It was an annual tradition to make cider with me and some friends of mine for many years. Here's what we did.
BTW, this refers to hard cider...fermented cider. Apple cider is just raw unfiltered apple juice.
We went out and found the best tasting, ripest apples we could find. You want a good part of your cider to be made up of sweet apples, which may not have the most interesting flavor. Golden Delicious is great. It's a really high sugar apple, even if it is boring. So, about 2/3 of your juice should be good high sugar apples.
Then we looked for apples with a really good flavor. Something like Jonathans always worked great for us, but we used Galas and basically whatever we could find in the many orchards around here. The remaining 1/3 was made up of these tasty apples, the exact ratio always determined by much debating and tasting of apples
This little cider-making pamphlet we found once said you should rest the apples for a week or so. We sometimes did this.
Then we took them to a friend's house where there was an apple press. We usually had a full-size pickup truck completely full of apples mounded up. We'd spend the day pressing apples and collecting the juice. Also drinking tons of great organic apple cider.
We collected it into pre-cleaned, pre-sanitized fermenting containers. Then we took a starter made previously from a gallon of organic apple cider bought at the store (organic is important...sulfides or anything will kill your yeast) and a package of champagne yeast. No boiling. No other ingredients.
We dumped the yeast starter into the pressed cider. That was pretty much all of the "brewing" process
We always made it during apple season here in Northern California, so that's late October or so. We found that at Christmas, it was a delightful, semi-sweet drink that was easy to put away a lot of fast. EVERYONE liked our cider at Christmas. We always had to set some aside so as not to drink it all.
After Christmas, it got a bit less tasty for a while as it continued to ferment and dry. By the age of about 8 months, though, it was an incredible, dry light beverage, with no sweetness, but the appley qualities of all the "flavor" apples came back out. It was potent and wonderful, and at one year was one of the best and simplest homebrewed beverages I've made.
Apples - free in my case...maybe you'll need to buy as much tasty organic apple cider as you want to ferment.
Champagne yeast (with a starter made) - $.90
Add a couple of the funnest weekends spent in the year to pick all the apples, crush all the apples, and rack the 80-100 gallons we'd make, and I'd consider cider one of the simplest joys that the world of fermented beverages has to offer the homebrewer. The fun and simplicity of making it is great and the results are incredible. Especially if you have access to apples, make cider with some friends
Keep it simple...