Originally Posted by bottlebomber
I've heard decent cider can be made with store bought juice, but for something really amazing you have to either buy fresh cider or make your own.
I can confirm the first part, just based on the gravity samples I've taken from my cider. It was two gallons of fairly good unfiltered pasteurized cider, three gallons of cheap not-from-concentrate grocery store juice (with no added acids or preservatives), two pounds of brown sugar, and about two cups of very overbrewed Irish breakfast tea for tannin. After about a month it's gone from about 1.063 to 1.001 and is already tasting like it's going to be good. I'm giving it at least another few weeks before bottling, although it's already quite clear.
Interestingly, while the gravity indicates that there's very little sugar left, it has more apparent sweetness than I expected. It's certainly not sweet, but it has an obvious apple flavor and is neither acidic nor astringent. It may wind up needing a touch of acid blend just to balance it, but we'll see. The only real flaw at this point is a present though not strong yeast aroma. It's not really unpleasant, but I'm hoping it will age out.
So, while it may be true that great cider requires major effort, I think it's fair to say that one can make a product at least on par with US commercial offerings without venturing beyond the grocery store and the homebrew shop.