hard apple cider

My husband and I are both very busy! Careers, home improvements, children, and dogs often leave us exhausted and with little time for ourselves as a couple. A few years ago we started incorporating one-on-one time into our daily routines. It may be as simple as standing in the kitchen chopping vegetables for dinner together to something as elaborate as remodeling a bathroom. The time apart from the daily stress of life brings us closer together and helps us function better as a team in our family life.

I try to take an avid interest in my husband's hobbies. Some (such as running and rebuilding cars) I leave to him, but when it comes to chemistry and food, I am more than willing to lend a helping hand. The craft of brewing and fermentation fascinates me. I think it is amazing that yeast, apple juice, and sugars can transform themselves into such a delicious and complex creation. Working for a vanilla company I am always looking for unique recipes and applications to pass on to you. When my husband suggested a hard cider drink recipe for our next brewing project, I jumped at the prospect.

Hard cider is one of the simplest alcoholic beverages to create. Apple juice or cider, yeast, and a glass carboy is really all you need. We also added a brown sugar and vanilla simple syrup for interest and flavor. Pour apple juice, cooled brown sugar simple syrup into a glass carboy, sprinkle the yeast on top and four weeks later you have a cider that is ready for carbonation. The result is a slightly sweet, light and refreshing hard cider with notes of vanilla and brown sugar at the finish.

When choosing a vanilla product for an application such as hard cider, you want to consider what you want the finish of the beverage to taste like. We added brown sugar simple syrup to add a depth and caramelized flavor to our creation along with our Organic Vanilla extract. Our Organic Vanilla Extract is made from a blend of select Bourbon vanillas used to create an equal balance of flavor and aroma. The perfect finish to this light and slightly sweet cider!

Vanilla Brown Sugar Hard Cider

Yields 5 gallons


    • 5 Gallons of 100% Apple Juice or Cider (Pasteurized, but no preservatives like Potassium Sorbate. It will kill the yeast)

Brown Sugar Syrup:

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons Organic Vanilla Extract-single fold


Bring brown sugar, water, and Organic vanilla extract-single fold to boil, boil for 4 minutes, then let it cool to room temperature.


  • 1 packet Ale yeast

Combine apple juice, brown sugar syrup in sanitized fermenter. Sprinkle 1 packet of ale yeast on top and seal the fermenter with the air lock (per directions that came with fermenter/air lock). Air lock should start bubbling within a day. Let the fermenter sit at room temperature for 1 month. Don’t worry if it stops bubbling before the month is up. It’s still fermenting and clarifying.


Once fermentation is complete, the yeast will have eaten most of the sugars, so the cider will be dry or tart. If a sweeter taste is desired, prepare another batch of the brown sugar syrup and add it to the next vessel in the process for “post-fermenting sweetening”. Of course the yeast will eat this up too, so you can add Potassium Sorbate to stop the fermentation process (available at brewing supplies, follow instructions on label).

If kegging, transfer the fermented cider to the keg, hook up the CO2 and enjoy.

If bottling, transfer the cider to the bottling bucket, then to the bottles, seal them up and wait a week. Cider will be “still” (not carbonated), more like a wine, especially if you did the syrup/Potassium Sorbate step which kills the yeast. If you want the bottles to be sparkling, only use ¾ cup of brown sugar when making the syrup, add it to the bottling bucket without the Potassium Sorbate before bottling. This extra sugar combined with the left over yeast will result in carbonation in the bottles after a couple weeks.