Make a Cyser to Enjoy this Fall

If autumn brings thoughts of mulled cider to mind, you might just love this best-kept-secret of a beverage. Cyser is a cross between hard apple cider and mead. It’s really easy to make with a few supplies and simple ingredients.

I like the way Viking Alchemist describes cyser

A cyser is a mead which has been fermented with apple juices rather than water, created a unique drink that is both sweeter and tarter. It’s common to add other ingredients to flavor the cyser like autumn fruits or spices. If you like a cider, but find it’s too “apple-y” you might really enjoy a cyser. It is milder, smoother and takes the tart bite out of the drink.

Below is a simple recipe that will yield a tasty beverage in just a few weeks.

Ingredients (1 gallon)

  • 1 gallon apple juice or apple cider (nonalcoholic)
  • 2lb honey
  • Lalvin 71B-1122 yeast

Equipment

  • Large pot and spoon
  • Sanitizer, such as StarSan
  • Fermentation vessel*
  • Food-grade funnel for transferring from to pot to fermentation vessel
  • Airlock with a stopper that’s an appropriate size for the top of your fermentation vessel
  • Hydrometer or refractometer to measure your alcohol by volume (ABV)
  • Auto-siphon or other type of siphon for bottling

*There are many containers you can use to ferment your cyser. If your apple cider ingredient came in a one gallon glass jug or bottle, for example, you can use it for fermentation. You may have to modify the top to hold your airlock if you do not use a vessel that came from a homebrew supply store. No matter what you use, be aware of the hot temperature limit that the vessel is able to take before transferring from your pot to the fermenter.

Instructions

When making any fermented beverage, sanitizing is critical. Don’t skimp on this part. Even the tiniest exposure to bacteria or wild yeast in the air (think about how sourdough bread is made) can create something that tastes terrible. Check out the American Homebrewers Association’s video on sanitizing best practices. Trust me; it’s worth the watch. Also be sure to follow the safety guidelines on the sanitizing product you choose.

Heat the apple juice or cider in the pot until it reaches 190 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from heat and set a timer for five minutes. After five minutes, add the honey to the warm juice and stir to dissolve. If some of the honey remains in the container, close the cap and set it upside-down for a few minutes. Or, you can spoon a small amount of the warm juice into the container to loosen it and add it to the pot.

Dissolve the honey completely. Depending on your fermentation vessel, you may need to put a sanitized lid on the pot containing your mixture, called must, until the temperature lowers enough to be safe for transferring. For example, some glass vessels will crack or break if the must is too hot. Once the honey is dissolved and the must is at a safe temperature, transfer to the fermenter using a sanitized funnel if needed.

Sanitize your airlock and add it to the top of the fermenter. Let the must cool over night with the airlock inserted.

The next day, pitch your yeast into your must. The back of the yeast packet will likely have instructions for getting your yeast started before pitching; it usually involves adding the yeast to a separate cup with a small amount of warm water and letting it activate for a few minutes.

Use the hydrometer or refractometer to measure the gravity of the cyser. Record the number you see. This is called your original gravity (OG). This step obviously isn’t required to make the cyser, but it’s the only way you can know what its ABV is.

Ferment your cyser around 70-75 degrees for two weeks away from direct sunlight, such as in a closet, in a basement (if it’s not too hot or too cold), or on the floor with a thick towel wrapped around the fermenter to shield it from light. Aim for a place where the temperature does not fluctuate much. After two weeks, check the gravity again and record the number. This is your final gravity (FG). To calculate your ABV, use this tool.

You can end fermentation and begin aging your cyser by doing what’s called cold crashing. Then, carefully siphon the cyser into bottles, avoiding disturbing the settled yeast at the bottom.

If you like the way it tastes, you can begin enjoying the cyser at this point. Or, you can try aging it for a few weeks or even months. You also have the option to back-sweeten, meaning adding more juice to make it sweeter.

Of course, this is a very simple cyser recipe. You can get fancier with high-quality apple juice/cider and honey. Some recipes call for acid blends, Irish moss, and other additions, too. I always find that it’s better to start simple and then improve and refine from there. Enjoy!

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