Pressing apple cider at home

Best practices for making fresh-pressed apple cider.

Apple cider in a mug with cinnamon sticks.
Photo: Pixabay/Hocus Phocus.

Michigan’s apple harvest peaks in the months of September and October, so cold storage of apples and cider making are perfect ways to extend fall flavors throughout the season.

Cidermaking started centuries ago. Some note this happening when the Romans invaded England, and they noticed the local people drinking an amber-colored liquid made from local crabapples. The people of northern Spain were making a similar beverage even earlier. In the 1600s, English settlers arrived on the continent of North America and at that time they planted apple trees in what is today recognized as the state of Massachusetts. 

Types of cider                                       

There are two types of apple cider commonly consumed in the United States: hard cider and sweet cider. “Apple juice” refers to filtered juice that has removed the solids. The fermented alcoholic apple juice is called hard cider, a popular Michigan product.

Sweet cider is the term generally used for non-alcoholic cider. Natural yeast in apples will ferment pressed apple juice into cider. The process can take three to four days at 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the “sweet cider” has aged, it needs to be pasteurized to kill the harmful foodborne illness pathogens.

If food safety precautions are not taken, fresh or unpasteurized apple juice or cider can cause foodborne illness with the E.coli O157:H7 bacteria. Apples used for cider can be a potential risk because they do not have to be perfectly shaped and without blemishes like those picked or sold for eating. Instead, they often have spots, some blemishes and are generally smaller than those used for eating. Apples for cider need to be free from spoilage, however. Michigan State University Extension recommends that older adults, immune-compromised individuals, and young children only drink treated apple cider. Pasteurization is necessary to reduce the possibility of E. coli foodborne illness.

How to press apples for cider

Apple cider cannot be made in an unlicensed home kitchen and sold under the Michigan Cottage Food Law. Cider mills that sell cider commercially have separate rules. They are required to have a license from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

To make apple cider at home, follow these steps from the National Center for Home Food Preservation:

  • Before juicing the apples, the workspace and equipment must be washed, rinsed and sanitized. The process includes scrubbing the cider press with warm soapy water, rinsing it with clean, drinkable water and sanitizing it. Before starting, wash your hands.
  • Select apples that are firm and ripe. Choose a variety of sweet, tart and aromatic apples to make the cider like, Delicious, McIntosh, Rome or Gravenstein. Generally, a bushel of apples will yield about three gallons of juice.
  • Never use apples from the ground. Manure from cattle, deer and even some birds can harbor dangerous bacteria like E.coli. Washing the apples may remove some bacteria, but not all. Hence, it is best to avoid using apples that may have come in contact with animal waste.
  • Use only freshly harvested apples. As apple age, they become less acidic, which may allow bacteria to grow. Try to harvest apples and make the cider within 24 hours.
  • Sort and wash apples in clean, running water. Discard any spoiled apples. Core and cut the apples into chunks. Use a food chopper, blender or food processor to chop apples.
  • Place apple pulp into a clean, damp muslin sack or jelly bag and squeeze until the juice is out. Canning the apple juice is an option without making it into cider. But it needs to be pasteurized by heating it to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, producing large quantities of apple cider requires a fruit press.

The only way to reduce the potential for foodborne bacteria is to pasteurize the cider. Heat the cider to at least 160 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Skim off the foam. Pour the hot cider into the clean, sanitized glass or plastic containers. Cider can be stored for up to seven days in the refrigerator or frozen for up to 12 months.

To enjoy your cider, pour it into a mug and stir with a cinnamon stick. Another way to enjoy cider is by simmering it in spices, dried fruit peel or brown sugar to make spiced or mulled cider, depending on the recipe.

To spice up your apple cider at home, try the following Instant Mulling Spice Mix, adapted from a recipe shared by Vicki Hayman from the University of Wyoming Extension:


  • 6 cups (2 lbs.) brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons ground allspice
  • 2 tablespoons ground dried orange peel
  • 1-2 tablespoons ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg

Optional herbs to add to taste: Ground anise, black pepper, ground cardamom, crystallized ginger, finely chopped or ground ginger and/or ground dried lemon peel


  1. Wash hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for 20 seconds. Wash, rinse and sanitize all food contact surfaces.
  2. Mix all ingredients with a whisk until well blended and store in an airtight container or baggie until needed.
  3. For a single serving, add 3 tablespoons of the mixture to 1 cup of hot cider, juice, black tea, or wine.
  4. To serve a group, add 1/2 cup of mixture and 1 cup of water for every 2 cups of cider, juice, black teaspoon, or wine. Bring mixture to a boil and stir until dissolved, then reduce to a simmer. Serve immediately or simmer until ready to serve.

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