What is the easiest/cheapest entry into brewing?

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ShellinTX

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Hello,

I am contemplating getting into brewing and want to ask you what the simplest, easiest and cheapest way to brew is?

Thanks in advance!
I’m pretty new to this as well. We happen to have an orchard that has muscadine grapes, blueberries, and blackberries, so I’ve been experimenting with making wine, but my least expensive jump has been making hard cider. That started this weekend when I bought gallon jars of apple juice. They are already sterilized. You just need the yeast packets, and a #6 cork and airlock. So super simple and about $8.00 for the gallon jug of apple juice (in Texas), $6.00 for an airlock and cork (larger quantities are cheaper per piece), and another $6.00 for packet of yeast (cheaper in larger quantities, but you don’t need much). I also added a little yeast nutrient. The best part is the jug, airlock, and cork are reusable, and you can use cheaper apple juice the next round since you can buy it in plastic. Of course, I had to buy five gallons because it’s apple season! I had an extra jug from before, so I poured off a small amount in each so as not to bubble over in first fermenting stage. I plan to add some of our berries and taste test which I like best in second fermenting. Had some amazing Blackberry cider in Seattle this summer, and that is the taste I’m hoping for!
 

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bwible

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If I were to go with less than 5 gallons, I think 3 would be pretty optimal. 32 bottles (if you exactly hit your volume) still feels like you got something out of all the effort, plus you can use 5 gallon kettles, buckets, or even carboys no problem.
3 gallons is exactly what I settled on long ago. In the real world it actually works out to right about 30 bottles. Or a case plus a 6 pack.

I plan all my recipes as 3.5 gallon batches. I collect 4 gallons to start and after the hour boil 3.5 gallons goes in the fermenter so that I actually get 3 gallons of finished beer after losses.

I settled on 3 gallons for several reasons:
- I am the only one in my house who drinks the beer and I don’t go through it as quickly as others might
- I like variety. I don’t want 50 bottles of one beer and 10 cases of beer after brewing 5 batches
- available carboy and keg sizes. I can ferment 3.5 gallons comfortably in a 5 gallon carboy. They make 3 gallon carboys too. I also have several 3 gallon kegs though those are getting harder to find.
- I can brew indoors on my stove, the pot is not too big for the stove to heat.
- I am 60+ and all the containers are smaller, lighter, and easier to handle compared to the “standard” 5 gallon batch, which will now start to matter more.

The biggest downside of the smaller batches is that I no longer have the capacity to brew 5 gallons, so if I want to fill a 5 gallon keg then I need to brew twice or plan a concentrated batch to be watered down after the boil.

For newbies, extract is the easiest way to start out. Working with known gravity points per pound of extract. The big pot is the biggest expense. I have a 5 gallon Anvil pot. Buy quality, buy once, cry once.

The learning curve is the biggest thing. So many hops now, many of us experirenced brewers have not brewed with half the varieties out there. Learning all the grains and what they are for. Learning all the beer styles and how to come up with recipes. Some kind of recipe software is great to have.

+1 on extract for newer people - its simpler, and you want to have the best chance for a positive experience early on so a new person doesn’t get quickly discouraged.

Far as cheap, nothing is cheap today. Extract costs more than grain but the work is done for you and your brew day becomes 2 hours shorter. Your time is worth something too.

Mead is also a good thing to start with. You don’t need a pot since you don’t boil mead. But even making cider or mead now has gone way up. I used to get 5 lbs of honey for $11.99 about 2 years ago and that is $21.99 now.
 
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Old Medic

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We are just over the Mt from you, and just getting back into brewing again (retirement is great) after nearly a 10 year break. The wife has developed a taste for Mead so that is the current project. I started out with a Turkey frier, brew bucket kit and extract kits. Changed to all grain, and had a blast with that, doing one every couple weeks. Was buying bulk grains so the per batch cost was 1/2 of buying kits, but add the other costs in. Its like reloading ammo to save money... LOL... You'll end up spending several hundred dollars to make it yourself for 1/2 price... So you need to make more... and then spend several hundred more for improved equipment, and now your down to 1/3 price...
Case in point, We live next to an orchard, and allowed to get as may left over apples we want.... Have canned them for years... but spent some $$$ on a crusher and press for fresh cider, and the base for hard cider and Cyser, pushing about 10 gallons so far.
Its a fun hobby, and good skill to have. Dont hesitate to hollar at us.
 

Teufelhunde

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I don't think S. cerevisiae (brewer's yeast) is normally considered probiotic, though it's probably still good for you. But there have been some studies that beer is prebiotic, meaning it promotes healthy growth of microorganisms already in your gut.
I love it.....beer is medicine.....LOL....I must be healthier than I thought....
 
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MarthaSprung

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Dont hesitate to hollar at us.
Thank you very much for the kind offer. Currently I am located in germany, unfortunately.

What I want to do first is to get ale yeast (Bierhefe) and apple juice. I can get locally sourced apple juice, but am not sure whether I'll be able to find the ale yeast in a local store. They have Bierhefe at the drugstore, but as a supplement, so I am guessing that it is not active. If I order online I can get the Nottingham ale yeast, but the shipping cost is as high as the product itself.
 

z-bob

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Thank you very much for the kind offer. Currently I am located in germany, unfortunately.

What I want to do first is to get ale yeast (Bierhefe) and apple juice. I can get locally sourced apple juice, but am not sure whether I'll be able to find the ale yeast in a local store. They have Bierhefe at the drugstore, but as a supplement, so I am guessing that it is not active. If I order online I can get the Nottingham ale yeast, but the shipping cost is as high as the product itself.
Can you get any wine yeasts? White wine yeast and a little yeast nutrient works very well for apple juice, and at least in the States it's cheaper than ale yeast.

(this is just a wild thought) Can you get a bottle of unfiltered bottle-conditioned beer? A Hefeweizen (sp?) might be good. As long as it's not pasteurized you can ferment with the dregs from a bottle or two.
 
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MarthaSprung

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Can you get any wine yeasts? White wine yeast and a little yeast nutrient works very well for apple juice, and at least in the States it's cheaper than ale yeast.
I might get wine yeast. Thanks for the tip!
(this is just a wild thought) Can you get a bottle of unfiltered bottle-conditioned beer? A Hefeweizen (sp?) might be good. As long as it's not pasteurized you can ferment with the dregs from a bottle or two.
I like this idea. I will ask around if/how I can get a unpasteurized and unfiltered Hefeweizen.
 

NSMikeD

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Champagne yeast is often recommended for apple juice. I don't know why, but my LHBS suggested it and that's what I use whenever I make cider. Like wine yeast it's easy to source.
 
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MarthaSprung

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Champagne yeast is often recommended for apple juice. I don't know why, but my LHBS suggested it and that's what I use whenever I make cider. Like wine yeast it's easy to source.
That's good to know.

I can get a variety of active Hefen here (labels in english):

They are all pretty cheap and without shipping cost. Should I go with 'apple & pear cider'?
 

Graham H

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Just this year I started experimenting with cider. I’ve been making 1 gallon batches using only store bought apple juice, sugar, and yeast. I’m still experimenting on finding a good “base” cider recipe so I haven’t tried adding any extra flavoring agents (fruits, spices, etc). I’ve found that I can get a drinkable cider in as little as a month, but the flavor improves greatly if I let the cider age. I picked up a bunch of one gallon fermentation jars (around US $20 for a kit of two; includes jars, lids, seals, and airlocks).

FastRack One gallon Wide Mouth Jar with Drilled Lid & Twin Bubble Airlock-Set of 2, multicolor (B01AKB4G9E) Amazon.com: FastRack One gallon Wide Mouth Jar with Drilled Lid & Twin Bubble Airlock-Set of 2, multicolor (B01AKB4G9E) : Home & Kitchen

Using these, I’ve made eight batches so far (another two are in progress) and used different juices, yeasts, and quantities of sugar. After sitting in the jars for about two month, I usually bottle (the 500ml swing top bottles are ideal; buy a case of the bottles and enjoy the free beer that comes in them) and then sample each batch bit by bit, a few weeks between each bottle. In my limited experience, I’ve found that two months of conditioning in the bottle has greatly improved the taste.

There’s plenty of equipment your can get (fairly inexpensively) over time to help you in your process. My suggestion would be a notebook, hydrometer, and autosiphon. As for additional supplies, cleanliness is key, so pick up some no-rinse sanitizer (Starsan is a good choice). Nutrients, enzymes, and additional items will probably come in handy eventually, but you’ll always need to clean & sanitize.

Best of luck!
 
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MarthaSprung

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Just this year I started experimenting with cider. I’ve been making 1 gallon batches using only store bought apple juice, sugar, and yeast.
What Yeast did you use?
I’m still experimenting on finding a good “base” cider recipe so I haven’t tried adding any extra flavoring agents (fruits, spices, etc). I’ve found that I can get a drinkable cider in as little as a month, but the flavor improves greatly if I let the cider age. I picked up a bunch of one gallon fermentation jars (around US $20 for a kit of two; includes jars, lids, seals, and airlocks).
Interesting. Does more yeast speed up the process. How much do you use?
FastRack One gallon Wide Mouth Jar with Drilled Lid & Twin Bubble Airlock-Set of 2, multicolor (B01AKB4G9E) Amazon.com: FastRack One gallon Wide Mouth Jar with Drilled Lid & Twin Bubble Airlock-Set of 2, multicolor (B01AKB4G9E) : Home & Kitchen
That looks nice, maybe I can find something like this in germany.https://a.co/d/cW77bZw
Using these, I’ve made eight batches so far (another two are in progress) and used different juices, yeasts, and quantities of sugar. After sitting in the jars for about two month, I usually bottle (the 500ml swing top bottles are ideal; buy a case of the bottles and enjoy the free beer that comes in them) and then sample each batch bit by bit, a few weeks between each bottle. In my limited experience, I’ve found that two months of conditioning in the bottle has greatly improved the taste.
Thanks for sharing your experience.
There’s plenty of equipment your can get (fairly inexpensively) over time to help you in your process. My suggestion would be a notebook, hydrometer, and autosiphon. As for additional supplies, cleanliness is key, so pick up some no-rinse sanitizer (Starsan is a good choice). Nutrients, enzymes, and additional items will probably come in handy eventually, but you’ll always need to clean & sanitize.
Got it.
 

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@MarthaSprung This is my favorite cider yeast: COTE DES BLANC RED STAR 5 GRAM WINE YEAST set of 6 | eBay Maybe you can find a seller in the EU?

I'm going to start some cider today using yeast harvested from a bottle of homebrew beer. (it's "Jovaru" yeast from Lithuania) I'm going to drink a bottle of the beer, pouring carefully to avoid disturbing the sediment. Then fill the bottle about halfway with pasteurized apple juice. Screw the lid on tight, shake it up good, loosen the lid just a little and see if it starts fermenting. Assuming it does, I'll add it to a gallon of apple juice and about 80 grams of sugar with a proper airlock on top. I want to try this yeast because it seems to produce a lot of glycerin, which tastes sweet and adds body. If I like it, I'll use the sediment from the gallon jug and some yeast nutrient to start a 4 gallon batch.
 
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MarthaSprung

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@MarthaSprung This is my favorite cider yeast: COTE DES BLANC RED STAR 5 GRAM WINE YEAST set of 6 | eBay Maybe you can find a seller in the EU?
I'm going to look for that. For now I am going to order the cheapest I get here and see if that does the job.
I'm going to start some cider today using yeast harvested from a bottle of homebrew beer. (it's "Jovaru" yeast from Lithuania) I'm going to drink a bottle of the beer, pouring carefully to avoid disturbing the sediment. Then fill the bottle about halfway with pasteurized apple juice. Screw the lid on tight, shake it up good, loosen the lid just a little and see if it starts fermenting. Assuming it does, I'll add it to a gallon of apple juice and about 80 grams of sugar with a proper airlock on top. I want to try this yeast because it seems to produce a lot of glycerin, which tastes sweet and adds body. If I like it, I'll use the sediment from the gallon jug and some yeast nutrient to start a 4 gallon batch.
Sounds awesome! Please, keep us updated on your progress.
 
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When I switched from propane to electric, this is the first all-in-one electric brewer that I bought. Obviously not top of the line but served me well and let me know that this was the direction I wanted to go. I use a bag in it and have made some good beers. Based on the name, it sounds like it could be a German company.

KLARSTEIN Mundschenk Beer Brewer - Complete Home Brewing System, Mash Tun, Home Fermentation of Beer and Wine, LCD and Touch Panel, 304 Stainless Steel, 8 Gallons (30 Litre) Capacity, Light Silver Amazon.com: KLARSTEIN Mundschenk Beer Brewer - Complete Home Brewing System, Mash Tun, Home Fermentation of Beer and Wine, LCD and Touch Panel, 304 Stainless Steel, 8 Gallons (30 Litre) Capacity, Light Silver: Home & Kitchen
 

cheech226

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Mr Beer kits. They're not the best, but it's certainly the cheapest and easiest way to make beer. The extract is already hopped, and you can usually get all the equipment you need plus ingredients for under $100usd. I recommend swapping out the yeast though...

This is one they're selling for $42.46, everything in the pic.

i got into brewing with a mr beer kit. i did buy s-04 for the yeast. the kit i purchased was churchill's brown ale. i read a lot about brewing. most important was holding temps in the lower range for fermentation with this yeast. the ale turned out well. after that success i bought more equipment. i still use my lbk.
 

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My suggestion would be to head into your local homebrew shop and see if there's a local club. I would be surprised if there isn't someone in your area who can have you sit in on a brew-day to learn the process, give you lots of tips and answer questions first-hand. The club might even be able to help you cobble together a decent beginner's used equipment kit for cheap.
 

Graham H

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What Yeast did you use?

Interesting. Does more yeast speed up the process. How much do you use?

That looks nice, maybe I can find something like this in germany.Amazon.com: FastRack One gallon Wide Mouth Jar with Drilled Lid & Twin Bubble Airlock-Set of 2, multicolor (B01AKB4G9E) : Home & Kitchen

Thanks for sharing your experience.

Got it.
I’ve used SafAle SA-04, EC-1118, and SafCider. EC-1118 has been my best so far, but I’ve changed too many things each batch to definitely say it was due to the yeast.

I’m used to using an entire packet of yeast for a 5 gal/39L batch of ale. I’ve been using half a packet for the 1 gal batches of cider and haven’t had any issues. I’ve saved the unused half for the next batch a few weeks later and it was still good.

From one newbie to another, I’m happy to be of any help I can!
 
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MarthaSprung

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When I switched from propane to electric, this is the first all-in-one electric brewer that I bought. Obviously not top of the line but served me well and let me know that this was the direction I wanted to go. I use a bag in it and have made some good beers. Based on the name, it sounds like it could be a German company.
Could be german or jewish.
KLARSTEIN Mundschenk Beer Brewer - Complete Home Brewing System, Mash Tun, Home Fermentation of Beer and Wine, LCD and Touch Panel, 304 Stainless Steel, 8 Gallons (30 Litre) Capacity, Light Silver Amazon.com: KLARSTEIN Mundschenk Beer Brewer - Complete Home Brewing System, Mash Tun, Home Fermentation of Beer and Wine, LCD and Touch Panel, 304 Stainless Steel, 8 Gallons (30 Litre) Capacity, Light Silver: Home & Kitchen
It looks really nice. I like that it is stainless steel.
@MarthaSprung ... Aren't you overloaded yet? :p
:mug:
I'll take it slow. Going to order the yeast, buy some apple juice and see how it goes. haha
My suggestion would be to head into your local homebrew shop and see if there's a local club. I would be surprised if there isn't someone in your area who can have you sit in on a brew-day to learn the process, give you lots of tips and answer questions first-hand. The club might even be able to help you cobble together a decent beginner's used equipment kit for cheap.
I will take it into consideration.
 

z-bob

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Sounds awesome! Please, keep us updated on your progress.

I poured in the apple juice and and shook it up yesterday afternoon. It was a plastic bottle, so I squeezed most of the air out and put the lid on tight so I could tell for sure when it was fermenting. A few hours later it looked fizzy and the bottle was mostly inflated. I loosened the cap just a little. Today I opened it up and it was somewhat pressurized even though the cap was not sealing all that tight. It smelled yeasty. I poured it into a gallon jug with about 3 quarts of apple juice and a half-pint jar of old homemade mayhaw jelly that still tastes good but is separating and turning dark. (Mayhaws are basically crabapples.) It's bubbling away now. And I used up a jar of jelly that has been in my fridge way too long. :) (I heated the jelly up to boiling in the microwave before I added it to the juice, to kill any germs it might have picked up in my refrigerator, if it was an unopened jar I would not have bothered with this)

The fermentation took off so fast and so strong, I'll probably step this up to 3 or 4 gallons right away instead of doing just one gallon and saving the lees. This yeast is so aggressive it's almost scary. It might even be able to ferment the pectin in the jelly.
 
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MarthaSprung

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Nice! So if I understand the process correctly, I can put the yeast in the juice and have that as starter culture to further ferment other things like a jelly and juice mix for example? I have a lot of jelly here I made a month ago.
 

z-bob

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Nice! So if I understand the process correctly, I can put the yeast in the juice and have that as starter culture to further ferment other things like a jelly and juice mix for example? I have a lot of jelly here I made a month ago.

Yes. I very seldom use jelly in my cider; I'd rather use sugar (and not much of it) But I have some 10 year old jars of jelly, I like making it but I don't eat that much, and this way I can use them instead of throwing them out.

I have harvested yeast from a bottle or can of beer before and used it for brewing, but I have never had it take off this fast before. Usually I have to step it up a few times.
 
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MarthaSprung

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I see. I might use my jelly as well, since I have so much of it. What is the end game here. Can I just store the end product in bottles or will I have to consume it to avoid overfermentation?

BTW, I got this yeast:
wineb.jpg


They advertise it as '2 yeast strains with the "killer effect" and natural low temperature pectolase.' so if I suddenly stop posting you know why.
 

z-bob

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😂 The cider will ferment totally dry. I like it that way, but I want it bubbly. So I bottle it in beer bottles or flip-top sparkling lemonade bottles, or screw top pop bottles. I add sugar to it to carbonate it; 1/2 tsp (I don't know what that in is grams, about 4 or 5) per 12 ounce bottle, 3/4 tsp per 500ml bottle, a heaping teaspoon per 750ml bottle. It usually takes a week to carbonate, and it is greatly improved by letting it age another couple of weeks or longer. You end up with something resembling inexpensive brut champagne with half the alcohol.

Don't go overboard with the jelly. When you ferment pectin you get methanol. That's a normal trace ingredient of wine but you do not want too much of it. Here's an article about what "too much" might mean: Methanol in wine | BIO Web of Conferences I suspect pectin->methanol is not really a concern as long as you're not distilling the wine to make brandy or freeze-concentrating it to make applejack, but it's something to be aware of.
 

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I see. I might use my jelly as well, since I have so much of it. What is the end game here. Can I just store the end product in bottles or will I have to consume it to avoid overfermentation?

BTW, I got this yeast:
wineb.jpg


They advertise it as '2 yeast strains with the "killer effect" and natural low temperature pectolase.' so if I suddenly stop posting you know why.
There is no overfermentation. Yeast eat sugars until it is gone or when the alcohol that they produce stops them. You decide what level of alcohol you want to achieve and make sure that there is the correct amount of sugars in the juice to get there by adding sugar. If you don't want the juice to be so completely fermented (dry) you can add a sugar that the yeast can't eat. I make a beer that has an addition of lactose just for that purpose.
 

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Okay. Can't wait to try out the yeast. I'm going to post my progress here.
Which yeast? The bread yeast I suggested you dump into some apple juice? Even if you do decide a different yeast, this bread yeast into apple juice makes a pleasant drink. Just be sure your apple juice has no preservatives.
 
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MarthaSprung

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Which yeast? The bread yeast I suggested you dump into some apple juice? Even if you do decide a different yeast, this bread yeast into apple juice makes a pleasant drink. Just be sure your apple juice has no preservatives.
This yeast:
f887f0bd46c1d26110bb186e6f33cd49.jpg


I have sourdough starter, can I use that? I also have a water kefir culture.
 

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Which yeast? The bread yeast I suggested you dump into some apple juice? Even if you do decide a different yeast, this bread yeast into apple juice makes a pleasant drink. Just be sure your apple juice has no preservatives.
That's a very good point. She can gain some experience with very little cash, will have something drinkable to show for it, and will have a baseline to compare with using better yeasts.

I have sourdough starter, can I use that? I also have a water kefir culture.

I have no idea if those will work. It sounds interesting. Try it out (on a small scale) and see what you get :)
 
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The yeast I've ordered was really cheap, it actually contains of two yeast strains and has the killer effect.
 

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circling back to the original question; 1 gal starter kits (extract with specialty grains) are available for about $50. all you need is top source file top bottles (or a capper and caps if you use not twist bottles) and a pot. I came across these today, they aren't the only source but the instructions are clear and provides just enough education to understand the basics of brewing to get started. so this is an example of an inexpensive way to get started in home brewing: 1 Gallon Beer Kits | Craft a Brew.

moving up to all grain BIAB 1gal is not a bing step once you get the hang of exact. Then, if1 gallon isn't enough beer for you and you want to invest in equipment to make larger batches, you have a good understanding so you can compare what method and corresponding equipment you will want within you budget.
 

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There's no trace left of the jelly that I put in the cider. All the little clumps are completely dissolved, the red color is gone, the browning because it was old is gone. I don't know if the diastatic yeast ate everything, or if it just ate all the sugar and the pectin had nothing left to make it gel (that doesn't explain the loss of color.) There are still lots of tiny bubbles but it's starting to clear. I'm about to step it up to 3 or 4 gallons. I will dump the lees in too because that's where most of the yeast might be.
 

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Cheapest? In college I made hard cider by drilling a hole in the cap of a gallon of cider, pitched dregs of a bottle of beer and made an air stop out of a straw and plastic cup held together with super glue. I think the whole thing cost me under 5 bucks...
 

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The cider I started a month ago using Jovaru yeast harvested from a yeasty bottle of beer is still fermenting *very* slowly. It was almost finished in less than 2 weeks, and it looks finished now but the airlock still goes "bloop" every 30 seconds or so. I think maybe I have it in too cold of a room (about 68 to 70°) so I might put a blanket, heating pad, and Inkbird controller on it to get it to the upper-mid-70s for a week, then bottle it.
 

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The cider I started a month ago using Jovaru yeast harvested from a yeasty bottle of beer is still fermenting *very* slowly. It was almost finished in less than 2 weeks, and it looks finished now but the airlock still goes "bloop" every 30 seconds or so. I think maybe I have it in too cold of a room (about 68 to 70°) so I might put a blanket, heating pad, and Inkbird controller on it to get it to the upper-mid-70s for a week, then bottle it.
You probably are at final gravity and have been for quite a while. Your cider will have a fair amount of CO2 dissolved in it, more that it can hold long term. That CO2 will come out of solution and make the airlock bubble from time to time. Only the use of a hydrometer will tell for sure if it is done.
 
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