Author Topic: Cheap, Beautiful Sweet Hard Cider Finally  (Read 274 times)

Offline skyler

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Cheap, Beautiful Sweet Hard Cider Finally
« on: July 13, 2020, 07:30:02 PM »
Ok, I like to have a tap or two dedicated to non-beer. Either cider or a soda that mixes well (ginger beer or something custom) is nice for people who keep gluten free or just won't enjoy a beer, even if I go out of my way to make a "non beer beer" for them to try. Plus, I don't always feel like a beer. Particularly if I'm having ice cream on a hot day or something, I would rather drink a cider than a pilsner. My challenge has been that the only ciders I ever made that I actually enjoyed and thought were good and professional-quality were made with really expensive apple juice or otherwise required renting an apple press or something like that. I had tried plenty of "Mott's/Treetop" recipes and all seemed either too boozy, too dry, or just weird-tasting. A bone dry cider made with fresh crabapple juice is going to taste great, but dry ciders made from storebought stuff never worked for me. I am sure that some of those past recipe failures were my fault and not the recipes' faults, but I think I finally streamlined everything down to what makes a cider that is cheap, easy and will make a perfect beverage for someone who wants it to taste like Angry Orchard/Woodchuck/Magner's.

5.25 gallons of grocery store brand (Raley's) apple juice (no preservatives other than ascorbic acid/vitamin C)
6 g pectic enzyme
1 tsp wine yeast nutrient (brewcraft/generic)
S-04 fermented 62F, then raised to 70F when fermentation was nearing completion and lagered at 34F for 2 months
Backsweetened in the keg with 60 oz (5 cans) old orchard apple juice concentrate (defrosted).

It came out crystal clear, beautiful, and pretty much perfect. It may be slightly too sweet for me (I will try 4 cans of concentrate next time), but it's everything I wanted -- a cheap cider that would please people who want homemade Magner's and that I still enjoy. I probably didn't need to lager it that long -- it just took me a while to have space for it. The next batch I will try giving it a shorter lager time and less sweetening. I like that Target sells that apple juice concentrate in cherry-flavored, too, as I have specifically been asked for "cherry cider" before and not wanted to go through the effort of making the real deal the hard way.

One thing I want to note -- I only used an ale yeast this time after trying it several times with wine yeasts and dedicated cider yeasts and never liked the results. Too cloudy or too funky or not enough body. Plus, my wife is very sensitive to sulfites, and I prefer not having the use them. I read advice somewhere that S-04 followed by Windsor and London ESB were the best dry yeast options and I feel like I got a much better performance out of S-04 than I got out of the more specifically-designed yeasts.

Offline erockrph

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Re: Cheap, Beautiful Sweet Hard Cider Finally
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2020, 05:06:25 PM »
This is very similar to how I make my cider, except since I'm working with fresh-pressed juice from local orchards, I add concentrate prior to ferment to boost the initial ABV, then sweeten and dilute to serving ABV with fresh juice. That gives me the most apple character in my finished cider. Personally, I prefer Lalvin D-47 yeast for my cider, but that's my personal taste.

I do find that while I like a draught-style cider, I prefer it a little less sweet than something like Angry Orchard or Woodchuck. One thing about working with seasonal produce is that acid and sugar levels differ from year to year. I always keep acid blend around in case the finished cider seems a little "flabby".
Eric B.

Finally got around to starting a homebrewing blog: The Hop Whisperer

Offline joe_meadmaker

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Re: Cheap, Beautiful Sweet Hard Cider Finally
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2020, 04:24:05 PM »
Did you take a gravity reading before and after backsweetening?  I'm curious what the gravity change was from the concentrate.

Offline skyler

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Re: Cheap, Beautiful Sweet Hard Cider Finally
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2020, 04:47:56 PM »
Did you take a gravity reading before and after backsweetening?  I'm curious what the gravity change was from the concentrate.

I did one before, and it was a touch under 1.0. I didn't do one after because I added the cans directly at kegging and it seemed like a hassle. I understand that most concentrated apple juice from the big national brands like I used are (reconstituted) 1.048-1.050, as is all the grocery store "from concentrate" apple juice I have ever measured. You can do the math to determine how much sugar was added, as each can contains the sugar from 48oz of 1.050 juice.
So, ballpark, by treating it as 1.875 gal of 1.050 juice diluted to 5 gallons with 1.0 liquid, it would be 1.019 FG. I am guessing that I am actually somewhere between 1.018 and 1.020 and it tastes a bit "heavier" than I feel is necessary (it is also carbonated like my other beers, and I would prefer it more sprightly).