How to Ferment Cider Using Wild Yeasts

How's this for simple? Canning jars or just large glasses; cheesecloth or any cloth; water, and frozen concentrated apple juice. Yeasts are everywhere, and will arrive uninvited to brew your apple juice from bland sweetness into a frothy soda or a crisp, dry, nutty-tasting hard cider.


  • Apple juice, either fresh, bottled, or frozen concentrate
  • Pure water; if using tap water, leave overnight with a cloth cover to allow halogen gases (chlorine or fluorine) to escape, otherwise they could kill the benevolent microorganisms needed for brewing


  1. Image titled Ferment Cider Using Wild Yeasts Step 1
    Buy some apple juice, either fresh or frozen. If frozen, let it thaw.
  2. Image titled Ferment Cider Using Wild Yeasts Step 2
    Pour the fresh or concentrated juice into quart canning jars, any size jars, or any large glasses. If it's concentrated, use about 4 ounces of concentrate per quart (one 12-ounce can for 3 quarts), and fill the rest of the jar with water. Leave about an inch at the top for the bubbles, otherwise you could have a mess on your cupboard.
  3. Image titled Ferment Cider Using Wild Yeasts Step 3
    Cover each jar with a square of cheesecloth, or cover the jars together with a clean dishtowel or other clean cloth, to keep the flies out but still allow yeasts to enter.
  4. Image titled Ferment Cider Using Wild Yeasts Step 4
    Stir whenever you think of it, at least 3 times a day, until you see bubbles rising constantly to the top, indicating fermentation has begun. There's no need to stir after that.
  5. Image titled Ferment Cider Using Wild Yeasts Step 5
    Sample every 8 hours or so until it's at the desired flavor and alcoholic content. At first it's just bubbly apple soda, slowly getting more alcoholic and less sweet. If not consumed within two to five days, depending on how warm it is, it will turn to vinegar.
  6. Image titled Ferment Cider Using Wild Yeasts Step 6
    Start a new batch the next day, taking a little yeast from the previous day's cider with a spoon from the bottom of the jar, to "quick-start" the brewing.
  7. Image titled Ferment Cider Using Wild Yeasts Step 7
    Re-use the same jars over and over, using the yeast at the bottom of the jars, but see the Warnings below. For example, if you find you like the taste of the cider on the second day, and can drink 3 quarts a day, you'll always have 6 quart jars in use, two alternating batches, and will be buying 1 can of apple juice per day.
  8. Image titled Ferment Cider Using Wild Yeasts Intro


  • This layer of "dust" (kahn yeast) on top will not harm the cider. Skim as much as you can off, if you wish, or just leave it. If green or black, it's a different story, but this white substance does not seem to be harmful. If in doubt, apply the Universal Edibility Test, or throw it away and hope for better luck the next batch.
  • This same method has worked quite well on grape juice, for a grape soda or low-alcohol wine. Orange juice does not come out as good; very sour and a big mess of pulp on top. Pulp-less orange juice would avoid the mess but not the sourness.
  • As you re-use the jars over and over, more and more yeast builds up on the bottom. This could be used as a sourdough starter, or for any other breadmaking or brewing project.
  • Experiment with different concentrations until you find the mix that's right for you. Splitting a 12-ounce can of concentrate into 4 quarts will be less alcoholic; into 2 quarts will be a fairly potent, flavorful mix.


Things You'll Need

  • Clean quart canning jars, or any quart jars, or any size jars or glasses
  • Cheesecloth (available for about $2/yard or less in the US as of May 2009), clean dishcloths, or any clean cloth with a fairly loose weave
  • See Food Ingredients for notes on the apple juice and water


  • This is trouble: a cream-colored to brown scum forming on top of the bubbles. Skim it off with a spoon, or a piece of cheesecloth; or pour some out, skimming the bubbles off with a clean finger. If left there, it will turn your cider to vinegar in a matter of hours. Remove the bugs too, if you wish, but they're relatively harmless.
  • Make sure that the juice you buy does not contain a preservative such as sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate. These will prevent the yeast from growing, and the juice won't ferment.
  • Drinking home made alcohol may be dangerous.
  • Selling home made alcohol is likely illegal.
  • Do not drink and drive

Sources and Citations

  • This research was made possible, in part, by a land grant from the City of the Sun Foundation, though the specifics of the research were not coordinated nor endorsed by COSF.
  • Wild Fermentation, the book by Sandor Ellix Katz that teaches the low-tech way of brewing

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