Author Topic: Souring ciders and wines  (Read 1077 times)

Offline bmytys

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Souring ciders and wines
« on: August 24, 2010, 05:27:35 PM »
I was wondering if anyone has had experience using brett to sour ciders or wines?  I've been souring beers for a couple years now and have a true love for a nice tart ale.  I've recently started dabbling in ciders and wines.  I think I've read somewhere that some wines do carry a small amount of brett character, but I know for the most part it is avoided like the plague.  If anyone has info on past experiences, I'd appreciate it.  Also, which strains of brett should be used?

Cheers,

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Offline kylekohlmorgen

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Re: Souring ciders and wines
« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2010, 06:59:14 AM »
To try the souring affect, you could always taste-test with a bit of lactic acid - then scale-up if you're impatient :)

The great thing about wine/cider is that its so much easier to make test batches. Pull of a gallon of your batch to a gallon jug and add your house bugs and some oak cubes (optional, of course).
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Offline alikocho

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Re: Souring ciders and wines
« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2010, 07:34:44 AM »
I've never added Brett to my cider, but then I use the wild yeast and don't sterilize my juice straight from the press so who knows what I get in there. Wild fermentation without control over cultures, but my terroir is pretty good given that I live in the midst of ciderland, UK (South-West England). My results are good - 2 ciders in the second round of the NHC this year, one of which (my English Cider) advanced to the BOS round and scored 45.

FWIW, if you look at the BJCP guidelines for English Cider (27B) it makes mention of the fact that certain characterisics come out without brett contamination.
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Offline enso

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Re: Souring ciders and wines
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2010, 10:51:00 AM »
I have had some wonderful ciders, especially those from Farnum Hill in Lebanon NH that all seem to have some barn yard to them.  Or as Steve Wood (the owner of Povertly laneOrchard/Farnum Hill cider) calls it, "FYM or farm yard manure" character.  That would seem to me to indicate some strain of Brett.  Sadly I never asked him that when I took part in a cider workshop that he was also participating in.   :(

I have thought about this as well as I would love to add that characteristic.  I have only been making cider seriously since last season.  I made 25 gallons last fall.  Fifteen gallons where from cider I pressed myself.  The other ten gallons of juice came from an experienced cider maker, Terry Bradshaw of Lost Meadow Orchards here in VT.  The latter turned out excellent.  Nicely balanced, flavorful, good tannins.  The former...  Well I did 5 as a New England style cider using raisins and brown sugar to fortify.  That turned out decent, nothing wonderful but drinkable.  Fairly tart but with some character at least.  The other ten, well...  Extremely tart, dry, flavorless, and wicked pale.

Anyway, sorry about the rambling.  I have been pondering this myself as I contemplated pitching some Brett. dregs into one of the kegs of the lackluster cider.

The problem is, cider finishes bone dry most times left to its own devices.  Unless you do something preferment like keeving, or during ferment like filtering or using potassium sorbate.  That means, the Sacch. will eat everything before the brett. has a chance.

So, if you want a brett. character you need to do as a alikocho does and rely on the natural microflora of your apples and not use sulfites.  Or...  I don't know.  Maybe if you sulfite your juice and wait the appropriate time then pitch a culture of Brett. it may work.  The idea of sulfiting is to knock most of the wild yeast and bacteria out before you pitch your selected yeast culture to give it the upper hand.  The trouble with not sulfiting is you really have no control over what ends up fermenting your juice.  You could luck out, or you could end up with a slew of undesirable bacteria and wild yeasts that will give you an undrinkable end result.

The tartness you mention desiring can be a component of cider from the apples themselves.  If you choose apples that have some acidity (tartness) to begin with it will manifest itself in the finished product more as the sugars of the apples will disappear and the acidity will remain.  This was my problem.  I used too many abandoned/feral apples that I found on the roadsides and they were wicked tart to begin with.  The fermentation process only exacerbated this.

The key to cider is blending unless you can find some naturally balanced cider varieties such as Kingston Blacks.  Otherwise you need to combine different apples to give you the proper balance of sugar, tannins, acidity and flavors.

So, really the only thing brett and other wild yeast can positively contribute is other flaovr components such as some barnyard sweaty horse blanket and such.  How to utilize them predictably...  I am not sure myself yet.
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Offline nicneufeld

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Re: Souring ciders and wines
« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2010, 05:38:53 PM »
I'm not speaking from a position of expertise, but it strikes me that a major reason there is so much less information about using special strains to "sour" ciders and wines is that those are so fermentable that they tend to dry out to a sort of sourness anyway.  Some of my ciders have been so bone dry that the idea of introducing another culture to add MORE acid and tartness is a bit too much! 

You mentioned just getting into ciders and wines, have you tasted a modestly well aged one yet?  I've had a few finish a bit sweeter, but the vast majority of my fruit based fermentables get nice and dry, albeit perhaps not Brett-style sour/funky.

Offline enso

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Re: Souring ciders and wines
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2010, 05:37:41 AM »
I'm not speaking from a position of expertise, but it strikes me that a major reason there is so much less information about using special strains to "sour" ciders and wines is that those are so fermentable that they tend to dry out to a sort of sourness anyway.  Some of my ciders have been so bone dry that the idea of introducing another culture to add MORE acid and tartness is a bit too much! 

You mentioned just getting into ciders and wines, have you tasted a modestly well aged one yet?  I've had a few finish a bit sweeter, but the vast majority of my fruit based fermentables get nice and dry, albeit perhaps not Brett-style sour/funky.

The "tartness" you are finding in your cider is actually the malic acid (among others) that are natural to apples.  You are correct in your assumption that the sugars in cider are for the most part completely fermentable and therefore you are left with a dry beverage.  Therefore, depending on the acidity of the apples used you can end up with a cider that is very tart (acidic) which is sometimes confused with sour.  Most juice available (made to be consumed fresh not fermented) is pressed from culinary dessert type apples.  They tend to have lower levels of acidity and tannins.  Often fermenting juice like this will lend you a bland flat insipid cider as the sugars and many of the flavors will be fermented out and low acid levels with no tannins will be left behind.  That is often why folks making hard cider from regular sweet cider will end up adding malic acid (or a wine acid blend) and possibly grape tannins to there ciders.  The way to forgo this route is to use real cider apple varieties or even toss in a some crabapples.

Back to the question of Brett. though.  Using brett. should not add considerable acidity as from my limited experience using it, I find it tends to create more funky barnyard and fruity flavors (strain dependent) then acid.  Those flavors would complement a good cider and round it out making it more complex.  Acidity is more a function of lactobacillus and pediococcus which you DO NOT want in your cider as they can lead to ropiness and oiliness or mousiness (smells and tastes like a mouse cage!)  Yes, there is some type lactobacillus that plays a beneficial role in a malo-lactic ferment which will actually decrease malic acid and can make some desirable flavor components.  However, malo-lactic ferments can be unpredictable and easily lead to spoliage if not well maintained.
Dave Brush