Frozen Juice Concentrate Homebrew Hard Cider
Are you not feeling the beer side of zymurgy today? Frozen juice concentrate homebrew hard cider aka turbo cider only takes a few ingredients to make and is super quick. This is also an excellent option for those with gluten intolerance. I prefer sweet carbonated cider when making this but you can just as easily make it dry or still.
Frozen juice concentrate is really convenient and fairly cheap. I can usually find it on sale every few weeks and it stores for quite a while in the freezer. There’s quite a variety of flavors for experimenting. My preferred brand is Old Orchard but any brand will work as long as it doesn’t contain preservatives. High fructose corn syrup will also ferment out just fine. When kegging you can actually get away with using frozen apple juice concentrate as your base and back sweetening with your preferred final flavor. It makes fermentation more predictable and your final cider will have plenty of flavor.
Blending gives you the option to make a wide variety of turbo hard cider flavors. Apple juice concentrate is typically 100% apple but other flavors tend to be a blend of juices. Blends ferment perfectly fine but each will have different sugar contents. Different blends of juice will have varying sugar contents so don’t count on hitting the same ABV every time. I suggest you find your favorite frozen concentrate base 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. I would suggest adding at least fifty percent more sweetener to balance it out. That said a blend with orange juice can turn out really nice. One of my batches with Old Orchard’s Pineapple Orange was one of my all-time favorites. Make sure to experiment and try any juice that piques your interest!
The fermentation of homemade hard cider is amazingly simple. Add the thawed concentrate and water to your fermenter. Pitch your yeast directly or feel free to rehydrate for a quicker start. Throw on an airlock and move to a dark room. Let the homebrew hard cider ferment for two to three weeks till final gravity is reached. Finally, transfer your hard cider to bottles or a keg.
Adjuncts are a great way for adding a new depth to your homebrew hard cider. Coffee, honey and hops are just a few examples. There are several sugars other than honey that will add flavor and a few points of gravity. Adding flavors after primary fermentation when bottling or kegging reduces infection risk and allows flavors to come through better.
Carbonation isn’t necessary but it definitely enhances the flavor of your homebrew hard cider. 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 when bottling. Kegging doesn’t restrict your use of juice or sugar for back sweetening as you don’t have to worry about bottle bombs. Potassium metabisulfite and sorbate will allow you to bottle your kegged cider sweet cider without bottle bombs. Of course, you can just carbonate like a beer if you prefer dry cider.
Turbo Cider (Frozen Juice Concentrate Hard Cider)
- Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) won’t hinder fermentation.
- High-fructose corn syrup ferments out just fine.
- Your ABV will vary depending on the juice used. Expect a range between 5 to 7%.
- 5 Gallon Carboy or Bucket
- 18 Cans Frozen Juice Concentrate (Thawed)
- 1 Pack Champagne Yeast
- 2 Teaspoons Yeast Nutrient (Optional but Highly Recommended)
- 36 Cans Water (Tap water is fine!)
- 2 Cans Frozen Juice Concentrate (Kegging)
- .5 Cup Splenda (Bottling)
- Thaw out 18 cans of juice overnight in the fridge.
- Sanitize fermentation bucket or funnel and carboy.
- Pour in cans of 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 your fermenter.
- Place in a dark draft-free place with a stable temperature.
- Watch for bubbling in the airlock within three days. You will generally see activity within 24 to 48 hours. Feel free to pitch more yeast if nothing has started.
- Leave to ferment for a minimum of two weeks to reach final gravity. Three weeks gives the yeast cleanup time and helps with a slow fermentation.
- Thaw out 2 cans of juice overnight in the fridge for next day kegging if you are back sweetening.
- Transfer fermented cider into a sanitized keg. Add your cans of thawed concentrate while transfering cider to mix well. A good shake once you've pressurized the keg may be needed to fully mix in concentrate.
- Set regulator to 15 PSI if kegging for a slow-carb or force carb at 30 PSI for a quicker carb. Check every few days until you reach your desired carbonation.
- Heat up 1 cup of water in the microwave till boiling and add 5 oz of priming sugar to dissolve.
- Add half a cup of Splenda or your favorite non-fermentable sweetener if back sweetening to the boiling water from above step.
- Transfer fermented cider into a bottling bucket with an auto siphon or spigot and tubing.
- Pour in sugar mixture as the cider is flowing into the bottling bucket for good distribution.
- Fill sanitized bottles with cider and cap. You'll need somewhere between 48 and 53 standard 12 oz beer bottles for 5 gallons.
- Allow bottles to sit at room temperature for two weeks to fully carbonate.
My Favorite Frozen Juice Concentrate Hard Cider Variations:
Raspberry Lemonade Hard Cider
This one is a hard cider version of skeeter pee that lets the lemonade shine while maintaining the refreshing qualities of a sweet cider. You’ll definitely want to add this to your next BBQ. Find the full recipe here.
Apple Cherry Coffee Hard Cider:
This homebrew hard cider uses a base of apple cherry concentrate and infuses it with cold brew coffee when packaging. You end up with a sweet cider balanced with tart cherry and just enough roasty bitterness. Find the full recipe here.