Philiphoward wrote:I get the whole airlock concept and the fermenting process, but what kind of yeast do you recommend? For how long should it ferment? Do I carbonate it similar to beer by adding sugars in a sealed container? Please give me details as I would love to try this immediately!
Brewers yeast and bread yeast are the same species. They're just bred to different specialties, so you can just use regular bread yeast to ferment beverages to decent effect.
The difference is that bread yeast is meant to ferment fast and dirty so you can get as much gas from the yeast in as little time as possible. Brewing yeasts are bred more for the their ethanol output and the production of various flavorful byproducts.
By all means, if you have a homebrew shop nearby or if you're ordering the airlock from a homebrew supply place, get a packet of champagne yeast for the most foolproof results. Otherwise just regular bread yeast will do the job. Rapid-rise, instant yeast, active dry, or even compressed yeast cake are all the same thing. They just vary in grain size, shelf stability, and amount of included yeast nutrient.
The amount of time it will take would only be a guess from me. I've never used bread yeast to brew. I'd expect it would take less time than beer. A week is probably safe but you'll know when it's done when you stop getting activity in your airlock for a couple of days.
From there, you can carbonate your cider if you like. You can either bottle it up before it finishes fermenting completely and it'll develop pressure, but it's generally safer to let the primary fermentation complete and then add in a bit extra sugar for carbonation purposes at bottling time.
About an eighth of a cup of table sugar per gallon of cider should give you a nice amount of bubbles. You'll need to boil the sugar in a little water for ten minutes or so in order to break it down for the yeast. Sucrose isn't immediately fermentable, so boiling it breaks it down into dextrose and fructose which the yeast are able to readily convert.
If you're fermenting right in the cider jug, keep in mind that you'll need to sanitize anything you transfer it to or with. A tablespoon of unscented bleach in a gallon of water does a fine job. Just soak any bottles or equipment (funnels, siphon tube, etc) in the bleach solution for twenty or thirty minutes and you'll be just fine.
You can add your sugar syrup directly to the bottles if you can measure carefully or you can mix the syrup with the cider in a separate sanitary container before bottling. Pour or siphon the cider carefully so as to leave the primary yeast cake on the bottom of the jug intact. It's just dead yeast, so it won't hurt anything but it will make your finished cider cloudy if too much gets mixed in. There will still be enough live yeast floating around in suspension to do the work of carbonating.
Your bottles can be standard crown cap bottles like beer comes in, but those need a tool and separate caps which you probably won't have if you're just getting started. Another option are the cam-top "Grolsch-style" bottles that come with their own cap and are sealable by hand, but these aren't super common to have lying about at hand. The simplest option is likely just a handful of soft drink bottles. They're common, airtight, and made to hold pressure. Just leave a little headspace in the top of the bottles when you fill them and then seal them up.
It should be bubbly in about a week. Cider doesn't benefit as much from shelf time as beer, but it'll still clear up and improve a bit with a little more time in the bottle if you can wait.