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How To Make Hard Cider

Yours truly with press, carboys, and Winesap and Rome apples.
Welcome to my cidermaking tutorial! In it, I step you through the process of making hard cider– from apple to glass–in
these stages:

1. Obtaining, Grinding, and Pressing Apples


2. Fermenting and Aging Your Hard Cider
3. Kegging and/or Bottling Your Hard Cider

If you’re starting from juice rather than apples, see sections 2-3 for your steps…though I recommend reading the first
section as well, because once you get started, you’ll want to know more and more about the topic. I sure did. Enough
rambling–on to the cidermaking!

Obtaining, Grinding, and Pressing Apples


Sourcing Apples:

My first ciders were made from the unpasteurized, sweet, non-alcoholic cider available in the fall. In 2013, I began
trying to source cider apples locally for my batches of hard cider–this tutorial chronicles that process.

Quite frankly, apple sourcing can be a frustrating process here in Colorado, where a few factors conspired to keep me
from obtaining the varieties I wanted:

 2013 was one of the worst years for apples on the front range of Colorado in years (primarily due to late frosts)
 Low availability of the varieties of apples in the U.S. that are good for cider–I’ve written about this factor
before here
 Colorado being less of a hard cider-making region than others (e.g., New England), and thus having even fewer
cider apples than elsewhere
 Other cider-makers beating me to the punch on the few cider apples I’d heard about in my region

Nonetheless, I did manage to find some Winesap and Rome varieties, both of which are listed in Cider: Making, Using,
and Enjoying Sweet and Hard Cider, which was my cider-making bible and a great source of information to date.

 Edit: Since originally writing this tutorial, I’ve moved on to more technical cidermaking books. I
recommend The New Cider Maker’s Handbook for a more technical deep dive, as well as Craft Cider Making,
which has a new edition in the works.

I obtained the apples–two bushels of Winesaps and a half bushel of Rome–from Masonville Orchards of Ault, Colorado,
who had them delivered to their Boulder Farmers Market stand for me to pick up:
As the Boulder market is busy, I had to park a few blocks away–something I never noticed as a problem until I had to
lug 80-ish pounds of apples to my car. My thanks go out to Jared, who helped me carry them, and Katie, who
immediately knew who I was when I showed up…they were extremely helpful.

Grinding:

Apples in tow, I headed to my parents’ home, where I’d stashed a Happy Valley apple grinder/press that I borrowed
from a friend who I meet with frequently at Lefthand Brewing Company.
At this point, we assembled, washed, and sanitized (using a Star San solution) the grinder/press and glass fermenters that
the pressed cider would be going into, and set up our washing line. The latter consisted of two plastic tubs, one with Star
San solution and another with plain water for rinsing, which we used to sanitize the skins of the apples to prevent wild
yeast and bacteria–which occur naturally in the skins of apples–from infecting the fermentation:

Note: Using a sanitizer wash isn’t really necessary for washing the apples-in fact, some cider makers will go as far as to
allow the wild yeast to ferment the cider without adding commercial yeast at all; however, I wanted to control the yeast
character as much as possible, so we used this approach. Since then, I’ve typically only rinsed the apples and cut out any
rotten portions. Sanitizing your fermentation equipment, however, is essential.

Once we had the apple washing station going, we started grinding the apples with the help of a friend of mine, Chris.
This was a good time, if a bit of work–the grinder made mincemeat of the apples, even though they were firm and fresh
off the tree. The process is quite simple–one person keeps the crank turning, and another feeds apples a few at a time
into the hopper. The apples are shredded into pomace, which falls into the mesh bag-lined bucket below.

Note: Make sure to place a bucket under the collection plate at this point–you’ll get some juice seeping out of the bucket
as you grind, even before you start pressing.
Dan and Chris grind Winesaps.

I’ve heard it’s a good idea to ‘sweat’ the apples, leaving them out on a tarp for several days to soften and allow the
sugars to concentrate. I can definitely see the advantage of this, as the juice yield is likely to be higher at pressing and
the apples will be easier to grind. Apparently, you could also freeze the apples and thaw them prior to grinding to
achieve the same effect–more on that here.

Pressing:
Each time the collection bucket got reasonably full, we switched to pressing. With the collection bucket already in place,
you then place a wooden plug (one that spans the diameter of the bucket) on top of the pomace, line it up with the screw
above, and bring the screw head down onto the plug to exert pressure. At this point, the juice begins to run, and it’s a
matter of waiting for it to subside a bit before incrementally applying a bit more pressure via the screw.

This is the slowest part of the overall process; the important part here is to have everything lined up appropriately and
not to exert too much force at once, as you could damage the press. Tighten, wait, transfer juice to the fermenter as the
collecting bucket fills, tighten, wait, and when more tightening yields little juice, discard the pomace (which can be
mixed into a compost heap but which is too acidic to apply directly as compost) and return to grinding.

Most estimates I’ve seen are that a bushel of apples yields 2-3 gallons of juice; we ended up right around 2, filling one
fermenter with 5 gallons of juice and with about 1/4 of a bushel of Romes left over. I attribute the low yield mostly to
the facts that:

 These were very fresh, firm apples right off the tree that we didn’t sweat due to time constraints.
 We were gentle on the pressing side, not having used a press before and it being borrowed from someone else.
That said, I don’t think we could have pushed it much more on this front.

Choice of apple variety could have been a factor as well, since the variation in physical and chemical characteristics
among the many varieties is large.
The next section–Fermenting and Aging Your Hard Cider–will start with the gravity, acid, and yeast discussion, but for
reasons I’ll explain in that section, it’s important to have your equipment lined up beforehand…otherwise, you may end
up like me in a mad, last-minute dash to the nearest homebrew store to obtain ingredients or equipment you suddenly
realize you need.
My thanks go out to my parents, Bob and Kay, for their assistance in the grinding/pressing process (and for my dad’s
photography) and to Chris, who supplied some muscle, curiosity, and humor.

To review, in this section we covered sourcing apples, washing them, grinding them, pressing them, transferring the
juice to a carboy, and various tangential steps.

Below is a list of equipment and ingredients you’ll need in place before you start your pressing. Most of the fermentation
prep equipment and ingredients are available at More Beer or at your local home brewing store. If you’re thinking of
purchasing these online, please go through my links below or through the resources page as I will get a small cut of what
you spend at no cost to you and will use it to keep the site going.

Grinding/Pressing Equipment:

 A combination apple press or separate grinding and pressing units. See our resources page for vendor
information
 A tarp to place beneath the pressing area
 Wash basins (I used large, plastic storage totes) for washing and rinsing apples
 2 collection vessels–plastic, glass, or good stainless steel–for collecting juice and transferring it to the
carboy/fermenter
 Apples! Cider Apples if possible–acquire and read Cider: Making, Using, and Enjoying Sweet and Hard
Cider for more specifics

Fermentation Prep Equipment:

 Fermenters sufficient for collecting all the juice you could conceivably produce (while we only filled one, we
had a second ready to go in case we produced more than expected)
 A Funnel to fill the fermenters with
 A stopper and airlock for each fermenter
 Star San solution for sanitizing all surfaces that come in contact with the apples or juice
 Empty spray bottle to make sanitizer solution in (for spraying down surfaces)
 Campden Tablets for sulfiting the juice
 A hydrometer and test jar for testing
 Yeast–either cider, wine, champagne, or beer, depending on your recipe
 Yeast nutrient, in case you need to jump-start a slow fermentation. Use with caution, however–a fast
fermentation is not desirable and can produce off flavors–I recommend using it only if your fermentation gets
stuck
 pH strips of the lower pH range–not wide-spectrum strips–to determine how acidic your cider is
 A thermometer for mixing warm water to rehydrate your dry yeast in (if applicable)
 Optional–additional sources of sugars, such as honey, table sugar, or maple syrup, to add gravity to the juice

Fermenting and Aging Your Hard Cider


Winesap, Arkansas Black, and New England style ciders, 2013.

In this section, I talk about fermentation prep, fermentation, and aging, using the Winesap cider from the
grinding/pressing tutorial as an example, as well as two other ciders I made in 2013…each of which brought its own
challenges.

Fermentation Prep:

Once you’ve pressed your cider and the juice is in the sanitized fermenter(s), it’s time to establish the right conditions
for fermentation. These ‘Fermentation Prep’ steps break down roughly along these lines:

 Sulfiting the juice (or not)


 Adjusting the gravity (or not)
 Determining acidity
 If sulfiting, waiting 24 hours before adding yeast
 Adding yeast

Adding Sulfite (or not):

Adding sulfite (SO2), usually in the form of crushed Campden Tablets, is commonly used to impede the growth of
bacteria and wild yeasts while allowing your desired yeast to predominate the fermentation.

Sulfiting may not be necessary should you start with great overall sanitation and immediately pitch a large volume of
yeast, but as cider fermentations are often much slower than beer fermentations–and should be, for optimal results–it
will take longer to produce enough alcohol to suppress those organisms than you may be used to.

Here are some guidelines should you choose to sulfite:


 A rough rule of thumb–the one I used–is 1 crushed Campden tablet per gallon of juice. In practice, this may be
a bit more than needed for a U.S. gallon, according to established cider authority Andrew Lea.
 Edit: The dosage you should use varies by pH level–see the table here. I’ve oversulfited very acidic
ciders (such as crab apple ciders) in the past, which can result in slow fermentation
 Make sure the sulfite tablets you’re using are formulated for 50ppm per tablet per gallon (I’ve seen
some on the market that are formulated for 30ppm, which you’d have to adjust for)
 Don’t inhale sulfite dust when you’re crushing the tablets. I got a whiff when crushing mine and it has a
powerful, burnt match smell that tells me you wouldn’t want this in your lungs
 If you’re going to sulfite, be cautious of the yeast you’re using–some yeasts don’t handle pre-existing sulfur
well. See lessons learned below
 If you’re going to sulfite, wait 24 hours after adding crushed sulfite to the juice before adding yeast

Sulfurous Lessons Learned:

I used Red Star Montrachet yeast, purchased from my local home brew store, on both my Winesap and Arkansas Black
ciders–the latter from another grind/press operation a few weeks after the Winesap operation above. Both were sulfited
with Campden tablets. I later discovered that this particular yeast produces hydrogen sulfide (H2S, which smells like
rotten eggs) in the presence of ‘excess sulfur compounds’. And indeed I could detect–very faintly, in the Winesap, and
strongly, in the Arkansas Black, a rotten egg smell in the finished cider. One lesson here is to consider sulfite use
beforehand when choosing the yeast you’re going to use. Another is, cider fermentation is really in the world of wine
fermentation…time to read up on wine-making. I think I’ll start here.

Adjusting the Gravity(or not):

Take a gravity reading using your hydrometer and test jar. You can use an ABV calculatorto determine what the final
alcohol content will be from your original gravity. Assume 1.000 as the final gravity for now, as cider contains mostly
simple sugars and should ferment out completely to 1.000 unless you’ve added unfermentable sugars (e.g., lactose) to
the mix.

For instance, my Winesap cider started at 1.052 right out of the press, yielding a potential of 6.83% alcohol. As there’s a
general rule of thumb that cider at 7% or higher is better for aging since it keeps longer, I decided to bump the gravity to
1.060 (7.88% potential alcohol).

Using this chart, I determined I needed to add 13oz of table sugar per gallon to the juice, did so (I dissolved it in a small
volume of boiled water first), then re-checked the gravity.

Note on sweeteners:

The above assumes the weight is of standard, granular table sugar. The actual sugar content results by weight will vary a
bit if you’re using different sugars, such as brown sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, etc. For a more precise handling
of these differences, see the priming and bottling chapter in John Palmer’s How to Brew.

Of course, different sweeteners will also add differing flavor, color, and ‘fermentability’ aspects as well…for instance,
molasses will add unfermentable sugars, a dark color, and strong, sulfury notes, while table sugar will add very little
flavor or color at all–it will just be converted straight into alcohol.

Determine acidity:

Since cider often ferments very slowly–my Winesap cider took a month to ferment to 1.000 with no added yeast
nutrient–it’s important for protection against undesirable microbes that the cider be sufficiently acidic. Moreover, acidity
is a key component of cider’s flavor profile, and low-acid cider will be missing the tartness you expect. If there’s little
body to the cider in the first place, and little acid, you’re left with little but alcoholic water.

Acidity can be measured with pH strips, but this is only a very rough measure of actual acid content–most commercial
cider makers will use a more advanced version of an acid testing kit to determine acid content. If acidity is too low, it
can be adjusted by adding more acidic juice (from ‘sharp’ or ‘bittersharp’ apples) or an acid powder (such as malic acid,
the main acid naturally occurring in apples) to the mix.
Acidity Lesson Learned:

As Proulx and Nichols describe the ‘best’ pH range for cider being between 3.0 and 3.8, I found myself very worried
when I came up with between 4 and 5 using some wide-spectrum pH strips. I then jumped in the car and headed to the
closest open homebrew store, returning with more precise, wine-spectrum pH strips and Malic acid powder (for
increasing the cider’s acidity) in hand, only to determine with the new strips that the cider was actually around 3.2 (quite
acidic compared to typical store-bought juice).

If Sulfiting, wait 24 hours:

While sulfite generally doesn’t kill desirable yeasts outright, it will slow them down significantly. If you sulfite the juice,
wait 24 hours for the sulfite to begin to break down before adding your yeast.

Add Yeast:

Cider can be fermented with a number of different yeasts, but those that emphasize the natural character of the apples
without adding a lot of competing flavors are generally either white wine yeasts or English cider yeasts.

Common examples of these include:

 White Labs WLP775 English Cider Yeast


 Lalvin EC 1118 Prise de Mousse Wine Yeast
 Lalvin 71b-1122 Narbonne White Wine Yeast
 Red Star Cote Des Blanc Dry Wine Yeast

As mentioned above, be careful when using sulfite that you’ve selected a yeast that can handle sulfite well without
producing undesirable compounds.

If you’re using a liquid yeast, It’s probably useful to use a yeast starter–a mini-fermentation started in a small volume of
apple juice a day or two before you add it to your larger fermenter–rather than just adding a liquid vial of yeast directly.
The latter certainly works, however. The idea with a starter is that you get the yeast reproducing and active in a small
vessel so that you initially introduce more and more active yeast cells to your juice/must, helping to ensure a complete
fermentation and reducing the lag time before visible fermentation appears in your fermenter.

The caveat here though is that if you use a dehydrated wine yeast, you’ll want to use GoFerm instead of just adding it to
juice, as dehydrated yeast need a particular mix of nutrients to activate properly (vs. liquid yeast, which is ready to go
right out of the vial).

Once you’ve added your yeast to the fermenter and replaced the airlock, place it in a dark, cool location according to the
temperature guidelines of the specific yeasts…then the waiting and monitoring begin.

Fermentation:
New England style cider–finished, racked onto cranberries for aging.

Cider-making books–particularly Craft Cider Making by Andrew Lea and The New Cidermaker’s Handbook by Claude
Jolicoeur–go into the fermentation topic in considerable depth. Here, though, I focus on the basics of temperature
control, nutrients, and what to do when your fermentation stops (gets ‘stuck’) while residual sugar remains in the must.

Temperature:
The yeast you’re using should have an ideal temperature range for fermentation printed on the packaging. I recommend
trying to ferment at the lower end of the range if possible, as doing so will generally result in fewer off flavors being
produced by the yeasts. It does mean a slower start to fermentation and a slower fermentation overall (the risk of which
is offset by acid and, potentially, sulfite), but with cider, that can be well worth it in that off flavors or imperfections are
apparent in finished ciders that might go unnoticed in, say, a bold, dark, hoppy imperial stout.

Also, add pectic enzyme along with the yeast–it will help to break down the pectin in the juice and remove the haze over
time.

Nutrients:

Unlike beer wort, which contains a multitude of nutrients, apple juice has relatively fewer nutrients. That said, it
generally has enough to not require any yeast nutrient or yeast energizer additions, which will cause the juice to ferment
more quickly than desired.

My Arkansas Black cider, for instance, fermented at the same temperature as the Winesap cider (around 65 F), but
unlike the Winesap, I added nutrient to the Arkansas Black juice before fermentation. This was a mistake–while the
Arkansas Black fermented to dryness within a week (vs. over a month for the Winesap), it had significantly more off
aromas (particularly H2S/rotten egg) and less apple character than the Winesap did. Some of this is no doubt due to the
differing characteristics of the apple varieties, but given the same yeast and temperature, the sulfur effect in particular
seemed to be amplified by the fast fermentation.

One risk with low-nutrient juice is that the fermentation will halt altogether, with no bubbling in the airlock and with a
gravity measurement showing significant remaining sugar. When this happens, don’t despair, as there are a number of
options available.

Stuck Fermentations:

You can generally restart a stuck fermentation with a combination of:

 Temporarily increasing the temperature (i.e., move the fermenter out of the basement to a warmer floor of the
house for a few days)
 Stirring the must (or my preferred alternative–de-gassing it with a de-gassing wand attached to a power drill)
 Adding yeast nutrient to the must
 Pitching new yeast into the must

I ended up using all four of these in restarting a New England-style cider that I made from local, unpasteurized sweet
cider with additions of brown sugar, honey, and raisins. I’m not sure why the fermentation got stuck, but most likely I
had insufficient nutrient for the large amount of sugar (apple juice plus 4 lb of dark brown sugar, 1 pound of honey, and
2 pounds of raisins). It started out ok, at 1.070 original gravity, but got stuck at 1.050.

At first, I added nutrient, then when that didn’t work I brought it upstairs (70 degree F) for a couple days. This didn’t
work. I added a packet of rehydrated Montrachet yeast. That didn’t work.

Ultimately, I degassed it a couple times over the next few days and added nutrient in staggered additions according to
the mead-making method detailed in Ken Schramm’s The Compleat Meadmaker. This worked–the fermentation picked
back up and completed all the way to 1.000 and about 9% alcohol. Thanks, Ken–your mead-making techniques saved
my cider.

Aging:

“Is the cider done aging yet?” asks Mycroft.

Racking:
Once fermentation is done (as measured by lack of bubbling activity in the airlock, then by a gravity reading), siphon the
cider to another, sanitized fermenter with an auto-siphon, taking care not to transfer the sediment (‘lees’) on the bottom
of the first fermenter into the second one.

Replace the airlock, and you’re ready to age the cider. This could be done for as little as a month or two or for many
months. This depends on preferences and whether you’re aging the cider with something (e.g., oak chips or other fruit),
or aging in an oak barrel.

A few months in, malo-lactic fermentation can also occur in which lactic acid bacteria ferment the sharp malic acid in
the cider, leaving behind softer, less tart lactic acid and a smoother cider. If you did something impulsive and, say,
sanitized the apples before grinding and pressing (as I did above), this step is unlikely to occur spontaneously. If this step
is desired, malolactic bacteria are available for inoculating the must.

Oak:

Aging in oak barrels is a bit outside the scope of this basic tutorial, but it’s certainly being done in the brewing
community, with a healthy resale market existing for used Chardonnay, Brandy, and Whiskey barrels. One vendor in my
area is Rocky Mountain Barrel Company.

Keep in mind that if you go down this route, you’re making a pretty big investment and will need to learn how to
properly clean and maintain your barrel…the process for this is quite different than maintaining standard plastic, glass,
or steel fermenters. It’s discussed a bit in the Proulx and Nichols book, but I’d suggest doing more research on sourcing
and maintaining barrels if you pursue this.

That said, I’ve had some outstanding oaked ciders–the oak tannins can add a lot of character to cider–and I know some
small commercial cider makers who are using barrels, so if can definitely be done. I just don’t have much to contribute
to that discussion…yet.

You can also add oak chips, or various incarnations of oak staves from other barrels, directly to an aging vessel, without
having a barrel of your own.

Next Steps:

Once your cider has aged to your taste–take some samples with the wine thief periodically to see how it’s evolving, and
record your observations–you’ll need to keg or bottle it. See the tutorials below for more on this topic.

Keg Or Bottle Your Finished Cider


Kegging:

Should you choose to keg your cider, see the kegging tutorial.

Bottling:

If you want to bottle your cider directly from a keg, see the Beer Gun Tutorial.

If you want to bottle your cider using the traditional, home brew method (gravity filler + priming sugar), I don’t have a
tutorial for that yet, but there should be a number of them available online and I recommend the Priming and Bottling
section of How to Brew.

Equipment:

For more information on cidermaking equipment–including commercial and larger-scale hobbyist options–see
the Equipment pages on Ciderschool:

 Grinding And Pressing Equipment


 Fermentation Equipment

See also the Small Cidery Gear Roundup.

Mead:

Apples aren’t your thing but honey is? No problem–here is the equivalent of this tutorial but for mead/honey wine.

Feedback Wanted!

Please contact me via the Contact Us page with any suggestions or questions, and thank you for taking the time to
review this cider-making tutorial–I hope you find it to be useful!

Like what you see here? I plan to create a lot more meadmaking, cidermaking, and even orchard management content
soon on my new site, ciderschool. There’s not much content there yet, but check it out, get on the mailing list, and stay
tuned if you are interested in how-to content, equipment reviews, and resources for making cider and mead.

How To Bottle With The Blichmann Beer


Gun

Overview:

This tutorial covers how to bottle your fermented beverage from a keg using the Blichmann Beer Gun.

I’ve spent a lot of time bottling homebrewed beers and homemade hard ciders with the standard bottle filler/bottling
bucket setup that comes with your typical home brewing kit (e.g., one of the MoreBeer kits). It is a straightforward
method and it works fine–after siphoning your finished beverage into the bucket, you gravity-feed it through a spigot in
the bottling bucket through a tube and into the bottles via a plastic bottle filler that allows you to cut off the flow of
liquid as needed–but it’s time-consuming.

It also forces you down the paths of producing either an uncarbonated beverage or one that is primed with a small
amount of sugar in the bottle to cause a controlled fermentation that carbonates the contents of the sealed bottles…this
latter approach has implications for clarity, as a bottle-carbonated beverage will have yeast sediment in it that is not as
prevalent in a force-carbonated scenario…i.e., in a keg.

If you don’t brew or make hard cider or mead all that much, and especially if you bottle only and don’t have a keg setup,
you might as well stick with the gravity method. However, if you get to the point where you’re generally kegging your
beverages, but still want to bottle some occasionally (or fill a growler here and there) for portability, gifts, competition
entries, or aging purposes, you should consider getting a pressure filler to fill carbonated beverage straight from the keg.
The Blichmann Beer Gun is one such device; I recently acquired one and once you get the equipment assembly portion
of it down, it’s a quite handy and fast way to:
 Bottle a portion of your batch, leaving the rest available on draft.
 Bottle a clearer, force-carbonated beverage than you can get with bottle carbonation.
 Purge your bottles of oxygen prior to filling with a blast of CO2 into the bottle (not an option in the standard,
gravity-bottling approach).

like field-stripping a rifle, except not really…

Assembly:

The beer gun itself is pretty simple–like the Internet, it is a series of tubes, except that, instead of data delivery, it has one
tube for CO2 delivery and another that sits inside the CO2 tube for liquid delivery. The rest is just trigger and connection
pieces for gas and liquid, as well as a stopper that halts the liquid flow until you depress the trigger.

It comes with an instruction set that covers assembly (it comes assembled in-box; you need to disassemble it, sanitize the
components, and reassemble it before first use), connecting the gas and beer lines to the beer gun, and how to fill bottles
with it. The instructions are adequate for these purposes. What they don’t cover in any depth is connecting up the various
gas and liquid lines to your regulator and keg–or the components that may be necessary for your particular keg setup–so
I’ll focus here on that aspect.

Connecting the Components:

First up, heed the warnings on the instructions–the beer gun is not designed to handle more than 15 psi of pressure, for
instance, and is better around 5 psi in my experience (high pressure will result in a lot of foaming as you attempt to fill
the bottles).

The instructions picture a dual CO2 regulator with a Y adapter and shut-off valves inline with the Y valve outputs. This
would be an ideal scenario, as it allows independent control of the gas flow and would allow you to leave another keg
connected–unaffected by the beer gun setup–at its own pressure while you bottle from another keg (knowing what I do
now, I wish I’d initially purchased a dual regulator–or at least a CO2 distributor–as it better accommodates the
expansion of connections that immediately and magically present themselves once you start to regularly use
kegs). Chances are, though, that your keg setup is somewhat different, so my primary suggestions when purchasing a
beer gun are:

 Determine what you actually need beforehand, as the accessory kit may not have all the parts you need or you
may have some of them already depending on the kegging equipment you have at home.
 Don’t assume that the instructions packaged with the beer gun will adequately cover this topic–they don’t.

In my case, I have a single CO2 regulator from a Northern Brewer kegging kit; based on ‘you might also need’
recommendations, I purchased a 1/4″ flare from MoreBeer along with the beer gun and the accompanying accessory kit.
This turned out to be both more and less than what I needed…I already had ball lock connectors for the keg, for instance,
but I ended up needing an extra 1/4″ gas hose and connectors (in addition to the set that comes in the accessory kit) in
order to hook everything up.
Pictured to the left is my keg as normally hooked up–gas line from the regulator
to the ‘in’ keg ball lock connector, and dispensing line/plastic faucet hooked to the ‘out’ connector. This is a dispensing
configuration with the keg under pressure constant pressure.

To add the beer gun into the mix, a few things needed to change, including running a gas hose to the beer gun (while
keeping a gas line to the keg in place) and replacing the standard dispensing line/faucet with a dispensing line to the beer
gun.

Steps for my single-regulator, single ‘T’ flange, ball lock keg setup (your mileage may vary):

1. Turn off the gas at the regulator shutoff valve. Please do this–trust me, you do not want to attempt to
disconnect or connect these components with high-pressure gas flowing to them.
2. Using the keg’s pressure relief valve, bleed off some of the head space pressure in the keg (the keg remains
pressurized after you turn the gas supply being turned off, likely at a higher pressure than what you want to
dispense with). Not necessary if your keg’s equalized pressure started below 15 psi and you have a separate gas
line into the beer gun (i.e., if you don’t have to attach a flange or splitter) that doesn’t require disconnecting
your current gas line into the keg for set up.
3. Remove the ‘out’ ball lock connector and attached dispenser/faucet from the keg.
4. Disconnect the gas hose from regulator to keg at the keg ball lock connector.
5. Attach the gas hoses to the flange–one from the regulator to the flange, one from the flange to the beer gun gas
connector, and finally one from the flange to the keg ‘in’ connector:

6. Connect one end of the liquid line to the beer gun’s liquid tube (the small one jutting out of the back behind the
trigger assembly.
7. Connect the other end of the liquid line to a ball lock connector, using the 1/4″ nut and barb connector from the

accessory kit:
8. Then–and only then–attach the liquid line ball lock connector to the keg’s ‘out’ position.
9. Check your connections.
10. Insuring first that you’ve dialed down the pressure to under 15 psi, open the pressure valve on the regulator.
11. Listen for leaks in the gas lines and connectors; locate and fix any that aren’t very minor (I had a minor one in
the new gas line I assembled, but it was minor enough that I continued), first turning off the gas and letting
pressure out of the keg relief valve before you unhook any gas hoses.
12. Allow some time for the gas pressure to build in the keg (if the regulator is making groaning sounds in the
absence of hissing gas leaks, it’s still in the process of re-pressurizing the keg). If you are concerned about
carbonation loss relative to the prior baseline, dial up the pressure a little (say to 10 psi), give it more time
before bottling, and then deal with the higher foam level you get with higher dispensing psi. Or, set things up
initially through a dual regulator or distributor setup so that you don’t have to bleed pressure out of a keg in
order to complete the connections.
13. Begin bottling per the beer gun’s packaged instructions.

Bottling:

For the most part, this portion is straightforward and the packaged
instructions are sufficient, so I won’t belabor this topic. I will, however, mention that I found it a bit more effective to
keep the bottle at a tilted angle for most of the fill, rather than just for the beginning of the fill as recommended by the
instructions.

After you fill your pre-sanitized bottles, cap them, wipe them down, and store them out of direct sunlight…if it’s a hard
cider you’ve bottled, those with 7% or more abv should store well for up to a few years.

I’ll also mention that I definitely lost some carbonation in the beverage pictured–a blackberry mead–by: 1) ignoring the
gas leak in my line; 2) not allowing time for re-pressurization when I hooked everything up after having bled the keg
pressure off; and 3) starting out with the mead at a low baseline level of carbonation. It is also noticeably harder to fill
the bottles to the top with the beer gun, as foam-overs are pretty easy to do and it takes some practice not to produce
them. All the same, with the CO2 purge aspect of filling with the beer gun, it’s less of a concern to have extra head space
in the bottle because there isn’t much oxygen present to oxidize your beverage.

Sanitation/Clean-Up:

Once you’ve finished with your bottling, I recommend turning off the regulator pressure, bleeding off the keg pressure,
rinsing out the keg, and then adding some sanitizer solution to the keg, re-pressurizing, and pushing some sanitizer
solution through the beer gun to clear and sanitize both the keg components (e.g., the dip tube) and the beer line.
From there, you can clean and maintain the keg per the packaged instructions, disassemble and sanitize the beer gun, and
even enjoy one of your beverages immediately (since you don’t have to wait for a bottle fermentation for carbonation to
occur). Not that you didn’t already test before bottling by filling up a pint that you then sampled for, er, quality control
purposes (hint).

From there it depends on your setup. At some point, for convenience’s sake, I hope to set up a CO2 distributor so that I
can have a separate, dedicated line for the beer gun and not have to mess with the flange anymore. That said, it’s pretty
quick to set up and break down the flange connections.

Summary:

Overall, the beer gun is a great way to bottle beer from a keg, allowing more flexibility around planning your bottling
activities and adding the advantages of forced carbonation, zero carbonation wait time after bottling, clarity, and CO2
bottle purging over bottle-carbonation. I highly recommend it–with good maintenance, one of these should last quite
some time and become an indispensable tool in your home brewing/home cider-making toolkit.

Lessons learned:

 Don’t assume that the beer gun + accessory kit has everything you need or that you need everything in both–
check the specs against your equipment first.
 For convenience, I should have bought a gas connector kit for the extra gas line I needed, rather than separate
hose, barbs, clips, and connectors that I had to assemble myself and which then leaked when connected to the
gas.
 I need to account for and implement the best beer gun connection setup that fits my long-term kegging
expansion needs.

Miscellaneous:

 If you prefer a visual demonstration or want one as an addition, there are some good video walkthroughs for the
beer gun on YouTube.
 If you’re considering buying any of the equipment discussed here, please do so by initially clicking through the
associated link(s)s in the above content–doing so will help me support my blogging habit and won’t cost you a
penny more than if you’d just purchased it on your own directly.
 See the other tutorials and, if you aren’t already kegging your beverages, the kegging tutorial in particular.
 Thank you for visiting The Cidersage Blog! Please leave a comment (WordPress login required, since if I
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