Homemade Fermented Sparkling Apple Cider (+ pressing apples into cider!)
Pressing apples into cider has become an Autumn tradition for our family. It’s such a fun and gratifying experience! Learn how we transform our fresh-pressed cider into bubbly, homemade fermented sparkling apple cider (and how to make a homemade hard cider through the process of spontaneous fermentation!).
I’d never had REAL apple cider until 4 years ago.
Before that, I’d had Starbuck’s hot apple “cider”, bottled “cider” simmered with mulling spices, even powdered packets of apple “cider” mixed with hot water.
But the real deal? It’s a fairly new food in my life.
During our first Fall on the North Shore of Lake Superior and Northeastern Minnesota, we were delighted to learn that our newly purchased property had 3 apple trees growing on it. 🙂
We picked the apples we could reach for the kids to snack on, and I made a few quarts of applesauce. Then, a friend asked if we’d donate some of our apples for a cider-pressing demonstration at our small town’s annual harvest festival.
“If you can pick them, you can have them,” I said. Sure enough, she brought over a simple tool used for reaching apples high up in trees and left with several sacks full of our apples.
When we attended the harvest festival that weekend, an older man in the community had brought his cider press. And there were our apples, being pressed into cider!
The process was utterly fascinating. I’d never seen an apple press or the process of making cider!
Yet, it was my first taste of fresh-pressed apple cider that sold me.
And each year since, we have either donated our apples to the harvest festival for the cider-pressing demonstration, or we’ve borrowed our dear friend’s press.
This year, we opted to keep all of our apples for eating, applesauce, and cider!
So, what’s the difference between apple juice and apple cider?
There IS a difference!
Apple cider is made by mashing the apples, then using a high amount of pressure to press the juice out of the apples. To keep bugs, leaves, stems, apple seeds, and peels out of the brew, the apples are mashed into a basket containing a fine mesh sieve-like cloth.
Still, as the cider comes out of the press, there are bits of sediment that come with it. Real apple cider will have these bits of sediment settling at the bottom of the jar or bottle.
On the other hand, juice is filtered, then (typically) concentrated, pasteurized, reconstituted with water, and bottled. Most commercially produced apple juice (and cider) is sold in shelf-stable bottles and lasts a very long time.
If you’re using a juicer at home, what you’re getting is actually closer to cider than apple juice — and you can use your juice/cider to make homemade fermented sparkling apple cider! (This is the juicer we have and love!)
It’s very simple — and no press is required.
Although, if you have the chance to borrow or even rent a cider press, it is handy for pressing large amounts of apples. This year, we pressed about 70 pounds of apples into nearly 5 gallons of cider… and that would’ve burned up the motor in my fancy juicer for sure!
Thank goodness we have an extra fridge to store all our fermented sparkling cider and quarts of fermented pickles!
Pressing Apples Into Cider
Maybe one day we’ll purchase our own cider press. We intend to plant one, maybe two, more apples trees on our property, so it would be a wise investment.
Until then, we’re so thankful for our friend and neighbor who allows us to borrow his!
It’s a pretty simple set-up — no electricity, fuel, or batteries required. All hand-cranked!
The apples go into the top and are funneled down toward a wheel with metal teeth on it. As someone cranks the handle on the side of the press, the apples are pulverized into a mash that falls into a mesh-lined basket below.
Once the bucket is full of apple bits and pieces, we add the wooden press. Then, we crank a wheel that applies pressure to the press and the cider flows out.
The back of the press is elevated slightly so that the cider trickles down toward a hole at the end of the pressing machine. You have to keep a jar or pitcher underneath the hole at all times, or you’ll have cider flowing out on the ground.
We had about 70 pounds of apples, and it took my husband and I about one hour to press them all into just under 5 gallons of cider!
So, it’s really not a time- or labor-intensive process for one family to make all their own homemade fermented sparkling or hard apple cider!
How to Make Homemade Fermented Sparkling Apple Cider
Once you’ve juiced or pressed the apples, put the cider into Mason jars with new seals or swing-top bottles. If you wish, you can refrigerate this cider and it will keep refrigerated for a good, long time.
To make it sparkly and bubbly, simply let it set in a sealed jar or bottle for a few days at room temperature.
The yeasts and bacteria that live on and in the apples make the magic happen by feeding on the naturally occurring sugars in the cider. As they feed on these sugars, they multiply, releasing carbon dioxide.
The carbon dioxide built-up over several days creates a bubbly, fizzy, sparkling apple cider! If you’re using Mason jars with new seals, you’ll notice that the seals will pop up like a dome — a sure sign of CO2 build-up.
This is called “spontaneous fermentation”.
Our modern culture is really into refrigerating or freezing foods and drinks immediately because we’re so scared of mold or spoilage. But, trust me, making sparkling cider and hard cider has been done this way for centuries!
Before the advent of refrigeration, fermentation was a trusted method of preservation for foods and drinks. (Why do you think beer, mead, and wine are part of almost every culture’s history??)
How to know when it’s ready?
Easy! Just taste it!
If it’s the taste and bubbly-ness that you like, stop the fermentation by putting the sparkling cider in the refrigerator.
Traditionally Fermented Sparkling Apple Cider Tips
Tip #1 — If you’re using non-sprayed, organic apples from your own trees or neighbor’s trees, there is no need to wash the apples prior to pressing/juicing. This preserves the yeasts and bacteria that naturally live on the apples’ surfaces, creating a more successful ferment.
Tip #2 — Always use clean, sterile jars or bottles. This reduces the chances of mold growing while the cider ferments. You can sterilize jars or bottles by dipping them in boiling water for a minute or two or by running them through the dishwasher.
Tip #3 — If using jars, always use new lids with intact rubber gaskets. A proper seal is key for carbon dioxide accumulation and a successful ferment.
Tip #4 — Make sure you have enough fridge space for your fermented sparkling apple cider once it’s finished. It does have to be stored in the fridge to keep it from turning to alcohol or vinegar (or spoiling).
Tip #5 — Don’t have enough fridge space? Consider water bath-canning your cider. It won’t retain the fizz or the probiotics from the fermentation, but it will preserve it. It will still taste good! My friend cans hers in a water bath for 15 minutes.
Traditionally Fermented Sparkling Apple Cider FAQs
I don’t have an apple tree. Can I use store-bought apples?
Yes, but please use organically grown apples, preferably from the country in which you live. Before you head to the store, however, see if you can fish out a source for locally grown apples. Try a local orchard, your farmer’s market, or even asking on social media.
Store-bought apples are often not fresh and are always sprayed with pesticides and herbicides if they aren’t certified organic. These apples will not yield a successful ferment for you.
Why don’t you wash the apples before pressing/juicing?
All around us, there are mycelium, bacteria, and yeasts — in our air, living on our plants and gardens, and living on the fruit from our fruit trees. Given the right conditions, these bacteria and yeasts will naturally proliferate and multiply, inoculating our ferments with gut-healthy micro-organisms. If you scrub your apples clean, you’re scrubbing away the magic. 🙂
Don’t be afraid of a bit of dirt, the occasional worm, or the microscopic organisms. They’re part of this amazing network we call Earth, and they’re perfectly harmless (and even good for us!).
I don’t have a juicer or access to a cider press. Can I blend the apples and then strain the juice?
Unfortunately, no. To blend apples, you’d have to add water — or the blender won’t even go. No water is added to make cider. Even if you are able to get the apples blended, you’d need a heavy-duty way to press the cider out of the mash — otherwise, all you’ve made is raw, fresh applesauce!
How long does the sparkling cider keep in the fridge?
I’ve had a jar last almost a year. And when we cracked it open? Holy goodness. It was the best jar of the year! Remember: fermentation is a natural preservation method. Refrigeration simply stops the fermentation process. It’s highly unlikely that your fermented cider will go bad in the fridge.
What if there are worms in some of the apples?
No worries. Whether using a press or a juicer, any large bits of matter (worms, bugs, apple skins, seeds, twigs, etc.) are strained out. This doesn’t mean you won’t get some of the juices of the worms — which sounds unappealing, I know. But, the occasional bug or worm will not hurt you and will be such a miniscule amount compared to the amount of cider you have. If you have an especially worm-y batch of apples, please don’t press those for cider. They’re likely to be no good anyway.
What do you do with all of the apple scraps after pressing?
My understanding is that you can use these scraps to make homemade apple cider vinegar. We save them in buckets and give them to our friend, who feeds them to her chickens. Chickens love apple cider scraps! You could also feed them to pigs or cows. Or simply compost them.
How do you serve fermented sparkling apple cider?
It’s delicious hot or cold! If room temperature or cold, the gut-friendly organisms are still alive, making this a probiotic beverage, like kombucha or water kefir.
Once heated, these organisms die, but there’s nothing wrong with drinking hot cider! Add some cinnamon or maple syrup or simply heat and drink it plain.
Homemade Fermented Sparkling Apple Cider
Pressing apples into cider has become an Autumn tradition for our family. It's such a fun and gratifying experience! Learn how we transform our fresh-pressed cider into bubbly, homemade fermented sparkling apple cider.
- any amountfreshly pressed apple cideror freshly juiced apples
- Mason jars with new lids or swing top bottles
After pressing or juicing apples, put the cider into Mason jars with new seals or swing-top bottles.
Set out at room temperature for at least 3 days.
Taste and see if the cider is bubbly enough for you.
To stop fermentation, place in the refrigerator.
What About a Traditionally Fermented Hard Cider?
Before the complicated science of modern brewing, our ancestors naturally fermented a variety of fruits, herbs, and grains to make alcoholic drinks like beer, wine, and mead.
They weren’t using hydrometers and precisely measured amounts of commercial brewing yeasts. They simply relied on the natural environment, complete with bacteria and yeasts, and the fruit (and honey for mead) itself.
If you want a traditionally fermented hard apple cider, simply allow the cider in jars or bottles to sit out longer.
The warmer your house, the faster the fermentation happens! Definitely taste it every couple of days so it doesn’t over-ferment and taste like vinegar.
Once the sweet taste of the cider begins to disappear, it starts to really taste fermented and yeast-y. This is the alcohol forming.
You can use fancy calculators to test the alcohol content of your brew. Or, simply go by your own taste — which I find to be much more reliable. 🙂
When you let it ferment until it tastes just how you want it, you’ll never be disappointed! To stop the fermentation for a traditional hard apple cider, bottle and refrigerate.
Was this cool or what?
I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing how we press apples into cider and how we achieve a traditionally fermented sparkling apple cider (or hard cider)! Cider pressing is one of our favorite activities of the year.
On a sunny day, with orange and yellow maples all around, and bees flying about, there is nothing more fun or rewarding than pressing cider outside.