I bought my friends a cider kit for their wedding gift. While I was ordering, I went ahead and got some dry cider yeast for myself.
Cider can ferment with ale or wine yeasts, or with yeasts specific to cider. The yeast characteristics will be imparted to the cider, and the type of yeast will also attenuate differently depending on strain.
These yeasts were Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast, a very dry and crisp yeast with slight mineral qualities.
Compared to beer, making cider is super easy. You still have to keep things clean and give the yeast a temperature it likes, but the act of getting sugar ready for the yeast is already done for you. If you buy raw juice or make your own juice, you’ll need to pasteurize it yourself by holding it above temperatures that wild yeast and bacteria can live. If you buy juice from the store, you’ll need to make sure it doesn’t contain preservatives (citric acid is fine) and is already pasteurized.
If you buy cider/juice that comes in a one gallon glass bottle, then you end up with an extra fermentor when you’re done.
For my first cider I bought a one gallon glass bottle of 365 Organic unfiltered apple juice. I washed my hands thoroughly, disinfected the mouth of the bottle with alcohol and flame, and agitated it to aerate. After a few dozen shakes, I’d take my hand off, swirl, and repeat. Once it was nice and foamy, pitched the yeast, shook a few more times, added a bung and airlock, and chucked it in the closet. Most wine yeasts are less picky than ale yeasts, but still, check the temperature range on the packet or website.
After three weeks all action in the jug had stopped, so I bottled with corn sugar.
Three weeks later I sampled. This cider was good, but had come out bone dry. I’ve since read up on some back-sweetening strategies, and tried to implement some in the future batches with Pasteur Champagne yeast. It was tasty and if you like really dry cider, I’d recommend it, but for most people, it would need to be a bit sweeter. Body was good, and the bubbles were light and crisp.