Hard cider “must” or unfermented juice must be sanitized prior to fermentation. This is done through boiling. The apple juice or “sweet cider” is brought to 160⁰F, and held there for a minimum of 15 minutes. The sanitized must is then cooled to below 80⁰F. It is critical to properly aerate the must before the yeast is added and starts the fermentation process. Once the yeast is added a proper seal must be made to ensure an air tight tank. The yeast awakens and starts to consume the sugars present in the must. This biological process of consuming and excreting waste produces CO2 and alcohol. This action of the yeast microorganism produces bubbling and a sediment layer at the top and bottom of the fermenting tank.
Secondary fermentation requires the cider to be syphoned out of the first tank and into the second. There should be very little activity from the left over yeast at this time. It is very important for the taste and visual appearance of the finished cider to move it to a secondary tank. The sediment on the bottom of the tank will make the cider appear cloudy and have a yeasty flavor if it is mixed in with the cider above it. Once the cider is syphoned off of the sediment layer it is allowed to ferment in the secondary tank for another 30 days or so. This allows any leftover yeast to finish its life cycle and fall to the bottom. The cider becomes clearer and the taste matures into what we are familiar with. After this fermentation the cider is again syphoned from the tank and the product is flavored and bottled.