How to make homemade apple cider at home without an apple press! My homemade cider recipe has that delicious, farm-fresh cider flavor. Spice it up with a few cinnamon sticks and orange peel. This is sure to be a new family favorite recipe!

homemade apple cider with fresh apples and cinnamon stick in mug

There’s nothing quite like hot cider on a crisp fall day!

A mug full of cider is sure to warm you right up. We’re using a variety of apples to help pack the cider full of flavor. And I’m not kidding when I say that a cupful of this stuff took me back to the cider farm I went to in Stowe! I recently shared this cider with friends and it was a HUGE hit at our fall party. My trick was to throw an extra cinnamon stick in the carafe once the cider was room temperature and I honestly think it made the flavor so much more delicious that way!

Most apple cider recipes call for low and slow cooking in a slow cooker. Then you mash the apples with a potato masher and strain the mixture through a cheesecloth. My apple cider recipe uses a food processor to mimic the actions of a traditional apple press just like the way that do at the farm and is cooked just long enough so it’s safe to keep in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. It’s tart, sweet from the brown sugar or maple syrup, and since we didn’t cook it for too long, the apple flavor is so well pronounced.

Trust me, this homemade apple cider tastes just like you got it fresh from an apple orchard!

apple cider in clear glass with chunks of apples and cinnamon stick

Ingredients for homemade apple cider recipe

  • Apples: I suggest using a good variety of apples! Make apple cider if you’ve got an abundance of apples that you need to use up. Almost all varieties work well, but there are some specifics about varieties below. The apple cider I had in Vermont was in my opinion, the epitome of the best apple cider. They used McIntosh apples from local farms exclusively from what I’ve found in my research. But you can use a combination or your favorite variety if you’d like. Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, and McIntosh are my favorite combo!
  • Spices: You’ll need whole cloves, the peel of an orange, and a few whole cinnamon sticks to help flavor the cider. Some people also like to add a few slivers of nutmeg, fresh ginger, or allspice berries. I’ve modeled my cider after the one I had in Vermont, and I only tasted a hint of cinnamon in that.
  • Sweetness: You can use both brown sugar or maple syrup as a sweetener. There is no right or wrong answer here, use whatever you like! If you prefer sweeter cider, use more brown sugar or syrup to taste.
  • Water: this cider packs quite a flavor punch! So I’m using just a bit of water to help stretch the cider. This won’t change the flavor but will help cut down costs, which will definitely help if you’re making this for a large crowd!
fresh McIntosh apples on white marble

How to make apple cider at home:

  1. Prep everything first. Start by thoroughly washing the apples. Use a knife to remove the seeds and stem from the apples. Grab a large bowl, place a colander inside the bowl. Add a double-layered cheesecloth to the bowl and then make sure to find a smaller bowl that fits inside the colander. You’ll also need a can 28-ounce can that fits inside the small bowl. This will help mimic a traditional apple press.
  2. Process the apples. In the bowl of a food processor, add enough apple slices to fill the bowl about 3/4 of the way full. Pulse the apples until they break down into a sauce-like consistency. Pour this mixture into the lined colander, placed over the large bowl. And repeat this process until all the apples have been pulsed. Place the smaller bowl over the apple pulp and place the can inside the bowl. Allow our make-shift ‘press’ to squeeze out all the cider for at least 15-20 minutes. Then, bring the ends of the cheesecloth together, twist, and wring out as much of the cider from the apples as you can into the large bowl.
  3. Make cider. Add the squeezed cider to a medium saucepan. Taste the cider and add sugar or maple syrup to your taste. Then, add orange peels and whole cloves to a saucepan along with the cinnamon stick and water. Heat the cider nice and slow over low heat. You want the cider to get all that spice flavor, but you don’t want the cider to boil. Make sure the temperature doesn’t heat past 160-165ºF. I use my meat thermometer every 3-5 minutes to keep an eye on it. Strain the cider one last time through a fine mesh strainer to remove the orange peel and whole spices. Serve the cider in mugs immediately or allow it to cool completely and then serve in mason jars. I also like to add a cinnamon stick to the carafe of leftover cider when I store it in the refrigerator. As the cider sits it just absorbs all that flavor and taste even better!
process steps for making homemade apple cider

FAQs about homemade apple cider:

  1. What apples are best for making apple cider? Apples that work best for making apple cider are Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Jersey Mac, Fuji, McIntosh, Gala, Red Delicious, and Granny Smith.
  2. How do you reheat cider if you want to serve this later? If you’d like a mug just for yourself, just reheat it in the microwave. If you’d like to serve this for a party, I suggest adding it to a slow cooker and placing it on the warm setting a few hours before you’re ready to serve.
  3. How long does apple cider last? Prepared apple cider will last for 1-2 weeks in the fridge. Keep in mind that we have not added any preservatives to the cider so it’s best to consume as soon as you can.
  4. But can I still simmer the cider in the slow cooker rather than on the stovetop?Yes, once you’ve squeezed out all the cider, you can add it to a crock pot or slow cooker along with water, sugar, spices, and orange peel and allow it to simmer on low for several hours. This will infuse the cider with the same flavors but it will be way more delicious than when apples are simmered in water!
  5. Can you use this cider to make other things? Yes! You can make baked cider donut holes or even homemade apple cider caramel sauce (which you can then use to make caramel apple cinnamon rolls!)
pouring cider into cast iron pot with orange peels, whole cloves, and cinnamon sticks

Equipment to make apple cider:

  • Food processor: will break down the apple solids into a sauce-like consistency. 
  • Colander: catches all the apple solids and helps pass the cider through the cheesecloth.
  • Cheesecloth: helps strain the pulsed apples before we simmer the cider in a saucepan.
  • Measuring cup: You’ll need a large measuring cup to catch the apple cider and a small plate that you can use to press down on the pulp. You’ll also want a large 28 ounce can that you can use as a weight to squeeze juice from the apple. I prefer to catch the cider in a measuring cup because then we’ll know how much water to add to the cider later.
  • Saucepan or medium pot: You’ll need a large pot to hold the liquid from the processed apples. A 4 quart sauce pan works well here.
  • Fine mesh strainer: Helps strain out the orange peels, whole clove, and cinnamon sticks. It will also help catch any apple pulp that made it through the first round of straining. I don’t like any bits in my cider!
  • Wooden spoon: to help stir in the sugar or syrup.
  • Digital Thermometer: to help monitor the temperature of the cider.
  • A Pitcher for storing. I like to use a glass carafe to store my apple cider in the fridge. Make sure to use a carafe that has a tight-fitting lid.
carafe full of apple cider

Other apple recipes to try:

cider in glass with cinnamon sticks surrounded by apples
Yield: makes 12 (1 cup) servings

Homemade Apple Cider

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Additional Time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

How to make homemade apple cider at home without an apple press! My homemade cider recipe has that delicious, farm-fresh cider flavor. Spice it up with a few cinnamon sticks and orange peel. This is sure to be a new family favorite recipe!

Homemade Apple Cider

Ingredients

  • 5 ½-6 pounds large apples, remove seeds/stem + roughly diced (see notes)
  • 3-5 tablespoons brown sugar (or maple syrup)
  • Peel of 1 orange
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 4 sticks of cinnamon, divided
  • 3-4 cups water
  • Cheesecloth

Instructions

    1. PREP: Line a colander with a double layer of cheesecloth. Place the colander over an 8-cup measuring cup (to catch the cider.) Grab a small plate that fits inside the colander and a 28 ounce can that fits on the plat; set aside for now.
    2. PROCESS: In the bowl of a food processor, add apple pieces and pulse until the apples break down into an apple sauce-like consistency. Scrape from the food processor into the lined colander. Repeat this process until all the apples are used. Then, twist the cheesecloth at the top to lock everything in. Gently squeeze as much of the juice as you can out of the processed apples. Place the plate over the apple pulp bag along with a can of 28 ounce can to help press out the cider. Allow the weight of the can to press any remaining cider out for 15 minutes. Then, grab the cheesecloth 'bag' and wring out as much of the cider as you can. Discard the pulp bag.
    3. MAKE CIDER: Pour the cider into a 4 quart sauce pan. I like to dilute by adding 2 cups of water for every 4 cups of cider (so a total of 4 cups water here because I had 8 cups of cider.) Taste and add sugar depending on the variety you used and how sweet you prefer your cider. Add the orange peels, whole cloves, and 3 cinnamon sticks. Heat the cider over low heat until it heats through to 160-165ºF; this will take about 25 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to catch any remaining pulp and spices. Serve the cider warm, or refrigerate and serve cold. You can also use the cider to make apple cider caramel sauce or baked cider donut holes.
    4. OPTIONAL: If you’re storing the cider for later, I like to add the last cinnamon stick into the carafe with the cider. I find it keeps releasing more spice and it just tastes even better that way.

Notes

  • Apples: I prefer to use a blend of McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, and Pink Lady apples for this recipe; however, you can also make this with McIntosh or Honeycrisp apples alone as well.
  • Slow cooker: You can also simmer the cider in the slow cooker. Once you’ve gotten the apple cider, add it to the slow cooker along with water, sugar, spices, and orange peel. Simmer on the low setting for 3-4 hours or under it’s warmed through. Strain and serve immediately or when cold!

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