Frozen Juice Concentrate Homemade Hard Cider
Not feeling the grain today? Maybe you need something for a non beer drinker? Homemade hard cider only takes a few ingredients to make. This recipe has worked well for me every time so far. The final product can be made dry, sweet, carbonated or in between.
Frozen juice concentrate is really nice for pure convenience and cost. It is on sale around here every few weeks and stores for quite a while in the freezer. My preferred brand is Old Orchard. Any of the ones marked 100% juice varieties will work. There’s quite variety of flavors so go ahead and experiment. Avoid any brands that contain preservatives. A big plus is the juice tends to be pretty clear of nasties since it was frozen. When kegging you can actually get away with using the frozen apple juice as a base and back sweetening with your desired final flavor. It makes fermentation more predictable and will satisfy most people’s palettes.
Blending can be important with making homemade hard cider. Frozen juice concentrate is generally a blend of apple, grape and whatever the primary flavor is. You’ll mainly notice the flavor that the product is marketed as but watch sugar closely. Different blends will have different sugar contents so go off the grams of sugar to make sure you have enough to ferment. Find your favorite base frozen juice concentrate and sub out a few for another flavor.
Orange juice is the one juice you should really be careful with as pure orange juice will ferment out extremely bitter and will probably have pulp. I would suggest adding at least fifty percent more sweetener to balance it out. A blend of orange juice can be great as I’ve gotten great results with Old Orchard’s Pineapple Orange. Seriously try any juice that peaks your interest including grape which will produce a wine.
Fermentation of homemade hard cider is amazingly simple. Add your juice and water into your vessel. Pitching yeast can be done directly once the packet is sanitized. Throw on an airlock and move to a dark room. Let ferment for two to three weeks till final gravity is reached. A secondary fermenter is not necessary as only yeast cake will form. An airlock won’t be overwhelmed as there really shouldn’t be any krausen or gunk on top.
Adjuncts are a great option for adjusting flavors or adding a new depth. Coffee, honey and other spices can add some nice things. Most sugar will just add a few points of gravity but some will add some flavor. The most important thing with additions is to boil them in the microwave to kill off any infection potential. Always cool them before adding them into your cider. I have however used sealed containers of cold brew coffee in two batches of my coffee cherry homemade hard cider with great success. Adding flavors after primary fermentation when bottling or kegging reduces infection risk greatly.
Carbonating isn’t necessary but I’m sure most prefer their hard cider carbonated. When bottling you cannot back sweeten with more juice or sugar. If you did try you would end up with bottle bombs. Splenda is a nice option without leaving too much of an aftertaste. Kegging doesn’t restrict your use of juice or sugar for back sweetening as you don’t have to worry about bottle bombs. Add a few crushed Camden tablets if you do want to bottle from your kegged cider. Of course you can just carb like a beer if you prefer a dry cider.
- 18 Cans preservative free frozen juice concentrate (FJC)
- 1 Pack of champagne, cider, Nottingham yeast or Experiment!
- 5oz or 3/4 Cup of priming sugar
Back Sweetened Ingredients (Optional):
- Bottling – ½ Cup Splenda
- Kegging – 2 Cans of preservative free frozen juice concentrate
- 5 gallon carboy or fermenting bucket
- Airlock and rubber stopper
Typical ABV: 5 to 7% depending on your juice
- Thaw out 18 cans of juice overnight in the fridge.
- Sanitize fermentation bucket or funnel and carboy.
- Pour in juice and then two cans full of water for each can of juice. Add a bit more water if you don’t quite get five gallons.
- Pitch sanitized yeast packet directly or make a yeast starter. A starter is quicker but directly has worked fine for me.
- Place rubber stopper with an airlock filled with sanitizer or vodka on fermenter.
- Place in dark draft free place with a stable temperature.
- Watch for bubbling in airlock within three days and repitch yeast if nothing has started. You will generally see activity within 24 to 48 hours.
- Ferment for a minimum for two weeks for final gravity. Three weeks gives the yeast cleanup time.
- ( Optional ) Back sweeten with half a cup of Splenda if bottling or at least two cans of juice if kegging. Add any additions such as coffee or spices.
- Carbonate with 3/4 ( 5oz ) of priming sugar if bottling. Set to 10 to 12 PSI if kegging for a slow carb or force carb at 30 PSI for a quicker carb. Bottles will carb in about two to three weeks. Check your keg until you get desired carb level.
- Pour a glass of your homemade hard cider and enjoy!
My Favorite Frozen Juice Concentrate Hard Cider Variations:
Strawberry Rhubarb Hard Cider (Kegged):
- Fermentation: 18 cans of Old Orchard strawberry rhubarb 100% juice
- Back Sweetening: 1 can Old Orchard strawberry rhubarb 100% juice and 1 can Old Orchard apple 100% juice
Orange Pineapple Hard Cider (Kegged):
- Fermentation: 12 cans of Old Orchard orange pineapple 100% juice and 6 cans Old Orchard apple 100% juice
- Back Sweetening: 1 can Old Orchard orange pineapple 100% juice and 1 can Old Orchard apple 100% juice
Apple Cherry Coffee Hard Cider (Bottled):
- Fermentation: 18 cans of Old Orchard apple cherry 100% juice
- Flavoring: 32oz of your favorite coffee at bottling
- Back Sweetening: 1/2 cup of Splenda at bottling