Apples are a bona fide staple fruit. You can make anything out of them, from apple sauce to apple juice, to apple pie! But once you’ve finished this sweet-treat phase?
There’s so much more to this classic fruit than just dessert!
You can turn that apple juice into apple wine and hard cider with a little aging. These classic drinks are easy to make and delicious to boot. Let’s get into it!
Time to Assemble a Wine Making Kit!
Homemade wine doesn’t have to be intimidating! In case this is your first time making homemade wine*, here are the tools you’ll need:
- 2 Glass fermentation jugs (Look for one-gallon carboys)
- Rubber stoppers and Airlocks (Also called Water locks)
- Brewing Sanitizer
- Straining bag
- Wine bottles
- Bottle Corker plus corks
- Brewing Siphon
- Large Pot
- Potato Masher
- 1 Large funnel
A wine starter kit will also have most or all of these tools, so you can look into getting one to save yourself some hassle.
Some of these items are common kitchen implements, so you’ll probably already have them at home.
Remember to Keep It Clean
Here’s an important reminder before you begin. No matter what wine recipes you plan on making, remember to use sanitized bottles throughout the wine making process.
But don’t just stop at the bottles! Every tool or tube you use should be sanitized every time you use it.
Contamination is a real risk during the wine-making process and can ruin an entire batch. Sterilizing is for both your and the wine’s safety!
With a clean wine-making environment, you’ll eliminate the risk of contaminants getting into your wine and reduce the risk of your wine spoiling during fermentation.
Few Ways to Accomplish a Clean Kitchen
We’re not here to police anyone’s sanitizing, but the level of cleanliness you adhere to will depend on you.
At the very least, pour some boiling water on any cooking implements you use like bottles, pots and spoons.
Do this step to lower the chances of an uninvited guest getting into your wine. Keep your apple wine batches clean and delicious!
Apple Wine: Ingredients
Here’s what you’ll need to turn your juice into wine!
- 4 kg of fresh apples
- 1 lb. of Cane sugar
- Water to fill
- 1 tsp. of Yeast nutrient
- 1/4 tsp. of Wine tannin
- 1/2 tsp. of Pectic enzyme
- 1tsp. of Acid blend
- 1 Campden tablet
- 1/2 tsp. Potassium Sorbate (Only for back sweetening)
- 1 Cinnamon stick (Optional)
- 1 lb. Raisins (Optional)
Note that this recipe will make enough for one gallon of apple wine.
Does Apple Wine Need All That?
Yes! Well, technically. While some ingredients are essential for this apple wine recipe, some of the ingredients we’ve listed above might sound optional.
If you’re wondering whether we need them, here’s a little breakdown of what they add to the wine-making process, plus a few substitutes you can use instead.
This ingredient is essential for fermentation and extremely vital to the wine-making process. Without this, you won’t get wine. You don’t have to stick to cane sugar, either.
You can also use brown sugar instead, depending on what flavor you’re looking for. The amount of sugar you add will change, following your tastes.
A word of warning, though: Expect a higher alcohol content and some residual sweetness in the final wine if you want a sweeter wine.
Tannins are used in wine to add bitterness to the taste. Luckily, wine is not quite coffee, so this bitterness is much more well-balanced.
Since we’re using apples instead of grapes, this ingredient becomes a stand-in for the more common sources of tannins.
The “more common sources” are specifically everything in a grape, from the skins to the stems, plus the wooden barrels used to age wine.
If you want to, you can also add a handful of oak chips or oak cubes to your primary fermentation container to simulate this aging for yourself.
If you’re missing wine-making tannin, you can opt to use some black tea instead. Make sure you brew it nice and strong!
This acid blend powder is used mainly for balancing the many kinds of acid in your wine’s flavor.
If you want to skip out on lemon juice using acid blend powder, that’s alright! Lemon juice will make for a perfectly workable stand-in.
Just remember that if you use lemon juice, it’ll be the same as just adding citric acid instead of a full suite of acids.
This ingredient is essential for preserving the appearance of your apple wine. The pectic enzyme breaks down the pectin that naturally occurs in apples.
Without it, you’ll risk your wine looking hazy and unappetizing.
If you don’t want to add this enzyme but still want to enjoy clear apple wine, mark your calendar down.
You’re going to be waiting for a while longer because the only alternative to the pectic enzyme is lots and lots of additional racking!
If sugar wakes up your yeast, nutrients will give it a to-do list and get it moving faster.
These nutrients will ensure that your yeast goes through proper fermentation and doesn’t slow down in the middle of the process.
In case you just can’t find any yeast nutrients around, take note of these two things:
First, we strongly recommend you use brown sugar for your yeast. Second, grab some raisins as a substitute. About a handful will do.
Also known as E202, this preservative helps extend the shelf life of everything it’s found in, making it ideal for aged wine!
Potassium sorbate is fine if you’re making apple wine from scratch, but it’s a different story if you’re using apple juice as a base.
If the apple juice you’ve chosen has this listed as one of its ingredients, your apple wine won’t go through proper fermentation. Keep that in mind!
Most recipes for apple wine will ask you to add Campden tablets. This wine recipe is no different. Campden tablets are an essential ingredient because they help stabilize your apple wine.
Without these tablets, there’s a good chance that your wine will change to an unpleasant color, and you might even lose some flavor!
We emphasize this ingredient because of its vital presence in the wine-making process. The kind of yeast strain you add will determine a lot of your wine’s final flavor.
Take champagne yeast, for example. This strain has an extremely high alcohol tolerance, so it’s guaranteed to keep eating sugar as long as you add it.
In the case of apple wine, go for a middle-of-the-road kind of wine yeast. Something with a fair alcohol tolerance that will add a lighter fruit flavor.
You’ll need just a little wine yeast for this recipe. Usually less than an entire packet, but make sure to check the yeast instructions.
Is Bread Yeast a Good Alternative?
If you know anything about baking bread, you might be tempted to use its yeast instead.
This is an extremely bad idea because using any kind of yeast apart from wine yeast will make your entire first batch* of apple wine taste like bread.
They might call beer “liquid of bread yeast,” but you don’t want your apple wine to taste like that! Furthermore, baking yeast is designed for much shorter periods of activation.
In the end, you’ll risk unpleasant and unpredictable off-flavors sneaking into your apple wine.
Which Apple Varieties Should I Use?
Before you start making apple wine, you’ll need to find some apples first, of course! As you can probably guess, you’ll need to find some apple trees.
You might even have some growing on your property, which would be ideal.
Hopefully, they’re all the same variety! If that’s the case, you just need to find out what kind of apples you’ve got. Note that this apple wine recipe will specifically require tart apples.
If you have other kinds of apples lying around, that’s alright too, but you’ll probably have to adjust the flavors slightly.
If you want an apple wine with a more complex flavor, look for the Pink Lady variety.
Will Any Kind Of Apple Do?
When determining how as much liquid of each kind you’ll need, you should adjust it to your taste. The flavors you add will determine the flavor of the finished product.
If you’re using your own apples, remember to steer clear of those hanging out on the ground.
These windfall apples won’t be any good for your homemade apple wine recipe because of their risk. Bacteria will stick to them and contaminate your apple wine!
Completely perfect apples aren’t required; A bruise or two WON’T change anything.
What if There Is a Rotten Apple Present?
If you see any moldy or rotten apples, toss them out immediately!
Wild apples aren’t quite good for eating on their own since they lack sugar, and they’re naturally extremely bitter.
But on the flip side, they’re a very good fruit for making apple wine out of.
If you happen to have any wild apple trees nearby, now’s the time to pick from them. If you can’t find any of the apples mentioned above, cooking apples will do in a pinch. Or store bought juice if you are in a pinch…
Which Store Bought Apple Juice Should I Use?
When choosing apple juice for winemaking, there are a few key factors to consider:
- No Preservatives: Ensure that the apple juice doesn’t contain preservatives like potassium sorbate or sodium benzoate, as these can inhibit fermentation.
- 100% Pure Juice: Look for juices that are 100% pure apple juice without added sugars or artificial flavors.
- Cloudy vs. Clear: Cloudy apple juice (often labeled as “natural” or “unfiltered”) can give a richer flavor, while clear juice will result in a lighter wine.
Here are five store-bought apple juice options that are commonly recommended for winemaking:
- Martinelli’s 100% Pure Apple Juice: This juice is often praised for its pure apple flavor and lack of preservatives. It’s made from fresh apples and is available in both clear and cloudy versions.
- Tree Top 100% Pure Pressed Sweet & Tart Apple Juice: This juice is made from a blend of apple varieties, giving it a balanced flavor that’s both sweet and tart. It’s also free from added sugars and preservatives.
- Simply Apple 100% Pure Pressed Apple Juice: This is another popular choice among home winemakers. It’s made from pure pressed apples and has a rich, full-bodied flavor.
- Whole Foods 365 Organic 100% Apple Juice: If you’re looking for an organic option, this juice from Whole Foods’ private label is a good choice. It’s made from organic apples and doesn’t contain any preservatives.
- Lakewood Organic Pure Apple Juice: This is a premium, cold-pressed apple juice that’s made from organic apples. It’s free from preservatives and additives, making it suitable for winemaking.
The BEST Way To Distill Supermarket Apple Juice?
Remember, the quality and flavor of your wine will largely depend on the quality of the juice you start with.
It’s always a good idea to taste the juice before fermenting it to ensure it has a flavor profile you like. Always check the label for any added preservatives or ingredients before purchasing.
Easy Homemade Apple Wine Recipe
After you’ve got cooking apples and everything prepped, it’s time to take those apples and turn them into drinks!
Pick up a few pounds of apples first! We recommend buying them in bulk at the end of the season.
Your apples don’t have to be completely perfect; You’re going to be handling them pretty roughly anyway.
Just keep these tips in mind:
- Get organic apples whenever you can
- Clean your apples before use (Soak them completely in water for 10 minutes before washing them)
- Avoid windfall apples and crabapples
Once you have enough apples, leave them alone. Apples will quickly brown once they’ve been peeled or cut, so set your fresh apples aside!
You could also try making some fresh apple juice while you wait.
Fill your pot with water, and get it to a boil. Let it cool slightly, and then add sugar to the boiling water.
DON’T add anything while it’s still boiling because you’ll risk burning your sweetener. If your sweetener burns, toss the water and start over.
If you intend to use raisins, then now’s the time to chop them roughly. Make sure you’ve broken up all of their skins. Otherwise, skip them and go straight to the boiling water.
Now, it’s time to head on over to the apples and chop them up. Don’t bother peeling or coring them. You want every part of the apple for your wine!
If you want some extra flavors like cinnamon in the final wine, now is to add them.
Place the young wine mix inside your fermentation bucket, and let it sit overnight or for at least 8 hours.
Once 8 hours or more have passed, the juice mix should be bubbling. This is the sign that your juice is starting fermentation.
Those bubbles need help, so go ahead and add yeast plus yeast nutrients to the juice. Pitch in your acid blend now as well.
Next, set your mixture aside for the next five days. Use a sterilized spoon to stir it twice a day.
After about a week, your wine should have finished primary fermentation, but it might take two weeks. Once the juice has stopped foaming, it’s time for the next step.
Strain, Pour, and Pour Again
After the primary fermentation has finished, you’ll need to clear your juice of the apple chunks inside.
Take a clean pot, and place a sieve on top. Stretch an empty straining bag over both of them, then pour carefully.
We recommend doing this step in batches so that you won’t have to lift a full gallon while pouring.
If your wine is still cloudy after one straining, take another clean straining bag and repeat the process.
Take your large funnel, and place it over your fermentation jug. Slowly pour your young wine inside. Seal it with an airlock, then place your apple wine in a cool, dark place.
Once it’s been three weeks, your wine should have stopped bubbling. Now, for the next step!
Rack and Rack
Your jug will probably have some funky sediment and yeast lees lying around the bottom. That’s what you need to get rid of now.
You’ll need to rack your wine. This means you’ll be moving it from one clean jug to another.
Take your filled-up jug, and place it on a stable raised surface. We recommend a countertop. Move it slowly so that you don’t shake up the sediment!
Put the empty jug underneath the filled one. Pop open the airlock on the top jug and lower your siphon inside, but not to the bottom.
Take the siphon’s other end, and suck on it as hard as possible. You should taste just a hint of sweet wine, before stopping.
Quickly now! Stick that end into the empty jug, and wait for it to fill up.
Move the siphon down the top jug until you’ve gotten all the juice you can without picking up any extra sediment.
Reseal the newly-filled jug with the airlock, then set it aside for three more weeks. If it’s still cloudy when you check on it, rack it again!
Extra Apples and Cider
Some of you may be asking, “Hey, what about that hard cider?” This section is for you.
Despite all we’ve said about apple wine, the first drink that comes to mind when you think of apples is apple cider.
Apple Cider Recipe
Cider making is just as easy and fun as wine-making! Note that this recipe makes enough for 1 gallon of cider. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
Hard Cider Ingredients
- Different varieties of apples, about 11lbs. worth (*See below)
- The pectic enzyme (3/4 tsp. per gallon)
- Campden tablets (1 tablet per gallon)
- 2 or more Cinnamon sticks (Optional, for extra flavor)
You’ll be using the same tools and equipment for this juice as you did for the wine, so sterilize them. You’ll also need a food processor.
*Similar to wine making, the apples you use for your juice will need to be chosen carefully. Cider makers usually go for a more complex flavor, but it’s up to you!
Step-By-Step Hard Cider
Once you’ve got your apples, wash them well to avoid anything lingering on their skin. Without peeling them, roughly chop the apples.
Crush the apples inside the food processor. You might need to do this in several batches. Ask your local winemaking shop if they have a press you can borrow to make this easier.
If you’re using a press, you can skip chopping the apples.
Next, pour the apple juice straight from the processor or press it into your demijohn. Don’t use a straining bag, even if you want to!
Leave enough head space, then seal it with an airlock. If you want to avoid cloudy cider, throw in a crushed Campden tablet and Pectic enzyme at this point.
Add your cinnamon here if you want a slight spice in your cider. Set aside in a cool, dark place.
At this point, you just have to wait! Let the juice go through fermentation on its own. Since apples have wild yeast, they’ll start fermentation without outside influence.
The End Result!
If you’re not using wine stabilizers, you can also pasteurize the cider by heating the juice to 160F for 10 minutes, then let it cool until it’s between 70 to 85F.
This is the ideal fermentation temperature.
Rack the juice into another demijohn after roughly 5 to 7 days and wait for the vessel to clear completely. This should only take 2 to 3 weeks.
If your cider hasn’t cleared yet, we recommend adding 1/2tsp of extra Pectic enzyme and waiting an additional week.
Enjoy your hard apple cider!
Homemade wine isn’t hard to make, but there are many things to learn. Here are a few more tidbits of info!
How Does Back Sweetening Work?
So let’s say your apple juice has completed its fermentation. You decide to sample some of your (hopefully) sweet wine…and it’s dry. Not even a hint of sugar left!
Where did it all go? The culprit is the kind of wine yeast you used. Remember how wine yeast needs lots of sugar to act as food and kickstart the fermentation process?
Some strains of wine yeast have an extremely high tolerance for alcohol, which means as long as you keep giving them sugar, they’ll keep going through fermentation until you add something to stop them yourself.
If you want a drier wine, then this is perfect for you! However, if you want a sweeter dessert wine, you’ll need to fix this. Time to start back sweetening your wine!
So…What Is It?
Just like it sounds, “back sweetening” wine is when you backtrack and fix the sweetness of your wine before bottling time. Don’t forget to add Campden tablets alongside your sugar!
Sugar got you into this mess, and now it will get you out! The simplest way to back sweeten is to add sugar to your wine.
There are two options you have for additional sugar sources.
The first and easiest is plain sugar. Take some water, and dissolve your sugar into it at a ratio of 1:1. Then pour it into your wine.
If you don’t want to do that, you can choose to use apple juice instead. Apple juice comes with an added benefit.
It’ll also come with additional flavors that will likely blend well with your apple wine.
What Do Wine Stabilizers Do, Anyway?
We’ve mentioned Campden tablets before, but this little chalky fellow looks more like medicine than something you’d want in your food. You might be asking, “Is this safe to use?”
Fortunately, yes! A Campden tablet is a useful tool in the wine-making world. They’re not essential all the time, though.
But when you use them, you should also be using potassium sorbate or E202.
It’s helpful to think of Campden tablets and potassium sorbate as insurance against further fermentation.
See, when you pitch in more sugar into your wine, there’s a good chance that you’ll end up restarting the fermentation process.
Beware Exploding Bottles!
This means your wine yeast will wake up again and go through fermentation again. You’d just get a dry wine. Big deal, right?
There’s just one more thing. Fermentation doesn’t just turn sugar into alcohol. It also releases CO2 in your fermenting vessel.
With nowhere to go, that CO2 will stay inside your wine bottles and build up pressure until they go POP!
To “pause” further fermentation, you’ll need to add some E202 before bottling your apple wine. This won’t kill the yeast but rather stop it from reproducing and making more CO2.
Using Campden Tablets
Campden tablets work alongside E202.
It stops the wine yeast from reproducing while also preventing wine’s oxidization, which helps your wine maintain its flavor and color.
As a bonus, it also stops the wine from turning into vinegar!
Do You Need to Carbonate Your Hard Cider?
Don’t be surprised if your first sip of cider isn’t as fizzy as you’d hoped. That’s because commercial apple ciders are often carbonated.
However, the cider-making process at home doesn’t require any carbonation.
But you can if you want to! Just keep in mind that if you want to back sweeten your cider, you’re better off not carbonating it.
This is because you don’t want to restart fermentation when adding sweeteners.
There are three methods available to you. The first involves putting your juice through secondary fermentation.
Mix some priming sugar into your hard cider before bottling it to begin this secondary fermentation. This won’t require any extra prep; Just add the sweetener of your choice.
You’ll need roughly 2.5 tbsp of sweetener per gallon of apple cider you’re carbonating.
Ensure that your cider is inside bottles that can take extra pressure without popping. We recommend using flip-top bottles for this method!
After you’ve bottled your drinks, wait about 2 weeks for them to carbonate. Expect to see some extra sediment in your bottles. And they’re ready!
The second and third methods are much easier. Just pick up some carbonation drops, and make sure they’ll fit the size of your bottles. Follow their directions to get it right!
Finally, you could use force and some more tools. Pick up a Corny keg, and pump carbon dioxide directly into your juice.
This method also allows you to back sweeten if you wish.
Bottles and Toast!
The second your wine looks clear, it’s bottling time! Bottling your wine is the same as racking. Just replace the gallon jugs with wine bottles.
Cork and label your bottles, then leave them for another month before enjoying them! Be patient once you’re looking at a bottle of your finished wine!
Bottling isn’t the last step of the process, so your incredible drink can improve even more. Just give it a bit more time.
A better wine starts with your patience. In the meantime, while you’re letting your first batch of wine age a little, why not try the other recipe down below?
Lead marketer, brewer, dad, and husband. Pretty much an all-round awesome guy. I’ve been homebrewing for +20 yrs, an aspiring pro-brewer and micro brewery owner!