If you like non-alcoholic sparkling cider you’ll love this wild fermented sparkling apple cider recipe. It’s so easy, it only takes one ingredient and some time to ferment. You won’t believe how simple this process is!
What is sparkling cider?
Sparkling cider is non-alcoholic carbonated juice. The brand in stores that I’m most familiar with is Martinelli’s, and it’s pretty darn good. Sparkling cider can be made with apple juice or cider, grape juice, pear juice or some combination of juices. To make it sparkling, it just means it’s carbonated.
Cider vs Juice
Cider is an unfiltered juice. I go over it in this post where I talk about using our fruit crusher and cider press to make apple cider.
If your goal is fermentation, which it is in this recipe, it’s best to choose fresh unfiltered and unpasteurized apple cider. Even so, there are work arounds if all you can get your hands on is store bought pasteurized juice.
What is fermentation?
If you’re not familiar with fermentation you could head over to my post How to Make Fermented Drinks to get a good understanding of the process. Although, if you’re not interested in all the details this recipe is so simple you don’t even need to know why it works to make a great drink.
Fermentation is the metabolic process of certain bacteria. Some beneficial bacteria thrive and reproduce in an oxygen-free environment. In this process lactobacillus bacteria (among others) digest carbs and sugar and convert them into acids, yeast and carbon dioxide. This changes the flavor of the food but also switches that bland brine into an acidic vinegar like liquid.
How this fermented sparkling apple cider recipe works
The natural bacteria and yeast present on the apples and in fresh unpasteurized apple cider will work their magic when given the opportunity. By sealing this cider in glass jars and giving it some time, you will see the bacterial process take place. The bacteria and yeast feed on the sugars in the juice and in turn make several byproducts including carbon dioxide.
The build up of these gasses is what makes this fermented apple cider sparkling. If you were to complete this process at room temperature everything would develop way faster, so fast that it’s easy to miss the window of bubbly juice before the alcohol becomes apparent. Yes, you guessed it, alcohol is another byproduct of fermentation.
Why would I want to ferment sparkling apple cider?
One of the byproducts of fermentation is the creation of c02 or carbonation. By just barely starting to ferment your fresh cider you will achieve that sparkling aspect that is so delicious.
What is hard cider?
Hard cider is an alcoholic drink. It is a fermented apple juice that ferments to the point of becoming alcohol. Our goal when making sparkling cider is to stop the process before the beverages starts to turn in to alcohol.
How to make fermented sparkling apple cider?
Here is how I make this simple, fool proof, wild fermented sparkling apple cider recipe.
- Make or buy apple cider (unpasteurized if store bought)
- Place in a clean jar
- Screw a lid on tight
- Move to the refrigerator
- Leave for about 2 weeks
- Open carefully and enjoy
Doesn’t fermentation work at room temperature?
Yes, but it also happens even in cold temperatures, like in your refrigerator. It just progresses at a much slower rate. In this recipe, our goal is to ferment very slowly so we can capture the c02 and make our drink bubbly, but avoid our drink becoming alcoholic.
The fridge works to control the temperature and keep things going nice and slow. If you’re in a hurry you can leave the apple cider on your counter in a sealed jar to ferment. This will only take 1-4 days, depending on how warm the house is. Please be careful! It is super easy to let it go a little too long and you’ll end up with a boozy drink. If your goal is a fermented sparkling apple cider you can share with the whole family, plan ahead and use the fridge.
I don’t want to wait two weeks for sparkling apple cider
You’ve got a lot of options here. You can just go to the store and buy some Martinelli’s, or you can ferment this stuff quicker by leaving it at room temperature.
Depending on how warm your house is, this process can take anywhere from 12 hours to 4 days. It’s hard to say. If you’re going to ferment it quickly at room temp and you want to avoid alcohol I recommend using the plastic bottle method. That’s basically just leaving the juice in a plastic bottle so you can feel how tight the bottle gets and you’ll know when it’s time to move the bottle to the fridge to slow fermentation. You can read more about the plastic bottle method here).
If you don’t want to use plastic you could also ferment in a canning jar sealed tight with a flat lid and band. The lid will become domed and tight when pressure has built up. The down sides to these tricks is that by time you feel the pressure is tight, it might already be to the point of becoming alcohol. Using the fridge really helps things go slow and steady.
The best way to learn is from experimentation. Let me know how it goes and what you learn along the way!
How to add spices to apple cider
If you want things a little more festive you can definitely make this a fermented sparkling spiced apple cider recipe. Add a cinnamon stick and a clove to the apple cider and let it sit at room temperature for a couple hours. Remove the spices before sealing the jar and moving it to the fridge.
Cinnamon, and especially clove are very strong spices. Storing these whole spices in your juice for the full two weeks in the fridge will leave you with a crazy spicy brew, when you’re hoping for a gentle infusion.
Fermented sparkling apple cider ingredients
- Unpasteurized apple cider
That’s it. Seriously. If you use unpasteurized apple cider all the natural wild bacteria you need for fermentation is already there in your juice. Use some spices if you want a spiced cider, otherwise you really just need real juice that has never been heated.
Have you noticed yet that there is no added sugar in this recipe? Right, because apple juice has plenty of sugar, there’s no need to add more.
What if you can’t make or find unpasteurized juice
You can try this recipe using pasteurized apple juice if you add some live active starter. Try using some ginger bug (which I write about in detail here) or some kombucha. Some type of starter will bring the bacteria you need to start the fermentation party. I can’t promise this will work, but I have done it before and it still worked pretty good. It did take longer to ferment then when I used fresh, living juice.
Watch this short video
What to buy?
This recipe is so simple, you really don’t need anything except a glass jar with tight sealing lid.
For making the cider we bought this 3.2 Gallon Fruit and Wine Press from Amazon. Along with that, we bought this Fruit and Apple Crusher from Amazon as well. You can see my review on this equipment here.
If you’re trying to figure out what other cool things you could be doing with your apples, check out these two posts from Preserving Today:
How to Make Fermented Apple Sauce
How to Use a Fruit Crusher and Cider Press
Have you ever made fermented sparkling apple cider? Let’s learn together. Let me know how you do it in the comments below.
Fermented Sparkling Apple Cider
- Glass Jar
- Canning lid and band
- Unpasteurized apple juice or cider
- Spices optional
- Place fresh, raw apple cider into glass jar.
- Cover jar with a metal canning lid and band sealed tight.
- Place in fridge for roughly 14 days while occasionally testing lid for tightness showing carbonation is building.
- Drink your cold sparkling apple cider and enjoy!