Are you’re also tired of paying the cost of premade hard cider at the store? Or you would like to experience the rewarding feeling of making cider yourself and reap the financial benefits as well?
Making apple cider at home can seem pricy at first, but if you do the math it actually gets cheaper and cheaper the more you make! And it is certainly cheaper and more fun than buying hard cider in a store.
Even when factoring in the cost of buying apple juice, you can easily make 6 gallons of finished cider for less than 100$. Compare this to the cost of store-bought cider and you will save between 36$ and 376$ on 10 gallons of finished cider even if you have to buy the apple juice depending on the price of the commercial cider you buy. It is much cheaper if you grow your own apples of course.
When it comes to home brewing, what can you expect to find for the initial costs of making it yourself?
If you have your own apple tree, you can get started with cider brewing for as low as 50$! Otherwise, the cost of apple juice comes on top.
Well, you need some containers, for example, some demijohn bottles, some airlocks, cleaning reagents, sulfites, a hydrometer, and yeast.
|Item||Cost per piece||# needed||Total|
|Demijohn 1 Gal||5$||2||10|
The table shows the approximate costs of each item and some items like the demijohns, airlocks, and hydrometers can be used multiple times. So while these have a starting cost, they do not scale with production.
The cleaning reagent, yeast, and sulfites can only be used a limited amount of times and will scale with the number of gallons produces. I estimated these reagents to cost around 3$ per gallon.
On top of this, you will have to buy your own apple juice if you do not have access to your own apples and a juicer. I have estimated a cost of 5$ per gallon of store-bought juice.
I further assume that bottles can be salvaged/reused for free from friends, own consumption, reuse etc.
Using these numbers, I made a graph showing the cost of making apple cider and how this compares to buying the same amount of cider in the store:
From the chart shown above, we can see that the lines are much flatter for both home brewing options and of course slightly more expensive when you buy the apple juice.
However, we see that both home brewing options are on par with the expensive (50$/gallon) store-bought ciders already at 1 gallon and home brewing beats expensive store-bought cider at a more than 40$ margin already at 2 gallons made.
To beat the medium-priced and cheap store-bought hard cider though, you will need to make at least 3 gallons to beat the medium-priced cider and at 7 gallons you will have beaten the cheapest cider option with 10$ even if you have to buy your own apple juice!
And of course, the more you make at home with your starting equipment the cheaper it gets.
If you plan to make 15 gallons with store-bought apple juice, you will save at least 76$ if the alternative is buying the cheapest cider, 211$ for replacing the medium cost store cider, and a whopping 586$ if you make your own cider instead of buying the expensive cider in the liquor store!
And trust me, you can relatively easily make a cider that tastes as good as even the expensive store-bought cider if you follow the advice on this website!
Why is apple cider expensive to buy?
Not every brand of apple cider is going to be so expensive, yet there are big factors that raise the cost for very simple reasons. The first reason is simply due to an apple crop not performing as well and the lack of enough apples grown. Another common reason is that labor costs always go up when there are fewer employees to carry out the various work duties when distilling hard cider.
Here I calculated with the cheapest cider costing 16$ per gallon, the average costing 25$ per gallon and the expensive cider costing 50$ per gallon. And trust me, you can get more expensive ciders than that!
Some demand cheaper prices and that apple cider should be priced accordingly to be a working person’s drink as was the intention when first invented. While others say the price reflects what someone is paying for as reflected in the ingredients’ costs, skill, and effort required in making.
No business can afford to sell something of a much lower price than the actual cost because they ultimately need to survive and make a profit to grow.
With many orchards across the US experiencing unpredictable weather, many crops can experience big losses when harvest time comes around.
A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that the apple crop dropped from 9.4 billion pounds to 8 billion pounds this year due to an unusually warm early spring followed by freezing weather and then a humid summer.
With many family orchards slowly getting back into regular business since the 2020 pandemic, it seems another emerging trend has affected the cost of local apple cider producers. Many people are simply more interested in new drink concoctions such as cider seltzers which are fizzier versions of cider.
And though cider is rather simple to ferment, it practically does it all by itself, the demand for fancier rather than cheaper cider formulations lowers the demand for low-cost hard cider.
This also increases the competition from smaller cider makers, which should have a positive impact on prices in the long run.
Where is the market for apple cider going?
The market for apples is expected to grow by about $1.63 billion in 2023 fueled by the rise of health and wellness among millennials today.
In fact, over 31% of apple-based cider drinkers are millennial women based on recent statistics published by the Beverage Master Magazine.
Adding to its popularity was the fact that apple cider is great in aiding weight loss and lessening inflammation.
However, the shortage of these fermented beverages has sent apple prices to soar over the recent years.
And according to a recent Apple Outlook Report published by the US Apple Association, the agricultural sector is facing severe labor shortages even before the entire globe was hit by the Covid pandemic.
A combination of these factors has led the prices to rise and the supply to fall in regions like the Southeast.
However, this only makes it more favorable to brew your own cider instead of buying it!
Is it cheaper to make or buy apple cider?
According to the calculations made here, it is always cheaper to make your own hard cider if you make more than 6 gallons. Even if you have to buy your own juice at the average price.
For obvious reasons, it’s not always a given luxury for most folks to grow up next to an apple orchard. Nor would you have the equipment and supplies to make cider as easily as an apple orchard might employ.
For that reason, therefore the setup costs will be your first big investment in making homemade cider. But after this initial investment, the price per gallon (see graph at the top of the post) will be much cheaper than store-bought hard cider!
But the very first issue is going to be where you source your apple juice from. However, depending on the quality you are after, apple juice can be bought in bulk for less than 6$ per gallon in most supermarkets or online.
The basic supplies are all items that are easy to secure and can be found at gardening suppliers and often from home improvement centers.
The estimated budget for setting up your initial cider fermenting area will roughly cost what you already pay. This can average 6 months to a year of buying cider that you would buy from the store.
Why is it cheaper to make your own cider?
This might sound like a two-sided coin but in the long run, the cost of making your own cider will be dramatically cheaper with time.
It also depends on the equipment that you buy and finding supplies and equipment that is being sold at discount or sale prices. The one element that you’ll need to learn is where to source the fresh apple juice that will make it cost-effective for you.
If you’re simply looking to see how well you’ll do making cider or hard cider, you can purchase online kits that are around $50 to make one gallon at a time. This is a good way to get started but is not the cheapest option.
These kits aren’t as reliable as buying professional equipment that you would use for long-term usage. What these quick-start kits for home brewing will do is let you test the waters a few times to see how the process works.
One of the biggest tips is to find a source that is selling fresh apple juice for the cheapest price you can find. This is where you’ll need to contact local apple orchards or companies that will sell freshly squeezed apple juice.
Even if you have to travel a few miles to where you can pick this juice up directly, you can save some money in that regard. Juice by itself will be much cheaper when you buy it in bulk.
You might also need to bring your own containers to these orchards since they don’t often provide any plastic containers for you. Bringing your own plastic jugs will also give you an option for getting a discount price.
Either way, if you are looking to stick to a budget, always try to conserve your spending budget as much as possible so making hard cider and apple cider at home is more cost-effective.
Here I have presented some of the most common facts about the costs of starting your own apple cider brewing operation in your home or garage.
There is no doubt that it is significantly cheaper to make your own cider – especially as you get more experienced as you will be able to make hard cider that can compete with the more expensive brands!
As you can guess, we as small private producers can’t really compete with this prices from larger producers but as we “pay our own salary” and do not have shareholders to satisfy, we can do it cheaper and more customized anyways.
On top of this, there is just an intrinsic value in making something yourself and sharing it with family and friends. Something that cannot be calculated in $!