(This post will be updated occasionally with new results. Check back again for the latest updates!)
Recently, I was looking through Mr Money Mustache’s experience with home brewing cider and decided to give it a shot. He previously posted on home brewing beer, but it involves too much time, effort and money for my liking. The first question on my mind was: Is this legal? A quick google search showed that it is allowed, with certain restrictions.
So why brew your own cider? Well, mainly because it is cheap, since Singapore has a large tax on alcohol. You can also brew any type of cider you want, it depends on the type of juice you buy. Preparation is also quick, you just need a few minutes.
Brewing works because of yeast and sugar. When you add yeast to the juice, it takes the sugar and converts it to carbon dioxide and alcohol. So basically you are drinking yeast pee and farts.
Brewing just requires two ingredients: yeast and fruit juice.
I used champagne yeast, which cost $6 and can be used to brew 20 to 23 litres of cider/champagne. If you don’t use all the yeast, the rest can be stored in the fridge.
The next ingredient is juice. The juice MUST be free of preservatives otherwise it will kill the yeast and you will not get alcohol. I used grape juice because I couldn’t find other suitable types of juice in NTUC. This technically makes it wine/champagne after fermenting, but if you use other types of juice, you will get cider.
I also used sugar, but it is not compulsory because the juice naturally has sugar in it. However, more sugar will make the alcohol content higher, so I added some. If you want to add sugar, use the kind that will dissolve easily. I used caster sugar (also known as fine sugar).
(Note: It is possible for the yeast to be killed by outside bacteria, so you have to take note of hygiene. I did not sterilise or wash anything with disinfectant, so basic hygiene should be sufficient.)
First, add sugar to the juice. This step is optional, you can skip this if you want. I added two tablespoons of sugar into the juice and shook the bottle to let it dissolve. There was some undissolved sugar at the bottom in the end, so two tablespoons was too much. Next time one tablespoon should be enough.
Second, add yeast to the juice. 5 grams can make 20 litres, so for my 1+ litre bottle about 0.5 grams should be sufficient. I was lazy to measure and just agar pour a bit inside the bottle. The yeast sank to the bottom of the bottle. You may see the yeast producing some bubbles at this point.
Third, loosen the cap of the bottle and put the bottle in a cool, dark place. Remember the yeast will produce carbon dioxide? It will create pressure in the bottle, so you have to loosen the cap to let the gas escape. After that, I put my bottle in the corner of a kitchen cupboard. Try not to disturb the bottle after this, as the carbon dioxide produced will form a layer above the juice and protect it from outside bacteria.
Now you just have to wait for about one week.
After a week, it was time for harvest! When I took the bottle out, there was some residue at the bottom.
This was probably a mix of the undissolved sugar and yeast. It did not affect the taste as far as I can tell. When I poured, the residue did not move, so it’s probably solid.
The champagne itself was bubbly with a slight grape taste and slightly sweet* (disclaimer: I’m not a connoisseur).
If you didn’t drink the whole bottle, you can either put the bottle in the fridge to deactivate the yeast and chill the champagne/cider, or put it back to let the yeast continue fermenting. Remember to loosen the cap if leaving it outside! I forgot to and the bottle became bloated. Luckily it didn’t explode.
Here’s a breakdown of the costs involved:
- Yeast: $6
- Grape Juice: $5.25
Total is $11.25 for 1.5 litres of champagne, which is pretty cheap. I still have most of the yeast left over, so total cost would be even lesser if I made more. The cost of sugar is negligible.
*Update: After leaving the champagne out for another week (2 weeks total), I tried some again. This time, there was no more sweetness and the grape taste has disappeared, and it tastes like regular champagne. This means that the longer you let the yeast ferment, the higher the alcohol content and the less sweet it will be. You can play around with the fermenting time to get your desired sweetness/alcohol levels.
Update 2: I have made a batch using apple juice. There is still sedimentation at the bottom of the bottle, and the cider smells like wine. This is probably due to the champagne yeast. I will experiment using other types of yeast next time.
Update 3: After leaving the champagne for a month in the open with cap loosened, all the gas has gone.