Fermented Crabapple Cider

There is a shopping center near my home with several ornamental crabapple trees growing in the green spots around the parking lot. Every year, when I see them laden with fruit, I wonder if I could do something with those tiny, tart apples. Now, thanks to Ashley, I have a plan.

Posted by Ashley

Crabapple trees can be a spectacular sight in the spring, as they’re covered in soft pink fragrant flowers.  They’re an excellent small tree to plant for the bees and to beautify your yard, but few homeowners take advantage of their flavorful, but often tart, and difficult to process fruit.

Crabapples vary in size. The larger fruiting varieties have apples about the size of a golf ball. They are often selected for both beauty and a worthwhile snack.  Around your neighborhood or in local parks, give a few a try. They might surprise you with their intense apple flavor and unexpected sweetness.

Smaller crabapple varieties usually are not quite so tasty.  While they still pack a punch with apple flavor, they often contain unpleasant tannins, high acid levels and low levels of sweetness.  Luckily, tannins and acids are necessary for producing the best fermented cider, and it’s easy to supplement sweetness with a bit of sugar in the fermentation process.

Even if you lack a juicer or press, crabapples can be easy to process into a tasty fermented crabapple cider using a food process or a blender.  Simply place the whole fruit into a blender or food processor and coarsely chop before covering in water and sugar, no need to juice them to extract the flavor. The fermentation process will do the work for you and in the end you’ll filter out the pulp and be left with a tasty fermented cider to drink.

Fresh, raw, home-harvested crabapples also have the added benefit of a natural bloom of wild yeast on their skin, meaning that there’s no need to buy any special ingredients—just pick the apples and add water and sugar.

Fermented Crabapple Cider

Yield: Half Gallon


• Half gallon Mason jar

• Food processor or blender

• Fermentools kit


• 4-5 cups small crabapples

• 6-8 cups chlorine-free water

• 1.5 – 2 cups sugar or honey


  1.  Pick 4-5 cups of crabapples off a tree you know to be un-sprayed. Ideally one from your yard or a neighbors yard.
  2. Place the crabapples in a food processor or blender and gently pulse. Your goal is to coarsely chop—not puree. If you don’t have a food processor or blender, you can just quarter them by hand.  All you’re trying to do is break their skins and open them up a bit without turning them into mush.  Once they’re chopped, place them into a half-gallon Mason jar.
  3. Dissolve 1.5 to 2 cups of sugar or honey in 6 cups of water. It helps to gently warm the water on the stove, stirring the sugar or honey until it’s completely dissolved. Allow the water to cool back to room temperature before pouring over the apples to prevent the heat from killing the natural yeast present on the apple skins.
  4. If necessary, add another cup or two of water to fill the jar to within an inch of the top. Place your Fermentools fermentation weight on top of the floating apple mass, this will help hold it down and prevent the gasses released in fermentation from pushing apple chunks up into your airlock. Without the fermentation weight, apple chunks may become lodged in the airlock, creating a huge mess!
  5. Cap your Mason jar with your Fermentools lid and air lock, and place in a warm spot out of direct sunlight until fermentation slows. Depending on the temperature, this could be 4-5 days or as much as two weeks.
  6. Filter out and discard the apple chunks and enjoy your fresh crabapple cider!


Doesn’t that sound refreshing? Other fermented beverage recipes that might interest you include kombuchafermented grape soda, and fermented lemonade. Have any other favorites? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.


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  1. Lucy Jennings on August 14, 2020 at 7:54 pm

    Hi can I use a juicer to juice the apples first and then follow the remaining process? Thanks!

    • Carol Alexander on September 3, 2020 at 4:20 pm

      If you did, I would add the pulp as well as the juice. Try it and let us know how it turns out.

  2. Haley on September 10, 2020 at 1:49 pm

    How long does the cider stay good once bottled and corked?

    • Carol Alexander on September 10, 2020 at 2:54 pm

      I would say if refrigerated about 2 weeks, Haley, just like a sweet cider.

    • me on September 20, 2020 at 12:20 pm

      forever like all ciders

      • Carol Alexander on September 26, 2020 at 4:17 pm

        But it will turn and get hard or vinegary.

  3. Haley on September 10, 2020 at 1:53 pm

    How do you know fermentation has stopped, can you add additional sugar before bottling to sweeten, do you need to do a secondary fermentation stage before bottling?

    • Carol Alexander on September 10, 2020 at 2:56 pm

      I would go by taste. If you add additional sugar, it will feed on that sugar and continue to ferment unless you refrigerate. You don’t need a second ferment. Also, I would go by taste when you want to know if it’s still good. Left too long, it will likely turn to alcohol first, then go vinegary.

  4. Ryan on September 17, 2020 at 5:24 pm

    Tried this out a couple days ago and still no active fermentation. Do you think I was wrong in washing the apples first?

    • Carol Alexander on September 26, 2020 at 4:15 pm

      What did you wash them with? If you picked them from the tree, I wouldn’t have done more than just rinse. Also, if the temperatures are cool, like where I am now, it will take longer. The post does say it could take up to a few weeks.

  5. Jessi on September 18, 2020 at 3:28 pm

    Is this alcoholic? Can I leave it longer to make it alcoholic?

    • Carol Alexander on September 26, 2020 at 4:15 pm

      It is not alcoholic. I would think that leaving it to go longer would make it vinegary but give it a go and let us know how it does.

  6. Beverley on September 23, 2020 at 5:58 am

    What would be the equivalent in kilograms of a cup of crabapples?
    I suppose if I keep a rate of 5:8:2 then it wouldn’t matter the size of cup?

    • Carol Alexander on September 26, 2020 at 4:18 pm

      Probably not. Or you could use a kilo to cup conversion chart.

  7. N on October 15, 2020 at 4:20 pm

    Is this alcoholic?

    • Carol Alexander on October 15, 2020 at 5:45 pm

      No. This is for a sweet cider.

  8. Steve on October 30, 2020 at 6:27 pm

    I dont agree with some of the answers given above. The procedure in the article would produce a hard cider(Alcoholic). Probably not real high alcohol but certainly some. If you want it to go higher then keep adding more sugar when the fermentation slows to restart it. At some point when the alcohol is ~13-15% the yeast will die (unless your using a more hearty wine yeast). If you want to do it old school then as someone said, just rinse them, dont wash them with any sort of soap. You want the wild yeast on them survive. In fact you want them to be strong and flourish before bacteria gets ahead of them. Good strong fermentation will kill the bacteria. Lastly, If your using a closed fermentation with a air lock as the article describes. You will know the fermentation has stopped when the bubbling slows or stops. at this point either filter it and refrigerate it. or xfer it off the pulp into another vessel and add a little more fermentable sugar or honey and let it keep going. Don’t let it sit on the dead yeast and apple pulp for very long. If you let it sit just long enough that the fluid clarifies that is ideal. Note that my comments above are from my experience home brewing beer and cider from apples. I cannot say for sure that it applies to crabapples but I don’t know why it wouldn’t.

    • Carol Alexander on November 13, 2020 at 3:37 pm

      Thanks for your input, Steve.