Author Topic: First Cider -- Best Resources?  (Read 4100 times)

Offline Pawtucket Patriot

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First Cider -- Best Resources?
« on: September 11, 2011, 10:58:22 AM »
In early October, the family will be heading to one of Minnesota's many great apple orchards for a day.  We pick our own apples, but buy premade, unpasteurized cider from the orchard.  I'm interested in brewing a cider with the orchard juice this year.  Can anyone point me toward a good resource that incorporates today's "best practices" for cider making?  I'll likely just make a common cider for my first one.

Thanks!
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Re: First Cider -- Best Resources?
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2011, 02:37:18 PM »
Ben Watson's "Cider - Hard and Sweet" rings a bell.  There are also a couple of decent books by Annie Proulx.  I don't have the one by Andrew Lea yet but many folks swear by it.  Any one of these is probably a good resource for your first cider. 

Alternatively, you can VERY easily just wing it.  Making great cider can be as easy as buying the best sweet cider you can find, pitching in any sort of brewers' yeast, and giving it enough time to finish.  Personally I like to heat mine up to 160 F for a few minutes to kill any wild beasts before pitching.  You can do a similar wild critter kill using Campden tablets (one per gallon or something like that) 24 hours ahead of pitching -- I have yet to try that method but lots of people swear by it because you don't lose any aromatics that way.  If you pitch wine yeast, especially champagne yeast which actually makes a very dry cider, expect the gravity to go way down to around 0.990 before it's done.  I have yet to experiment with beer yeast, but lots of people have great success with it.  So I guess for your first batch, yeast choice really does not much matter -- just expect it to finish drier than you might expect.  Then if you sulfite and sorbate at the end, you can backsweeten without much risk for bottle bombs.  It works for me.  I'm still learning, but aren't we all?!
Dave

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Offline Pawtucket Patriot

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Re: First Cider -- Best Resources?
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2011, 06:02:56 PM »
Thanks, Dave.  I've heard mention of the camden tablet method.  I may try that.

Do you use nutrient additions like you would with mead?  I've heard that apples don't lack the nutrients that honey lacks; ergo, cider does not require nutrients additions (at least, according to some sources).

I think I may just try to employ some brewing/fermenting intuition and wing it.

edit: after doing a little research, here's a process I came up with...

Ingredients
5 gallons unpasteurized, naturally produced, preservative-free cider from local orchard
5 campden tablets, crushed
5 tsp yeast nutrient
¼ tsp liquid pectic enzyme
Nottingham dry yeast

Process
Add cider to sanitized 6.5-gallon glass carboy.  Add crushed campden tablets, affix airlock and let sit for 24 hours.  Then, add yeast nutrient, pectic enzyme, and rehydrated Nottingham yeast.  Ferment in the mid-60s until cider reaches terminal gravity (around 1.005-1.010).  Transfer to CO2-purged, 5-gallon glass secondary for long-term bulk aging.  Transfer to CO2-purged, 5-gallon glass tertiary, if necessary.  When fully conditioned and brilliantly clear, transfer to keg and force carbonate to desired carbonation level.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2011, 07:03:54 PM by Pawtucket Patriot »
Matt Schwandt | Minneapolis, MN
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Re: First Cider -- Best Resources?
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2011, 04:53:01 AM »
Yeah, I guess I use yeast nutrient as well, now that you mention it.  But I've never used pectic enzyme and all my ciders (maybe 5 batches so far) have turned out crystal clear anyway, so I would say it's probably an unnecessary ingredient.  Good luck.
Dave

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Re: First Cider -- Best Resources?
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2011, 05:17:18 AM »
How long, on average, would you say it takes your cider to drop clear?  What about the time from carboy to bottle?
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Offline mtnrockhopper

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Re: First Cider -- Best Resources?
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2011, 05:49:53 AM »
First, I love Ben Watson's book. It has more information about apple varieties we commonly see (desert apples). Most other books concentrate on cider apples which are hard to find and can produce a cider that is a tough sell for many (very tannic, minimal apple character compared to common cider).  If you are buying juice, you'll find most of the books not necessary.  They spend most of their time talking about growing apples, crushing, blending, etc. That is 90% of the work. Once you have juice, just let it ferment and leave it alone.

I've used many beer and wine yeasts over the last 5 years and this is my absolute favorite. Last year I was given Premeir Cuvee by a winemaker friend who recommended cold fermentation. Premier Cuvee is cold tolerant to about 40F, so I put the cider in my garage (ave temp 45F) through during the winter. It fermented over about 4 weeks and had an intensly apple flavor and aroma compared to warm fermented versions I had done previously.

I also use sulfites (same as campden tablets, but I have a powder). Its pretty easy.

Its best if you can get some residual sweetness in the cider. A FG of 1.05 or so will have a lot more flavor than a fully dry version, but this is tough. If you can keg, use sulfates and sorbates to kill the yeast, back sweeten, and force carbonate. Its not  really possible with bottle conditioned cider. Or consider bottling with no carbonation.
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Re: First Cider -- Best Resources?
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2011, 08:53:36 AM »
How long, on average, would you say it takes your cider to drop clear?  What about the time from carboy to bottle?

I do 2-3 months in primary and 6 months or so in secondary.  I look at cider as being more like wine than beer.
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Re: First Cider -- Best Resources?
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2011, 09:43:37 AM »
How long, on average, would you say it takes your cider to drop clear?  What about the time from carboy to bottle?

I think mine normally clears up within 1.5 to 2 months, although now that I think of it, I've probably used gelatin at least on some batches to help it clear, which gives pretty much instantaneous results.  No pectic enzyme required, but yeah, I guess I've cheated by using gelatin.  Not on every batch, but some.

I have yet to try fermenting cold (40s) as mtnrockhopper suggests, and I think that is a really great idea for preserving aromatics if you don't mind waiting around for 6 months or so for the slow ferment.  I think I'll be giving that a try this season!  I can't wait to make more cider.  It's not easy waiting around for cider season!  I suppose if I had another freezer I could just buy a whole bunch of sweet cider and freeze it all for making more hard cider year-round.  But I'm not that smart... Yet...
Dave

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Re: First Cider -- Best Resources?
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2011, 10:35:17 AM »
I have yet to try fermenting cold (40s) as mtnrockhopper suggests, and I think that is a really great idea for preserving aromatics if you don't mind waiting around for 6 months or so for the slow ferment. 

The premier cuvee fermented 60 gallons of 1.060 cider (and some honey) to 1.002 in under 6 weeks. Its pretty quick. Must temp was usually 50-55F. Garage temp was 40-45F.
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Re: First Cider -- Best Resources?
« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2011, 01:16:45 PM »
How long, on average, would you say it takes your cider to drop clear?  What about the time from carboy to bottle?

I do 2-3 months in primary and 6 months or so in secondary.  I look at cider as being more like wine than beer.

So is it safe to assume that in your experience, leaving the cider on the lees in primary for that long has no ill effect?
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Re: First Cider -- Best Resources?
« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2011, 02:07:24 PM »
How long, on average, would you say it takes your cider to drop clear?  What about the time from carboy to bottle?

I do 2-3 months in primary and 6 months or so in secondary.  I look at cider as being more like wine than beer.

So is it safe to assume that in your experience, leaving the cider on the lees in primary for that long has no ill effect?

Not that I could discern.  Seems like maybe I've done less in primary, but I'm sure never less than a month.  We haven't had much of an apple crop the last couple years, so it's been a while since I've made any.
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Re: First Cider -- Best Resources?
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2011, 02:34:57 PM »
Someone once posted a very nice chart that gave the descriptors to a dozen or so apple varieties and gave tips on how to blend a few varieties to get a nice balance.  If that someone still has that chart they should post it again, I wish I would have saved it.

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Re: First Cider -- Best Resources?
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2011, 02:40:59 PM »
Grannies and Jonathons for tartness, McIntoshes and Cortlands for aroma, crabapples for tannin, and your base apples can be whatever else you like.  Honestly, I don't think it needs to be a whole lot more complicated than that, assuming you're using American style apples.  When you get into the English and French styles, that's when things get really interesting.......
Dave

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Offline woadwarrior

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Re: First Cider -- Best Resources?
« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2011, 06:03:55 PM »
If anyone is interested and lives around the Butler, PA area, I've got 4 apple trees (2 red delicious, 2 gold delicious) that the fruit probably isn't good for much more than making cider and appears to be ripe now.

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Re: First Cider -- Best Resources?
« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2011, 06:23:18 PM »
Cider depends on the blend of apples.

Google the "cider digest".  That is what you want, me thinks.
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