Cider with a twist, Cyser

This fall was pretty hectic, starting a new job, having appendicitis, and a trip to California. All of this happening in the span of 3 months really cut into my free and brewing time. So much so, I nearly missed making my 2nd batch of cider. It’s not like making cider is time intensive either. The basic recipe is Cider + sugar + yeast + fermentation time. While I did finally make a batch, I did miss my preferred cider mix from the local farm. During picking season the farm will have single varietal fresh ciders along with their normal blend. These aren’t hard cider specific apples known for their acidity, or tannins, just single mac, macoun, or my favorite, honey crisp. Last years batch was a mix of honey crisp and cider blend, and after malolactic fermentation, aging on various items, it turned out quite well. Well enough to take a ribbon at a club only cider comp (1 of 8 or so).
This year I was hoping to do something similar, but in large quantity. However I missed my window, and this years crop was much more expensive than in past years. I was finally able to pickup cider in mid december. Thankfully making hard cider really isn’t that time consuming. This years batch was made with 3 gallons of Lull Farm unpasteurized apple cider blend. I first added 1 camden tablet, and peptic enzyme, to the cider and allowed it to sit over night to pasteurize the cider. Next, I added a pound of local wild flower honey. Which making this actually a cyser, instead of a true cider. In addition to the honey, I added yeast nutrient, and one packet of safale us 05. A lot of folks use wine or champaign yeast, I assume because it can better metabolize the fructose and glucose in apple cider, since grapes are similar in composition. My understanding is that cider is highly fermentable, so I’m not too worried about us 05, a known hearty yeast, being unable to ferment it out. Last years nottingham yeast did just fine.IMG_4831
After pitching, during the fist week of fermentation, I tried to degas the cider a few times. I was also meaning to stagger the yeast nutrient as a local accomplished mead maker recommended during many podcasts this past summer and fall as a key to meed making, and I assume since honey is a portion of the fermentables in cyser, the same would apply. However, I slacked, and didn’t manage to do so.
I did however ferment the cider much cooler than I ferment ales, which tend to rip through at 65+, this sat at 55-60. It was in primary for 28 days, and now it’s been transferred to a keg for cold conditioning. The last batch I made seems like it underwent malolactic fermentation some time after it went into the keg, it went from very dry and acetic, to much more mellow after a few months in the keg. I’m hoping this happens again, as the first batch wasn’t any good until that transformation took place. When I transferred I took a sample, and it wasn’t bad. We’ll see if I need to back sweeten or try to inoculate for malo lactic fermentation.

Recipe can be found here:

Current status: Transferred on 1/5/13 for cold conditioning, gravity was near 1.001.

Fermenting Hard Cider

A few firsts. My first Cider fermenting. My first time reusing yeast. Hoping for the best on both accounts.
This is yet another long over due goal. I’ve wanted to make hard cider for a long time. Living where we do within a short drive to numerous orchards of every shape and size the fall smell of fallen apples is amazing. After some brief reading of how to make cider online, I figured it was easy enough to do, that I had to give it a go.
3 Gallons unpasteurized cider
2 cups turbinato sugar
1/8 tb peptic enzyme
1 campden tablet
Yeast nutrient
600ml yeast / starter

Mix cider w/ sugar, enzyme, and camden. Wait 24 hrs.
Prepare your yeast starter*.
Add yeast to cider, and ferment at 70ish for 2-3 weeks. Rack off lees, cold crash, serve. Enjoy.
If only it were that simple. So, what really happened? As I was fermenting the cider, I’d yet to really establish proper fermentation control, so it pogo’d as the crazy fall weather went from 65 to 35 and back. It went through a phase where it seemed very dmsy, or even sulfery. When it came time to stop the fermentation. Because of a bit of a mix up with my temperature controller, I didn’t have any means to actually cold crash the cider, or stop fermentation when there was still some natural sugar left. I figured it would be ok to just let roll. I was wrong. I did decide to carb it at low pressure (5psi at 40*) to see how it tasted subtly carbonated. It turned very dry, and w/out any sweetness. I decided to take a bold step and back sweeten w/ 1/2 can of grape concentrate, and to recarb. While it recarbed just fine, the cider isn’t very good. Described as ‘earthy’ and winey by the the brave souls I shared it with.

Plan for next time? I’m sure there are recipe tweaks I could do, but I think it comes down to two things. I need to be less hesitant to stop fermentation. Even if that means heat pasteurizing. Anything to keep that zing and sugar of a cider. Also, I’m going to do more research, perhaps try to pick the brain of Steve Woods of Farnum hill to get a better understating where my process has failed.

Aging Cider on stuff

After trying my cider early this fall It was far to astringent to drink. Perhaps it was just too young and needed further conditioning. So, rather than pour it out, I decided to let it age.As you may have read I embarked upon fermenting my first cider this past fall. As it completed fermentation I kegged had carbonated it. Perhaps it was still too green, but when I tried it, it was very acidic, and difficult to enjoy. So, rather than let it go to waste I decided to cold age it in the converted chest freezer. There it sat for 4 months. I recently decided I wanted to free up the keg and make room, so I moved it to 3 growlers I had sitting around. So much for being ‘undrinkable’ it was half gone. I also decided to add some flavoring and fruit to the ciders for it to age upon. Non crystalized ginger, dried cherries, and a cinnamon stick. I tried to be conservative, but in hindsight I am not sure how conservative a 1/4 cup per 1/2 gallon really is. Tonight I just tried the cinnamon and it’s not half bad. It does need to come off the stick, but I’m guessing that the aging has really improved and mellowed the cider, and the additives didn’t hurt either. I can’t wait to try the cherry and the ginger and see what flavors were imparted by them. In the coming weeks I’ll let you know how they are.

As for the making room part, I plan on brewing in the coming weeks, but I am still trying to nail down the house pale recipe. I’ve yet to really design it. My ‘plan’ is to start with a known good recipe (extract w/ specialty grain), try to make it to the best of my abilities, and go from there. How can one improve upon a recipe, unless you know how it’s supposed to taste. I can tell you it will be a west coast style pale, with a hoppy slant. I’m really hoping Mike McDole will share his session pale recipe soon, so I can use that. Although that would be an All grain to extract conversion.
With that said, I’ve got another dilemma, I just don’t drink the quantity of beer that warrants brewing 5 gallons. Unless I want to continue to give away large quantities of beer while I learn, I’m going to have to come up with a solution. One I’m strongly considering is brewing 3g or smaller batches. I should be able to turn those over fairly easily, especially if I get them nailed down. Brooklyn home brewing supply has a pretty cool looking recipe book, along with kits for 1g all grain batches.

Brooklyn Brew Shop's Beer Making Book

I’m considering getting it, but 1g just seems so little beer to go through all the effort. They say it takes as much work to brew 1g as it does 5, 10, 20. I don’t think it’s that simple, but the finite time (boil, sit, ferment, etc) are pretty much the same.

Anyway sorry for the lack of updates, I’ve given up beer for lent which leaves me w/out having a whole lot to say about brewing or beer in general. I’ll return to the regularly scheduled program later this spring.