Making homemade wine and cider is a fun and delicious way to preserve the bounty of summer fruit. It is also much easier than making other alcoholic beverages, which is probably why people have been doing it for centuries.
The difference between making wine and cider
The basic process for making both wine and cider is the same. Technically, cider is actually just young wine that is bottled before the fermentation is finished.
Most of my recipes can be turned into either wine or cider, depending on the length of fermentation.
Factors that influence fermentation
There are several factors that influence the length of fermentation, which will, in turn, affect whether you end up with wine or cider.
- Type of fruit: Grapes are ideal for feeding wine yeasts. They have all the necessary nutrients. This is why most traditional wines are made from grapes. Pears, apples, and other fruits don’t necessarily have the nutrients needed to feed yeast. Thus, they are traditionally used to make cider.
- Amount of sugars: Yeasts break down sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The amount of sugar will determine the final alcohol level. The sugar in wine and cider cannot be replaced with stevia, xylitol, erythritol, or other sugar substitutes.
- Type of yeast: Wine yeasts were specifically selected to tolerate higher alcohol levels. Using bread yeast or wild yeast will limit the fermentation.
- Yeast nutrients: Yeast nutrients and energizer can be added to wine and cider to feed the yeast and ensure a good ferment.
I tend to make the same types of wine and cider over and over again. This is mostly based on the type of fruits that I can get for free from my friends. (People with backyard fruit trees make good friends!)
Here is a round-up of all my current recipes. I’ve roughly organized them from easiest to most difficult.
- Simple fruit juice cider is the easiest recipe. It’s made in a bottle of juice and only requires a packet of yeast. Perfect for an absolute beginner.
- Apple cider can also be made in a bottle of juice, however, it follows a more structured fermentation procedure and will make a higher alcohol cider.
- Plum wine is easy and reliable.
- Pear cider and pear wine require added nutrients and a bit of attention to the sugar levels for a good ferment.
- Peach wine is often best when blended with other fruits.
Information and Resources For Beginners
The simplest recipes for homemade wine and cider, really don’t need any specialized tools or skills. Remember, people have been making wine for centuries!
However, here are a few extra topics that will help you reliably make good-tasting wine and cider.
- Equipment and Supplies: Here is everything you need to make homemade cider and wine. A good setup will only cost about $50, and it’s well worth the investment.
- Sanitation: It’s important to ALWAYS make sure that all your equipment is sanitized. It’s the only way to ensure a safe and successful ferment. Homebrew should never taste funky, and sanitation is key!
- Step-By-Step Guide: This is a simple guide to the steps involved in turning fruit or juice into a delicious bottle of cider or wine. It’s a good reference for anyone who hasn’t tried making wine before.
If you have a question feel free to leave a comment below or join the Fermenting For Everyone Facebook Group.
Patrick Mitchell Winstead
I have 10 pounds of plums and want to make wine. I have your recipe and ordered the champagne yeast. I have all the equipment I need since I already make beer, and wine sometimes from kits. My question is, will it help to juice the plums first? My neighbor has a very powerful juicer that will extract all the juice from the plums very quickly, so I can do that or follow your recipe and work with the whole plums. Thanks.
Great question! Including the pulp adds richness to the finished wine. So if you juice the plums be sure to include the pulp in your ferment. I personally don’t have a juicer, however, I imagine it might make it easier to remove the solids if the pits have been removed by juicing. There would be a lot less solids to strain out. Enjoy!
I am so happy I have found your website! I grow so many berries, mostly blackcurrant, gooseberry, and blueberry, as well as collecting wild blackberries and raspberries. When I am too overwhelmed with production to preserve them all as jams and syrups, and they are sitting in the refrigerator too long, they start to ferment! I don’t see any recipes on your website for berry wine. I am wondering if I can use the plum wine recipe or what adjustments I need to make for using the berries. Generally, the pectin levels will be low as the fruit will be very to overripe.
When I was a child, I came home with so many huckleberries that, in addition to a cobbler, my mom and grandmother suggested making a “cordial”. for this, they put the berries in a gallon jug (filled less than halfway), and poured sugar over the berries. No, no measurements! Then they covered the mouth with cloth and set it to ferment. I watched fascinated for a very long time, who knows how long? By the end of Summer, they poured off the thick juice. It was sweet and alcoholic. I really want to recreate a version of this childhood ambrosia, but perhaps a little less thick and a little less sweet!!
Interestingly, I have a recipe in my upcoming cookbook (not out until May 2022) for a berry cordial that is fermented with wild yeast! I don’t have access to a huge amount of berries, so I haven’t yet made a berry wine. However, I think you could follow the plum wine recipe and it should be successful. The only trick is, that if your berries have started fermenting, you’ll need to make sure to pour the boiling water over to kill the wild yeasts and bacteria. Then reculture with the wine yeast. Wild yeasts just aren’t reliable for a longer ferment. Enjoy!
Overwhelmed!! We have way to pears and confused on all the wine//cider recipes we have read. Read on here where pears are harder to make wine/cider with, Can you please help.
Hi Sheri, I just made 3 batches of pear cider/wine using whole pears (made 10 bottles of cider and the rest is turning into wine). You can definitely use whole pears provided they are soft enough to mash. Pears don’t contain all the necessary nutrients to ferment into wine, however, adding yeast nutrient and acid blend will make up for it. Those are both easily available at your local homebrew supply store. Check out my pear wine/cider recipe (linked under the recipes section on this page) and let me know if you have any other questions. Also… we had so many pears this year that I increased the fruit and reduced the sugar (as described in the notes of the recipe) and it worked great! So it’s definitely an option if you have a lot of fruit. (It worked so well that I might formally change the recipe in the off-season, but right now there are a lot of people using that recipe, and I don’t want to switch it while people are using it!) Good luck!
The first check was good running about 11
The second check was running about 15.
What do we need to do? We have 3 gallons of pear juice and 2 gallons of water and 8 pounds of sugar. Used all the correct ingredients. We bought a kit and it was confusing!
Hi Sheri, I’m not sure what the measurements mean. Is it 11 ABV? That is quite a bit of sugar, so I imagine it could become quite alcoholic. Are you hoping to make cider or wine? I’m guessing you’ve already started, using the recipe that came in the kit?
Thank you! I may be in touch with a few more questions:)