The Ultimate Guide to Paleo Hard Cider – BiteSize Edition

This is a guest post by Jenna Forstrom.

What is Hard Cider?

Let’s go through the basics.  Hard cider is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from fruit juice (traditionally apple juice, but  other fruits are used as well).  Hard cider shouldn’t be confused with “cider”, which is non-alcoholic.  When sugar or extra fruit has been added and there is a longer secondary fermentation processes to increase alcoholic strength, hard cider becomes “apple wine.”  “Ice cider” is made if the apples are frozen before or after they are harvested, and this has a higher alcohol concentration.  Hard cider made with pear juice is called “perry.”

There are two types of hard cider: sweet and dry.

Sweet:  Imagine an alcoholic version of the Martnelli’s you used drink as a child.

Dry:  Think crisp and easy to drink, without no sugar rush afterwards.

Hard cider can be cloudy or clear depending on the filtering and the fermentation processed used.  The process of turning apples into hard cider is pretty easy.  Apples are collected from orchards, ground up into “pomace”, and pressed until the “must” (juice) is squeezed out.  The juice is then fermented at a low temperature (40-60F) to protect the delicate aromas.  During fermentation, yeast consumes the sugars in the juice, creating alcohol, and carbon dioxide is produced as a byproduct and keeps the hard cider bubbly.  At the bottom of this post is a step-by-step guide to making your own hard cider.

How is it Paleo?

Tequila, wine and mead are all paleo friendly.  But so is hard cider.  Quite simple to the “core” (get it?!), hard cider is apple juice, yeast and sugar (honey or brown sugar).  Definitely paleo.  The problem is that commercially made hard cider goes through a pasteurization processes and is made using additional sugars and preservatives.

Here is what to look out for:

  • Drink hard ciders that are “cold pasteurized” using UV light rather than heat.  Heat messes with the flavor of the cider.
  • Avoid preservatives like “potassium sorbate” or “sodium benzoate”.  This extends the shelf life of the cider.
  • Check the amount of added sugar.  Dryer hard ciders have less sugar added.
  • Look for organic hard ciders.

Or just make your own hard cider.  See recipe below.

Home Made Hard Cider:

Home made hard cider is really (and I mean) really easy to make.  You’ll impress your friends and have complete control of what you are putting into your body.  Here’s the basic recipe for five gallons of hard cider, in five easy steps!

Beginners note: If you are just getting into making your own hard cider, consider one of two options.  One: see if you can borrow the equipment of a friend who already makes wine, home brew or hard cider.  The initial investment for home brewing is pretty high.  This is a good way to find out if you really like home brewing before spending a load of money.  Think of it in the same way as you think about renting the gear for a new sport rather than buying your own before you’ve even tried it.  Two: start by making one-gallon batches first. This way, the initial investment in equipment is less and you can perfect your recipes and run different taste tests.

Home Made Paleo Hard Cider
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Home Made Paleo Hard Cider
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  • 5 gallons Apple juice (You can get this at farmers markets or grocery stores, ideally organic and locally sourced)
  • 1 packet Champagne yeast (You can find this at any home brew shop.)
  1. Sanitize your carboy. - Use home brew sanitizer which is food safe , which you can pick up from any home brew shop. A carboy is the vessel in which your apple juice turns to hard cider. I use a glass carboy so tastes can’t transfer. They are a bigger pain to clean out but I think they’re worth the investment.
  2. Pour in your five gallons of apple juice. - Invest in a funnel. Trust me – I make all my hard cider in my bathtub for easy clean up.
  3. Pitch your yeast. - This is the brewer’s term for pouring a packet of yeast into a carboy filled with liquid.
  4. Add your airlock. - An airlock is a little dohicky on top of the carboy, which allows carbon monoxide (pressure) to leave the carboy, but which also acts as a barrier so that outside contaminants don’t get into your hard cider.
  5. Relax. - Store your carboy in a cool, dark place, like a basement, laundry room or guest room.
  6. Keep an eye on your carboy and it should be ready to keg or bottle in about a month.
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Nutrition Facts
Home Made Paleo Hard Cider
Amount Per Serving
Calories 2213 Calories from Fat 45
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 8%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.2g
Sodium 153mg 6%
Potassium 5622mg 161%
Total Carbohydrates 553g 184%
Dietary Fiber 5g 20%
Sugars 516g
Protein 3g 6%
Vitamin C 865%
Calcium 25%
Iron 102%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Hard Cider Six Pack:

Don’t want to make your own hard cider?  In a dream world, this would be my ideal six-pack of hard cider.  Need a gift idea for back yard BBQs and other summer outings?  Get a six-pack of each, and mix and match for the perfect summer celebration.  For the record, most of these hard ciders should be available at your local beer and wine shop.

1.  The Bad Apple, from 2 Towns Ciderhouse in my home state, Oregon.  This handcrafted cider is made with all northwestern ingredients.  The Bad Apple is a rich and bold cider with notes of fruit and vanilla.  This complex cider is aged on brandy-cured Oregon White Oak.

2. Ginger, from Angry Orchard.  Featuring a unique blend of ginger and apple flavors, this smooth and refreshing cider offers a sweet, yet slightly tart taste that goes down easily.

3.  Bare Naked, from Crispin.  Stripped down, unencumbered hard cider naturally fermented using “Forbidden Fruit” wit yeast.  No added sultes, colors, sugars, sorbates or benzoates.

4.  Pear, from Woodchuck out of Vermont. “To understand what Woodchuck Pear tastes like, take a deep breath, close your eyes and imagine yourself floating down a cool crisp mountain stream in the middle of July.  Ok, got it? Now put an entire pear in your mouth.”

5.  Honey Cider, from Harpoon, out of my favorite city, Boston.  Take the normal Harpoon Cider and add natural honey to it. Yum.

6. Organic Cider, by Samuel Smith.  They make this cider out of a small independent British brewery – the oldest brewery in Yorkshire actually.

When Jenna isn’t making hard cider, you can usually find her hanging out with her 70-pound pit bull pup, Bulleit, in her hometown of Portland, Oregon.  She writes about home brewing, beer recipes and breweries at BiteSize Brews. And if it is a Thursday night, you can find Bulleit and Jenna volunteering under the Burnside Bridge with Portland’s homeless community.  Jenna is currently fundraising $27,000 for her 27th birthday to help build a mobile medical clinic for her friends under the Bridge.  You can read more about her experiences with homeless culture at Beyond the Bridge PDX.

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  1. says

    I’m disturbed by your inclusion of Angry Orchard and Woodchuck in your top ciders, but this was a great article.

    Have you ever added flavors to hard cider? Oh, and I’ve heard it’s called cider now, not hard cider. There’s non-alcoholic cider, cider and perry and then whatever apricot or other fruits are called.

    Good work!

  2. Shawn Raymond says

    Please don’t hold me to this, but you can make ciders that have added sugar, during the fermentation process, the point is to get the alcohol content up higher. If you match the yeast up correctly, and the yeast has enough energy to completely convert the sugars to alcohol, then you would have a low sugar cider, with a higher alcohol content. You get into trouble when the higher alcohol taints the flavor. So it is a balancing act. If you back sweeten it (sweeten before bottling to get some carbonation), then you raise the sugar levels again. I am playing with ciders now, and learning quite a bit, but by no means an expert. I am trying to get a higher alcohol content cider with lower sugar, that still tastes like a good hard cider. It is a challenge, but having a great great time doing it.

  3. Kyle says

    As far as I am aware all the ciders mentioned in the article contain sugar. A cider that does not contain sugar is Julian cider. It is dry, light, and almost clear. Only if it were organic…

  4. Kevin says

    I know this is old, but you can add Downeast Cider of all varieties to the safe list. Lewiston ME.

  5. Geoff Miller says

    What a difference the Atlantic makes.

    In the UK apple juice is called apple juice and fermented apple juice is called cider.

    Be very careful of mass produced cider as brewing “technology” is used as well as apple concentrate – and who knows what has been done to that.

    Proper cider is gluten free – bonus.

    Thanks for the supporting info – I always thought cider would be paleo.

    Purer than the water from your tap!

  6. Justin says

    FYI – UV pasteurization is not used in the production of hard cider. UV light only kills things like E Coli, it does not kill yeast, so it is not used in the production of non-refrigerated items. The alcohol in alcoholic beverages kills microorganisms like E Coli, sweet beverages are pasteurized to kill the yeast so they don’t referment in the bottle and explode. I have a cidery so i should know these things.

  7. Elizabeth says

    I have done some research on added sugar in ciders (it’s not so easy to find), and Seattle Cider’s DRY is the best I’ve found for the price. Whole Foods carries a few that are sold in larger format bottles that range anywhere from $20-50 and taste more like Champagne. They are EXCELLENT, but when you just need some fizzy after work, they are a little excessive.
    Try the Dry Seattle Cider and notice the scale on the can that gives added sugar in “Brix.” Dry has “0 brix” and Seattle Cider claims that it has no residual sugar (
    Thanks for the article and cheers!

  8. Aimee says

    As another commenter said, I am disturbed by both Angry Orchard and Woodchuck being included on this list. They are mass produced, sickly sweet, and not worthy! A commenter mentioned DownEast Cider, which is readily available here in Massachusetts, and is excellent. Their “Unoriginal Blend” is my favorite, and I believe also the lowest in sugar. Also, if you can find Bantam “Wunderkind,” definitely give it a try. It’s made in Somerville, MA, so I can’t speak to its availability outside of Massachusetts, but it’s delicious and really low in sugars…I think 12 oz only has 4 grams.


  1. […] Earlier this week, a guest post I wrote on hard cider was published on Ultimate Paleo Guide!  Ultimate Paleo Guide is a comprehensive guide to the paleo diet.  Which for those of you who don’t know, includes hard cider, but not beer.  It’s the latest diet to hit the fitness world.  Ultimate Paleo Guide has over 100,000 subscribers so it was a huge honor to write on the blog.  Here’s a little bit about hard cider and the paleo diet: […]

  2. […] The last item on the list of things that should be allowed on the paleo diet when it comes to alcohol is hard cider. Generally speaking, hard cider it is a natural type of alcohol made from apples or pears. While this is a great alternative for people who want to drink, you’ll still need to keep an eye on the sugar content of the ciders. There are plenty of low sugar ciders available on the market, but there are also many high sugar cider choices. You can find a good article about hard cider and the paleo diet at: Click Here For Article […]

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