Author Topic: Thinking of making a cider  (Read 2511 times)

Offline jbar

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Thinking of making a cider
« on: February 07, 2010, 01:07:18 PM »
My question is what is the difference between a common cider and an english cider? What style is a Strongbow? I'm assuming its the english style, but i dont really know.

Offline dbeechum

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Re: Thinking of making a cider
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2010, 03:32:33 PM »
Strongbow is what many British cider lovers would pejoratively refer to as "keg cider". It's considered really to just be pasteurized apple juice and sugar fermented fast, re-sweetened and many acidified and force carbonated.

"True" English cider is more akin to a wild product and is made with several varieities of apples that offer different characteritic sugar, tannin and acid levels. The hard core natural ciders are fermented with only the natural yeasts and bacteria carried on the fruit, somewhat akin to lambic and some can be as funky.

One method I've found for balancing the funkiness and the apple flavor is to let the natural (unpasteurized and additive free) juice sit for 24-48 hours in a carboy with the orchard's blessing working on it before pitching a preferred British ale strain to finish the job.
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Offline alikocho

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Re: Thinking of making a cider
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2010, 05:43:49 AM »
I'm British, and reside in the West Country - the heart of British cider production.

Strongbow is a bad commercial cider, almost certainly fortified with sugar to keep it cheap for the brewery, and force carbonated.  It's not really cider.

Real English cider comes in a wide variety of forms, but tends to fall into the 6-7.5% ABV range as it's the natural extent to which the sugars in cider apples will ferment.  There are lighter ciders out there, but they tend not to have been made with cider apples.  In making your own, you have two choices - either use apples that will give you a juice with the OG you want, or use others and add a sugar syrup to the secondary fermenter.  The second is cheating somewhat, but will still yield good results.  You also have a choice with yeasts - use the natural yeast or pitch a commercial yeast.  The natural yeast will almost always give a better flavor profile as it has adapted to the specific apples uses, but it might not be there in sufficient quantity to get going.  My advice would be to aim to use natural yeast, but if nothing is happening by day 3 to pitch a commercial cider yeast.
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Offline jbar

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Re: Thinking of making a cider
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2010, 12:03:07 PM »
Thank you alikocho. I appreciate the info. I am only in the pre-planning phase (meaning i thought it would be cool to make a cider and thats about the extend of it haha). I think i will try and plan to make one in the spring

Offline enso

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Re: Thinking of making a cider
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2010, 11:34:43 AM »
Thank you alikocho. I appreciate the info. I am only in the pre-planning phase (meaning i thought it would be cool to make a cider and thats about the extend of it haha). I think i will try and plan to make one in the spring

Personally I would plan to make your cider at harvest time.  That way you have freshly pressed juice.

On using "natural" yeast (rather than commercially available isolated and propagated natural yeasts) I would still advise dosing your juice with 50ppm of sulfite.  This will knock out most of the bacteria and undesirable wild yeasts, but still allow the more resilient desirable yeasts to get going.

Be aware though, depending on your source of juice there may or may not be enough of the yeasts you want present.  Yeasts come more from the pressing equipment than from the apples themselves; contrary to popular opinion.  This means that if you get your juice from a press that is new or maintains strict hygiene for the production of sweet juice only, it will not have enough yeasts present.  The apples will have some yeast, but not enough to keep the ferment going.  Most of the yeasts on the apple will crap out after the alcohol reaches 2% range.

Check out Andrew leas website as you plan.

http://www.cider.org.uk/
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Offline enso

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Re: Thinking of making a cider
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2010, 11:42:45 AM »
Oh, and one more bit of advice.  Before you make cider, make sure you like it.  What I mean is this.  Many, many people decide to make cider after tasting a mass market commercially available "cider".

Examples being, Strongbow, Woodpecker, and especially in the U.S. Woodchuck.  All of these are not true cider.  They are as the previous posters stated, fermented, , pasteurized, sweetened apple juice.  They taste nothing like what you will be able to produce at home.  Nothing like true cider.

There are not too many real ciders out there.  Look around where you live as any that exist are usually regional and do not distribute far.

Up here in New England we have a few small producers of real cider.  One excellent example is Farnum Hill Ciders out of Lebanon NH. 
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Offline wilypig

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Re: Thinking of making a cider
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2010, 07:13:46 AM »
I have been making ciders for many years now. I did a lot of research prior to my first cider. I prefer the English method of cidering. Fresh pressed cider that has been sulfited then allowed to ferment with the yeast in the juice. Sulfite does not kill yeast only stunts it temporarily but it does good work on bacteria. I generally make 4 ciders a year; a common cider (just juice), a spiced New England Cider (brown sugar and cinnamon), Cyser (cider and honey) and an experimental cider (maple, agave, other fermenable additions). I have won numerous awards for my dry and sweet fermented ciders. I have found that I do not like the flavor profile of cider fermented with cultured yeast. I actually harvest the yeast from my ciders for making beer and mead. I made a natural cider without any sulfite one year but it took 2 years to finish similar to a Lambic style. It was interesting seeing the ropiness associated with certain bacterial fermentations. I generally bottle the high gravity styles and keg the Common cider. Find yourself a good cider mill in your area and see if they will press unpasteurized runs for you. My local mill does 2 hard cider pressings a year. One early in the season and one late in the season. The best time to get fresh pressings for hard cider is later, I get mine at the end of November each year and have great results. UV flash pasteurized cider is good to use but you need to add yeast. Never use cider that has been stabilized with sorbate as this will prevent fermentation.

To the question at hand - Common cider is a cider from any combination of apples, generally culinary apples with some crab apples thrown in for some tannin and acidity, that has no added sugar or fermentables and can be made by any combination of apples. English cider is made using very specific English cidering apples in the traditional way - sulfite and natural yeast.

English cider apples are not very common in the US but there are some growers that have started some small scale production in the states. I know of one in Western NY that has actually won awards in the UK for his traditional English ciders with apples grown in NY.
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Thinking of making a cider
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2010, 07:34:25 AM »
What do you all think of Magner's?  It's got that certain lambic-like barnyardy funk that I love.  I'm no cider expert, but to me at least, THAT is what a decent English (or Irish?) cider should taste like.  I mean, it's not so dang ordinary.  It has that little something extra that makes it better than anything else you can find in the States.

After the recent Milwaukee World of Beer Festival, which included a wide selection of local ciders, I'm also loving the Crispin line of ciders and pear-cider (no, it's not pure perry).  I don't know if they could be considered world-class but certainly worth a few tastes.
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Offline wilypig

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Re: Thinking of making a cider
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2010, 07:50:59 AM »
I am a big fan of a cold iced down Bulmers Irish cider myself. If I remember correctly Magners and Bulmers are the same. Not as dry as I make myself but very refreshing on a hot summer day. I drank a lot of these when working in the Dublin area a few years ago.
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Offline Michael Thompson

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Re: Thinking of making a cider
« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2010, 09:02:14 PM »
Bulmer's and Magners are indeed the same company. It's much better than Woodchuck, but my favorite commercial cider is a bit rare. It's called Blackthorn, and the only place I've seen it served around here is in a British style brewpub. Blackthorn is much drier than most of what passes for cider these days. How does a homemade cider compare, does anyone know?

Offline wilypig

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Re: Thinking of making a cider
« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2010, 03:08:27 AM »
I presently live in the Niagara Region of New York which is full of orchards. Every year I make 4 ciders; one common, one Cyser, one New England Style and one experimental. I have won BOS with both a Dry cider and a sweet cider in the Western New York Homebrew competition - Amber Waves of Grain held in March each year. I am a fan of the English Cider method of sulfiting and allowing the resident yeast do the work. Most of my ciders are relatively dry unless I crank up the adjuncts to the point of yeast toxicity in fermentation. It may be less consistent but to me cider is a seasonal product that should change with the crop. To make a sweet cider takes a lot of work to stabilize and back sweeten in most cases. The key to a really good cider is finding a cider mill with a good blend of apples. My local mill does unpasteurized runs for hard cider makers about 3 times a season. They use UV pasteurization so doing a test batch with a gallon is easy enough if you add a bit of yeast. The best time to get cider for fermentation is late in the season. I usually get mine right around Thanksgiving in the US. Give it a try, all you have to do is fill a fermenter with juice and basically wait. I find my cider is ready by spring and usually lasts until the fall.
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