Hello all! I’m new to this whole homebrewing thing, and I’m also a starving college student in the midst of his undergrad program. As such, and as someone that highly enjoys the sport of drinking, one night my friend and I decided we should be able to make our own cider for less than $30.00 including materials.
On New Year’s Day, we went to Wal-Mart, and with our measly little budget, we began to shop. The first thing on our list was a container. In the sporting goods section there was a BPA-free 5 gallon water jug for $10. While that took up a third of our budget, it was worth it to us to pop for BPA-free, and they had no glass containers. Next was the liquid. We pushed our cart over to the juice isle, and they had bottles of 100% juice (from concentrate) for a little under $3 a piece. We threw 4 of them (enough for 3 gallons) in our cart, and then went and picked up a bag of white sugar, a strip of Red Star yeast (for bread making, apparently) and we had everything.
As most of you know, as the yeast is noshing on the sugar, it releases gasses. All the people with money use glass carboys and airlocks. Well, our “carboy” was a camping water jug, and we sure didn’t have the money to invest in an airlock. What we did have though, was ingenuity. The principle of the airlock is simple: allow built up gasses to escape, while preventing fresh air and contaminates from entering the fermentation process. Well we didn’t have any extra tubing lying around at home, and the tubing at Wal-Mart was way too expensive, so we bought a pack of straws.
All in all, our total cost was $29.60 for all the supplies (though we had some at home).
At home I sanitized the water container and all parts with boiling water. Then, we poured in the 3 gallons of apple juice and the sugar (2.5 cups of sugar per gallon of juice, so 7.5 cups total), sealed it up, and shook it like a broken VCR for a good 30 seconds. Then we poured in one package of yeast, lightly agitated it, and sealed it up. Now, you might be asking yourself “but what about the airlock?” Well, that’s where the fun part is. See, those red Solo cups I mentioned came in handy here, as did the packing tape and the straws. We taped a Solo cup to the side of the container, stuck a straw in a hole on the back side of the water jug, led the straw down to the Solo cup, and filled the Solo cup with clean water.
We weren’t sure if this was going to work, or if we were going to end up with 3 gallons of nasty, but after a couple of days the water in the cup started to take on the aroma of apples. We let it ferment for 14 days, broke it open, and we had 3 gallons of pretty good, quite sweet, hard apple cider! We drained it through coffee filters initially to get out a lot of the yeast, then I cold crashed it in smaller containers that could fit in the fridge.
The images attached are all the things before, during, and after (except the Boddington’s Ale, that was for while we were mixing it, it’s thirsty work!).
And yes, I did recycle old alcohol bottles from our glass recycling container, as well as some mason jars we weren’t using at the moment. Again, sanitize the containers with lots of boiling water (but be sure to warm them up with warm tap water first or they’ll crack from the temperature change). The picture of the cider bottled is before it was cold crashed, hence the cloudy look. It’s clearer after the crashing and re-bottling.
I’m starting on a batch of berry cider in the next few days. Again, this will be done on the cheap but I will more than likely be investing in a glass carboy (but still using the redneck airlock). My goal is to keep doing batches as cheaply as possible, but every batch buy one more nicer thing for it. From the carboy to fresh pressed organic apples, one step at a time, my cider making experience shall bring together poor college students everywhere for the love of cider and science!
Please note, if you do try this, the plastic takes on the taste of the cider, and it NEVER LEAVES. Now, this is good, because you can use the same container for the same mix, but it’s bad, because you can’t store water in it again, or make any other type of cider in it because it’ll take on all those flavors as well. That’s why I’m choosing to upgrade to the carboy. Though it’s very cost prohibitive for the starving college student, I can experiment with different recipes without having to worry about cross contaminating flavors. All my recipes you’ll be able to do with a plastic container, but I’m upgrading in the name of cheap experimentation!