« on: May 21, 2016, 08:07:31 PM »
Looks like all the advice so far has been really good.
Welcome to the easiest alcoholic beverage to make on the planet. It’s so easy that cavemen almost certainly did it. Get some apple juice and just let it sit for a month, and the result is delicious.
It’s easy to make very good cider on your very first try. However, there are some things you can try to give you truly excellent cider, if you don’t mind just a little extra effort. So for that, here’s my 3 cents (some of this might overlap what others have already mentioned).
First of all, you don’t necessarily need or want to add any sugar at all. Why? Cider is naturally about 6-7% ABV on average without any extra sugar added. If you try my method below you can get closer to 5%, which in my book is still plenty. If you want a more wine-like cider, then go ahead and add sugar, but be aware that all it really does is add a bunch more alcohol where you’re getting into the 7-12% range closer and closer to a wine rather than an easy drinking common cider. If you do add any sugar, you should heat or boil it ahead to kill any wild critters. A half pound in 2 gallons will raise the ABV by approximately 1.1% over the ~6% you probably would have gotten, so it’s closer to 7%. It’s a personal decision, but personally I never add sugar and I really love the results.
Champagne yeast will make the cider very dry, bone dry, like no more sweetness left at the end at all dry. Final gravity might be close to 0.992 unless you intervene. Fortunately, you can stop the yeast early to prevent dryness, and here’s how: When specific gravity hits the range of 1.010 to 1.015, add gelatin to knock out most of the yeast, then the next day add sorbate and sulfite to kill what’s left. When the time comes, dissolve a half teaspoon of unflavored gelatin (I use Knox brand) in a half cup of hot boiled water, then pour that into your beer. The next day, about 90% of the yeast will be on the bottom of the fermenter. Then add sorbate in the recommended dose and 2 Campden tablets crushed (this is sulfite). These don’t kill yeast but hurt them real bad so they can’t ferment too far out after this. Then chill and wait another couple weeks to make sure things don’t take off again, then you should be able to bottle. That’s how I’d do it with the champagne yeast. Some English ale yeasts like S-04 have the advantage of not fermenting quite so dry so you can skip most or all of these steps. Or, just let it ferment to dryness and sweeten at the end, that’s what most people do, however I find I get superior flavor from leaving the natural sugars in the cider this way.
I do love what US-05 yeast does with cider. Very good stuff. However, don’t be surprised when it too wants to finish close to 1.000, still a bit dry in my opinion.
You are correct. Half a pack of yeast will work for this.
I like to ferment cool, about 55-60 F if possible. This preserves more of the apple character. You can make good cider fermenting at 70-80 F, and it will ferment faster, but just not as elegant and awesome as when you ferment cool. But you’re right. Temperature control is not very strict with cider. People do all sorts of temperature regimens and it really all turns out pretty good no matter what.
Finally, and most important, patience is a requirement with cider. It ferments a lot more slowly than beer does. No matter what yeast you choose, it will take it’s sweet time and fizz slowly for about a month, plus or minus. Carbonation in bottles may take at least another month, sometimes longer. I have a batch fermenting at 40 F that’s been fizzing away for 7 months now. Colder temperatures take longer, while in warm temperatures it can be done in as little as ~3 weeks. Also be aware that carbonation can be a bit of a crapshoot. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and it will carbonate perfectly in your bottles within a month. Other times it will turn out flat, sometimes gushers..... it all depends on how patient you are, how much yeast is still alive, how many sugars are in there. If you have the ability to keg, that’s probably the easiest and most consistent way to guarantee the right level of carbonation in cider. Otherwise, you’re kind of at the mercy of a dozen different variables. Personally I enjoy my cider flat most of the time, which is actually most traditional. Carbonated cider is a 20th century thing. So take that for whatever it’s worth (not much).
By the way.... sucralose makes a chemical tasting cider. Try xylitol instead if you’re going with artificial sweetener.
Good luck and don’t forget the patience. :cheers: