Learn how to turn fruit into delicious homemade wine and hard cider! This overview will point you in the direction of everything you need to know. Including beginner-friendly recipes and practical advice.
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 wine and cider
Generally hard cider refers to apple cider. But there isn’t much difference between a hard apple cider and a young sparkling peach wine.
The basic process for making both wine and cider is the same. Fruit is mixed with sugar and yeast, and allowed to ferment. If it ferments through until it has very little sugar left and is higher in alcohol, then it’s wine.
If the ferment is bottled after just a few weeks, then it will become a sweet and sparkling beverage (aka, hard cider).
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.
–> Most of my recipes can be turned into either wine or cider, depending on the length of fermentation.
My usual homemade wine process involves filling a few bottles of wine whenever I rack to a clean carboy. This minimizes wastage by allowing me to filter out dead yeasts and sediment, which won’t take nice in the final wine. However, rather than pouring the bottom of my carboys down the drain, I run the liquid through a filter and bottle it for a sweet and sparkling cider. (If you’re new to wine making, don’t worry, all this will make sense when you brew your first batch).
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 the 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.
- Perry is pear cider brewed from heritage perry fruit.
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 posts that will help you reliably make good-tasting wine and cider.
- Equipment and Supplies: Find out 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 to preventing contamination by mold and bacteria.
- Step-By-Step Guide: If you’re new to wine making, check out this simple guide to the steps involved. It has both photos and videos to show the process of turning fruit into a delicious bottle of cider or wine.
If you have a question feel free to leave a comment below or join the Fermenting For Everyone Facebook Group.