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September 18, 2014

How to Make Apple Brandy

Apple Brandy

Brandy is created by distilling fruit wine. After the fruit has been fermented into a wine, the wine is then distilled to produce a strong, clear spirit with the essence of fruit it was made from. Traditionally Brandy was distilled in pot stills; today column stills are often used, as they can be used for continuous distillation. Brandy obtained from a column still has a higher alcohol concentration but is less aromatic than brandy distilled from a pot still. The style of still depends on the style of brandy produced. Cognac (a popular French Brandy) is produced in pot stills while many American brandies use fractional distillation in column stills. It is thought that wine was first distilled as a preservation method and as a way to make it easier for merchants to transport.

After distillation, the clear brandy is placed into oak barrels to mature. Brandies with a natural golden or brown color most likely have been aged in oak casks. Some brandies mostly from Spain, are aged in a system where the spirit is transferred to a different barrel each year. After a period of aging, which depends on the style, class and legal requirements, the mature brandy is mixed with distilled water to reduce alcohol concentration and bottled.

I will be the first to admit- I am not an expert on the nuances of brandy. I spend most of my drinking-time, drinking whiskey. Though, I’ve tried quite a few commercial examples of brandy including Calvados. If you are a brandy connoisseur then you already know that Calvados is an apple brandy from the French region of Lower Normandy. Calvados is distilled from apple cider which is made from over 200 varieties of locally grown apples. The fruit is harvested and pressed into a cider which is then fermented into a dry cider. Once it is fermented it is distilled and aged for 2 years in oak casks, it can be sold as calvados. The longer it is aged, the smoother the drink becomes.

If you have not tried brandy I suggest you start with one of these great cocktails: Brandy Sour, the Brandy Alexander, the Sidecar, the Brandy Daisy, or the Brandy Old Fashioned.

How To Make Brandy

In order to make homemade brandy you first must choose the fruit you want to use for the wine.  Pears, apples, grapes, peaches and plums are all great fruits which can be processed into wine. If the wine is being made from berries, sugar will need to be added as berries are lower in sugar than other types of fruit. Making brandy at home is a great way to capture the flavors and fragrances of summer and fall fruits all year long. Fall is a great time to pick apples which once turned into cider can then be fermented into dry cider. The dry cider will then be distilled into apple brandy. To make brandy at home you'll need to gather your fruit and start the fermentation process at least a month before you plan distill it to make brandy.

Apple Brandy Recipe

In order to make apple brandy you will need apples. 16 pounds of apples will yield about 1 gallon of cider. If you are planning on doing a 5 gallon batch of cider will need roughly 80 pounds of apples. If you choose to use apples you will need to grind and press the apples. If you do not have access to a press a heavy duty juicer will work, but it is not efficient and takes a long time. If you are like me (lazy) head down to the local farm and buy 5 gallons of fresh pressed cider.

Once you have the fresh pressed cider it is time to start the fermentation process. Feel free to use a yeast nutrient of choice, I personally don’t add yeast nutrients to my ciders and they always ferment dry. I have had great luck using wine yeast, WLP775 English Cider Yeast, and Safale US-05 ale yeast. I prefer the English Cider yeast and US-05 as they both ferment dry, but retain a lot of flavor from apples. Always take a hydrometer reading and make sure to aerate the cider before pitching the yeast. Keep the cider between 64-68 during fermentation for best results. The cider will finish fermenting in a week or two, take a hydrometer reading to verify the fermentation is finished. Once fermentation is finished leave it for a month to settle before running it.

You can get real nice final product with a single slow spirit run in a pot still, but you can get a bit cleaner higher ABV product by running it twice. I prefer brandy that has been distilled in pot stills over column stills, as I feel the fruit flavor comes though more pronounced in a pot still. Always make good cuts, but with apple brandy we have found that you can get away with more lenient cuts as the apple flavor is more forgiving. Apple brandy goes perfectly with toasted oak. Feel free to use oak chips, oak spirals, or oak cubes,- taste the product frequently as you don’t want to over oak the brandy. Once you feel the oak flavor in the brandy is at its peak, strain the brandy and bottle it. Do not store the final product in the refrigerator as a true fruit brandy does not belong there.

  • Can you add me to your list so that I can read the answers to the questions – which would be my questions

    ( From the UK)

    Posted by Malcolm on August 02, 2016
  • I run 2.5lbs of green apples in 5 gal buckets of brandy mash. I add a capful of yeast to warm water, let it set overnight, and then add 4lbs of sugar and yeast mixture to my diced apples in the 5gal bucket filled 1" from the top with the mixture and distilled water. This mixture sets 2 weeks. I like to sour 3 of these mixtures so that the distilling renders a larger amount. when distilling I use the first run at 1gal of distilled output per 6 gals of sour apple mash ran (about 65 proof)the second run I pull out 2 of the smaller mason jars per 6 gals of sour apple mash ran (about 130 proof). the proof of the mix varies depending upon the temperature. in the winter months I get a weaker brew. Summer I get the best results. I dice up a few apples and line the bottom of the jar before filling them. seal them and let them set for a least a week. This gives a nice pleasant aroma to the brandy, and knocks some of the bite off of it.

    Posted by Joey on February 10, 2016
  • i plan on using a column still to run 5 gallons of hard cider. My concern is flavor. I want to avoid “gasoline”. Can I add cut apples to the top of the column to impart an apple flavor?

    Posted by Tom on December 09, 2015
  • wow everone heres so stupid they think if you age a wine its a brandy.. Brandy is created when (natural wine is distilled like moonshine.. just instead of crapy corn mash (corn and water) they use expensive wine and destill it..

    No just becuase you have aged wine means nothing..still good shit but not brandy

    Posted by ky on November 20, 2015
  • Hi. when distilling wine to brandy do you need to degas it first?

    Posted by Lamar on August 22, 2015
  • I noticed in your recipe that you did not mention the amount of sugar or no need to add sugar.

    Posted by rick fernando on July 31, 2015
  • hi i have just come across a batch of apple wine i had fermenting for about 17years in my parents house and it’s a real nice smooth sweet taste what would this be wine or brandy?

    Posted by billy on February 01, 2015
  • What should your first reading be before fermentation begins?

    Posted by Greg on December 24, 2014
  • if using a one gallon still, when do you cut the tails, at a pint or a quart…?

    Posted by Dee James on September 19, 2014
  • Perfect timing on the post. I have an apple cider that’s been in the fermenter almost a month. Now it’s gonna be a brandy.

    Posted by Robby on September 18, 2014

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