Author Topic: Cider original gravity  (Read 8384 times)

Offline chumley

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Cider original gravity
« on: October 03, 2014, 04:04:57 PM »
I crushed and pressed some apples the other day, and added some crushed Campden tablets to the juice.  This morning I measured the original gravity.  1.040.  I recall that cider should have a starting gravity of at least 1.045, and a little googling led me to this site, which confirmed by recollection.

http://www.greatfermentations.com/wp-content/themes/greatfermentations/images/blog/2012/04/Cider-Tech-Revised.pdf

However, this seems to indicate that the reason for increasing the gravity is for shelf life.  I intend to keg the cider when its done, and keep it in a cold kegerator until its gone.  Are there any other reasons beside shelf life to add sugar to bump up the gravity?  I would like a low alcohol cider on tap, as I already have about  20 gallons of high octane cyser from the past 15 years aging in the basement.

My plan is to add a slurry of WY1469 West Yorkshire yeast, and maybe a little yeast nutrients, and forget about it for a couple of months. Any other critique of this plan is welcome.

Offline denny

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Re: Cider original gravity
« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2014, 04:21:30 PM »
Nope, no reason at all other than what you mentioned and personal preference.  I've made many ciders without adding sugar.  FWIW, my apples seem to vary anywhere from 1.040-48 depending on how rainy the year has been.  At least that's the only thing I've been able to tie to the variation.
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Cider original gravity
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2014, 04:23:24 PM »
This is the 2nd year in a row I've made a cider with no added sugar - last year and this the OG was barely over 1.040.  Last year's was maybe the best cider I've ever made. My understanding also had always been that adding acidity to the cider (malic or blend) offers protection as well, and since I like a tart cider initially that I can backsweeten a small amount, I've always done that. Last year's was still excellent in the kegerator 6 months after kegging. I like the average strength ciders too - I say no worries. I've never found an issue using this method.
Jon H.

Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Cider original gravity
« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2014, 04:47:30 PM »
I am drinking some 2 year old cider that had an OG just over 1.040. It is fine.

Remember that cider can have a pH in the 3.4-3.6 range, which will help preserve it.
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Cider original gravity
« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2014, 04:55:23 PM »
Funny this topic comes up... just a couple of weeks ago, I tasted a cider I made 12 months ago that had an OG=1.042, and my tasting notes were that it was kind of weak and beginning to taste stale.  Meanwhile other ciders I made that were in the upper 1.040s are great.  As such I decided that if my OG is ever less than 1.045, that I will add just a very small amount of sugar to bring it up to the upper 1.040s.

Other than that, I am really an advocate for not adding sugar at all.  If you can find juice made from really ripe apples, OG should be closer to 1.048 or even above 1.050 in some cases.  Then I certainly would not add any sugar.  What I don't like is when people say "I added 3 pounds of brown sugar just for the heck of it, plus a couple cinnamon sticks..."  To me, that ain't a great cider anymore.  If you add a few ounces, fine.  If you like wine, fine.  I guess I'm more of a purist.  But at the same time, I do treasure shelf life and will make very small tweaks in this regard.

If you plan to drink all your cider within 6 months, then I wouldn't add any sugar either.  But it's true, the higher gravity will get you more alcohol which will preserve it better.  Just be reasonable about how much you add if any.

blah blah blah... yeah, I write a lot.  :)
« Last Edit: October 03, 2014, 04:56:59 PM by dmtaylor »
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Offline erockrph

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Re: Cider original gravity
« Reply #5 on: October 03, 2014, 06:12:22 PM »
Are you guys pressing your own apples? Maybe it's the orchard I use, but I've never gotten cider lower than 1.045, and 90% of the time it's in the 1.048-1.050 range.
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Cider original gravity
« Reply #6 on: October 03, 2014, 06:22:27 PM »
Are you guys pressing your own apples? Maybe it's the orchard I use, but I've never gotten cider lower than 1.045, and 90% of the time it's in the 1.048-1.050 range.

Nope, every year my LHBS sells a cider blend from a local orchard, pressed for hard cider making. It's just been a little low OG-wise the last couple years (1.040ish). I just assumed that, like Denny said, weather/rain factors cause the variance. Other years I've gotten more like 1.045ish cider.
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Offline 69franx

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Re: Cider original gravity
« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2014, 06:23:08 PM »
Are you guys pressing your own apples? Maybe it's the orchard I use, but I've never gotten cider lower than 1.045, and 90% of the time it's in the 1.048-1.050 range.
The cider I made (first batch) was made from fresh cider sourced locally, and was around 1.049 also. This was the batch that everyone thought keeved on its own. I will be bottling it this weekend and will follow up on that thread if anyone is interested.
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Offline denny

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Re: Cider original gravity
« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2014, 07:34:08 PM »
Are you guys pressing your own apples? Maybe it's the orchard I use, but I've never gotten cider lower than 1.045, and 90% of the time it's in the 1.048-1.050 range.

I am.  I'd say my average is right around 1.045.
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Cider original gravity
« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2014, 08:31:57 PM »
I juice my own apples.  I juice each variety separately so I can learn the specific gravity of each.  Overall average of all of them is exactly 1.045.  However the range is 1.031 (Wynooche Early) to 1.073 (tiny decorative crabapples).  The best overall cider apples are:

1) the ones you can get for free or dirt cheap,
2) the most volume of juice per weight of whole apples, and
3) the highest original gravity.

Weighing each of these factors, my favorite cider apples include: any crabapples (crabs all seem to hit all the marks highly), Golden Noble, Washington Strawberry, Scarlet Surprise, and good old Honeycrisp (a little expensive but unbelievably juicy, with good gravity at 1.048).

The ones that I might not use so much for juice anymore include: McIntosh, Cortland, Jonathan, St. Edmund's Pippin, Gingergold, Winesap, Ellison's Orange, and Wynooche.  That being said, I picked a bushel of Cortland and Jonathan this year so I'll give them another shot.  Their juice is extremely aromatic and flavorful so it's good to blend some in probably, but they also kind of turn to mush when juicing and don't seem to want to give it up as much as other apples will -- low volume yield.  A mushy apple is not your friend when juicing.  You need a little bit of body to it to be able to squeeze the juice out from between the cracks, so to speak.  It's kind of similar to a stuck sparge in beer brewing -- too much goo and the liquid doesn't want to pass through anymore.

Many other apples fall between these extremes and are fine for juice.  Many of your grocer's apples are probably just fine.  What you want is good ripe juicy apples that are still reasonably fresh and not turning too mushy.  At least, that's what's worked best for me.

I've also found that I while I like a few tart apples in the mix, I don't like it too tart.  I also don't like a ton of astringency.  So for example, crabapples tend to be very tart and very astringent.  So, as sugary as their juice is (1.060s and 70s!), you can't use too many a lot of times or the finished cider will be quite harsh.

Cider making is an art.  It's extremely simple to make great cider on your first try.  It's also fun to play with blending, and so it can take many years to master the art.  It's great fun.  Love it.
Dave

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Offline theDarkSide

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Re: Cider original gravity
« Reply #10 on: October 03, 2014, 08:36:22 PM »
Now I feel like a cheater...I've been using apple juice  :o
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Cider original gravity
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2014, 09:37:42 PM »
Now I feel like a cheater...I've been using apple juice  :o


Hey, I do that too.  I get the orchard pressing once a year - gotta have more cider than that !
Jon H.

Offline erockrph

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Re: Cider original gravity
« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2014, 03:33:00 AM »
Weighing each of these factors, my favorite cider apples include: any crabapples (crabs all seem to hit all the marks highly), Golden Noble, Washington Strawberry, Scarlet Surprise, and good old Honeycrisp (a little expensive but unbelievably juicy, with good gravity at 1.048).
That might explain something. My local orchard grows quite a bit of honeycrisp and it's a big part of their cider mix, IIRC.
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Offline udubdawg

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Re: Cider original gravity
« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2014, 12:58:17 PM »
I'm much happier with the cider I make in the upper 50's and above, so that's what I aim for these days.
With all the sharps and bittersweets I gravitate towards I end up also using a lot of Golden/Roxbury Russets to get there, but they're great apples anyway. 

I like a nice acidic off-dry cider (1.004 for home consumption, but usually compete with 1.008) with a moderate amount of soft tannins.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2014, 01:00:05 PM by udubdawg »

Offline chumley

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Re: Cider original gravity
« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2014, 07:15:46 PM »
Thanks for the advice.  I will go with the no sugar option.

Here in Montana, 12 miles from the Continental Divide in Zone 4, we are less than optimum apple growing country.  They are mainly pie varieties.....Duchess, Wealthy, Harelson.  Though our 2-year old Gravenstein tree had two really delicious eating apples off of it this year.