In large stock pot, combine apple cider with the sugar. Heat to almost boiling, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Continue to heat for about 45 minutes – never allowing it to come to a boil. Remove from heat, cover with sanitized pot lid. (If you don’t have a 7-10 gallon stock pot or turkey fryer, you can do this in batches.)
Once mixture has cooled to room temperature, use a sanitized funnel to transfer cooled mixture to a sanitized 6.5-7.5 gallon fermenter. Using clean hands and sanitized utensils, add any flavoring ingredients you’ll be using to the fermenter. Go easy on the flavorings – you can always add more later, but cannot take it away if you overdo it!.
Using sanitized equipment, take a gravity reading. Keep track of the number! (This is an optional step, but will allow you to calculate your final ABV %)
Sprinkle yeast into fermenter, cover with sanitized air lock. Let sit, undisturbed, overnight.
Within 48 hours, you should notice fermentation activity – bubbles in the airlock, carbonation and /or swirling in the cider must. This means you’re good to go! Put the carboy somewhere cool (not cold!), and leave it alone for a month or so.
Using sanitized equipment, rack the clarified cider off the sediment, into a clean, freshly sanitized 6.5 gallon carboy. Cap with sanitized airlock, leave it alone for another 2-3 months.
When you’ve let it clarify as much as you have patience for – with no more sediment being produced – you can move on to bottling:
For uncarbonated cider:
Using sanitized equipment, take a final gravity reading, then rack the cider into clean, sanitized beer bottles, and cap them. Allow to age for a month or so before drinking. (Like wine, the flavor improves with age!)
For naturally carbonated cider:
In a small pot, mix together 1 cup of water with 1 cup of sugar or brown sugar. Use a sanitized funnel to pour this into a sanitized large carboy. Rack the cider over into this carboy, swirling it as you go. Bottle cider as described in the previous step. Allow to age at least a month or two – residual yeast will ferment the added sugar, carbonating the cider.
Alternatively, you can rack the cider (without the added sugar syrup!) into a keg and force carbonate it, if you have the set up for that. That’s what we did with our last batch, and blew through it pretty quick during the tornado clean up! Chilled hard apple cider is just what’s needed for that sort of thing, LOL!
Enjoy.. and start planning for next year’s batch(es)!