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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Prison Cider

As a sort of addendum to R's most recent post, I thought I'd mention a little something heard at the National Homebrewers Conference this year, which was held in Philadelphia. Each year homebrewers from around the nation flock to this event (which next year will be held in my motherland -- Grand Rapids, Michigan! Hope to see you there..), to listen to the list of guest speakers and other authorities in the homebrewing world.

This year there was a seminar dedicated to the joys of hard cider in which the host exclaimed "Just get the cheapest, crappiest, clearance cider you can find from Walmart or Sam's Club or whatever and just dump some yeast in there -- and bam, you have an awesome cider."

I may be paraphrasing a bit there, but in essence yes, that's exactly what he said. So as an experiment for this year's Michigan Homebrew Festival (an event lovingly run by my brother-in-law and a small group of good people), my b-law made a keg of this -- henceforth known as Prison Cider -- as a kind of joke.

The results? A pretty decent cider.

Prison Cider

5 gallons cheap, UV pasteurized cider
2 tbsp baker's yeast (or pick your poison at a homebrew shop**) 

6 gallon fermentation bucket with lid and airlock
(If in an actual prison a Faygo bottle, condom, and spork shiv will do in a pinch.)

Sanitize bucket, lid, and airlock. 
Pour cider into bucket. 
Add yeast.
Put on lid and let ferment for 2 weeks.

** Note: No actual poison is involved. Unless you're that witch from Snow White, in which case there probably is poison involved.

Depending on the cider you're looking for, you should be able to just throw it in a sanitized bottle and be good to go. To really give it that 'prison' feel, you can use old plastic soda bottles.

If you want a sparkling hard cider (ie. you want good carbonation with a decent head), add 3/4c. sugar (be creative -- table sugar works fine, but you can use dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, etc.) to a 5 gallon batch before bottling, then give the bottles another 2 weeks to condition.


  • If you don't have a capper, use plastic bottles with screw top caps or old wine bottles with corks.
  • To aseptically transfer the cider without a bottle filler, use a sanitized length of tubing filled with water. Set the cider on your countertop (or top bunk), place one end in the cider while keeping the other end elevated. Drop the elevated end into a waste bucket (toilet) and wait for the water to be expelled. Once you have cider flowing, fill your bottles. WARNING: This is gonna get messy.
  • Baker's yeast doesn't tolerate high levels of alcohol well. After a certain point it will cease fermentation and leave non-metabolized sugars behind. In beer this leaves an undesirable malty taste, but in cider it'll add some extra sweetness.
  • Bottle conditioned anything will result in a layer of yeast sediment on the bottom. Carefully pour into a glass to avoid the sediment.


Jon in Albany said...

Do you have to do anything to bottle it or age it once bottled? This looks like it could be an awesome addition to Thanksgiving

M said...

Good question! I added a section on bottling and some other bits of information you might find helpful.

Jon in Albany said...

I'm going to have to try this. Thanks for the update.

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