have)

    It’s great! you can do something similar with (alcoholic) ginger beer.

  • Karl February 7, 2015, 3:02 am

    We just make a 5L batch of fermented Kombucha tea instead. Costs about $2 and takes about 30 minutes per batch to make, takes 10 days to brew, is delicious, has probiotics and ultra low-alcohol content of 0.5-1%.

    The yeast/bacteria thing (called a ‘SCOBY’) will grow an extra each batch, so you just keep re-using it each time. We got the SCOBY for free from someone in the neighbourhood.

    Highly recommend it.

  • PJ August 5, 2015, 8:58 am

    Anyone have a link to the vacuum airlock corks? I found some on amazon but not sure of the quality


  • Johnny W September 22, 2015, 10:44 am

    WARNING: Costco has recently seen fit to change the neck of the Kirtland Brand Fresh Pressed Apple Juice Container to make it Homebrewing Proof (using the original jug). The A-Holes have seen fit to put two insidious little bumps into the neck so that it prevents a Bung from sealing and to add insult to injury, you cannot tell until you open the jug what the have done. So, if your Airlocks on your Costco Juice aren’t bubbling then “Houston we have a problem”.

    • Mike September 23, 2015, 7:55 pm

      Never fear! I had that non-round neck problem, too. My fix was to use a spade bit to drill a 1″ hole in the screw top, then use the stopper/bung on the screw top. Now the whole airlock assembly screws on and off—it’s actually pretty nice. By chance I had a picture of exactly this in one of my tweets:

  • G-Dub April 9, 2016, 3:15 pm

    MMM, I just set my cider experiment up a few days ago – any updates to this blog post? Are you still making cider?

  • DougNova May 11, 2016, 1:06 pm

    I can vouch from personal experience for the necessity of the airlock or at least something other than capping the bottle during the initial fermentation. Years ago, when I was a boy, my parents bought several gallons of fresh apple cider at an apple festival that we came across on a family vacation. This was back when all apple cider came in glass gallon jugs. Before we started the final jug, it had started to turn sour, fermenting on its own. My father said we if we just waited it would turn to hard apple cider and then vinegar. He put the jug, tightly closed with the original cap, in the basement. Some days later we were watching TV in the living room (upstairs, not in the basement) and suddenly, BOOM! We thought someone had shot a gun into the house. Coincidentally my father worked at the time for a company where workers were striking and some of the managers’ cars’ windows had been smashed while they were parked. My father told us all to stay in the living room while he inspected the house from the inside, checking every window, looking outside. Eventually he went outside and looked around. There was no sign of any attack on our house. Then he looked in the basement. The whole basement reeked of apple cider and every horizontal surface was covered with small glass shards. The only piece of the bottle that was recognizable was the handle near the spout. Everything else was in tiny pieces. It took weeks to clean. We were extremely lucky that no one was in the basement at the time. If anyone had been downstairs, they would have been lacerated by the flying glass.

    I’ve not experimented with home fermentation. Not because I’m afraid; just never had much of an interest. But if I did, you can bet I’d be sure to have the best airlock they make and I’d monitor it closely to make sure it was functioning as it should.


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