Jan 26

Sweet Cider has a 1.050 specific gravity (or: How to brew hard cider)

sweet-cider-is-1050As many of my friends can attest, I have a knack for brewing hard cider. It’s fun and it’s different than brewing craft beer. It can be a simple straight hard cider, or adjuncts like ginger or pear can be added for more fun. This post is to show that sweet cider has a starting gravity of 1.050. (Click on the photo to the right for a close-up.)

When I took this photo it happened to be 61 degrees Fahrenheit in my house, so the measurement you see is the measurement we get: 1.050 — No need to perform temperature adjustment calculations — And I can say that anytime that I’ve brewed cider in the past, the starting gravity has always been 1.050. But that’s just the beginning of brewing hard cider…


If we take a look at an ABV Calculator, like this one at Brewers Friend, we can see that starting at 1.050 and ending at 1.012 (for a semi-dry cider) yields a ~5% ABV hard cider.
abv-calculatorAnd this is a good thing as it puts the total caloric value of 12oz of hard cider ~165 calories. Not too heavy, not too light. Just right.

To get a hard cider started, a lot of writing will recommend that you add 1 crushed Campden tablet (sodium- or potassium-metabisulfite) per gallon (128oz) of sweet cider to “knock down” any wild yeasts that are already in the sweet cider. Personally, I don’t worry about these because either (A) there isn’t enough of them to make a difference or (B) they will add character to your hard cider.

trader-joes-sweet-ciderAs shown here, Trader Joe’s sweet cider is being used to brew the hard cider. The nice thing about TJ’s cider is two-fold: (A) They use no preservatives which won’t interfere with fermentation (B) They pasteurize the cider, so most of the bad microbes have already been killed off. No need for campden tablets!

To get the fermentation started, I was both cheap and lazy and just dumped a packet of Munton’s dry ale yeast in the 1/2-gallon jug of cider and popped an airlock on it.

airlock-w-muntons-yeastWithin a few hours, the yeast quickly activated and started bubbling away making more yeasts and CO2 and ethanol.

cider+airlockNext time: Making it a 5 gallon batch.

1 comment

2 pings

  1. John Foster

    Ranger Pretzel,
    Thank you for your blog but more importantlyJJ thank you for being a ranger!!

    Less is More
    Camp ATTOL

  1. Monitoring the fermentation of hard cider (Or: How to brew hard cider, part 2) » Ranger Pretzel

    […] « Sweet Cider has a 1.050 specific gravity (or: How to brew hard cider) […]

  2. A hard cider yeast experiment » Ranger Pretzel

    […] hard cider. Something that won’t offend and play to many palettes. This means using cider with an original gravity of 1.050 and then stopping it early at around 1.010 or 1.012 — the perfect semi-dry/semi-sweet […]

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