Friday, August 7, 2015

Hard Cider

My daughter likes hard's kind of her "go to" drink when we're out, and sometimes she picks some up for herself when she comes over.  So, I thought I'd try my hand at making some hard cider, and as it turns out, it's not too different from making beer.  I did some searching and reading, and came away with a couple of hard take-aways:
  1. Do NOT boil the juice/cider, as it causes the pectins to set and you'll end up with a hazy final product.  You can bring it to 185 deg F for 45 min, as a means of killing off wild yeast and bacteria.
  2. After primary fermentation is complete, transfer to secondary and keep the fermenter in a cool place, in order to allow the cider to clear.
Okay, keeping that in mind, it should be easy enough.  Now, a lot of what I read regarding making hard cider mentioned getting freshly-pressed cider while it was in season, but I did read (and see some YouTube videos) that you could use commercially available apple juice, as well, as long as it didn't include preservatives.  Fortunately, my local Harris Teeter has a line of fresh-pressed juice and cider; I'm not going to bother with the "from concentrate" stuff.

As a bit of a side note, I found out recently that there's a cidery near us.

A couple of yeasts were mentioned in my reading. White Labs and Wyeast have cider yeasts, but I've also read in several locations where Lalvin EC-1118 is recommended (in one case, by a professional cider maker), and good things have been said about Danstar Belle Saison yeast.  I just happen to have some Belle Saison, so I thought I'd give that a try.

Brew Day:  7 Aug 2015

4 qts cider - Harris Teeter brand organic "fresh pressed" cider
3 oz corn sugar

Start by collecting the cider (or use juice).  Pour a cup or so of the cider into a sauce pan and warm NOT bring it to a boil.  Stir in corn sugar until it's dissolved.  Add this to a sanitized fermenter and allow it to cool down a bit.  Add the remaining cider, being careful not to splash it...unlike the wort for beer, we do not want to aerate the cider (a.k.a., must).  Pitch the yeast, add a cap and blow-off tube to the fermenter.

Primary fermentation: 10 - 14 days
Secondary fermentation:  7 days
Bottle conditioning: 14 days

Note: for sparkling cider, bottle as one would a beer; dissolve 1 oz of table sugar in 1/2 cup of boiling water, cool, add to clean, sanitized fermenter.  Rack the cider to the fermenter, allowing it to sit for a bit (do NOT agitate or aerate).  Bottle normally.

Addendum, 9 Aug: Checked on the fermenter this morning; still activity and regular bubbles flowing through the blow-off tube, although not as frequent as yesterday morning.  I did note the lack of a krausen-like build-up around the neck of the fermenter, like what I usually see with fermenting beer.  The must is still a hazy, straw-yellow color...I'm not sure that it will completely clear up, due to the fact that what I started with was hazy; the only clear juice I found was from concentrate, and the "freshly pressed" products were hazy.  I'm not too concerned about that at the moment because I'm looking more to the technique and flavor than anything else.  I may be able to get some fresh juice or cider when the fall season comes around, but for the time being (and for doing this year-round), the hazy stuff may end up working just fine.  I'll give it a couple of more days before putting an airlock on the fermenter.

Addendum, 17 Aug: Transferred to secondary this evening.  Smelled of apples, which is a good thing.  I'm not too sure that this is going to clear up, because I started with a cloudy product, but I got it into a clean fermenter, and within seconds, the cap was floating above the airlock.  In about a week I'll bottle it, where it will have 2 weeks before my daughter's birthday.

Addendum, 24 Aug: Bottled today.  I bottled 3 bottles with a fizz drop each, to get sparkling cider, but did nothing to the remaining bottles.  These will just sit for a good three weeks, or more.

Addendum, 16 Oct: First tasting.  I have nothing to judge the cider against, because cider isn't really my thing.   My daughter's reaction was that she liked it (but that may have been more about me putting in the effort to make it than her actually liking it...), but that it was a little light with respect to body.  I tried it...very dry, a little bit of apple flavor.

I did do some research into how to get more body out of the cider, and there were discussion threads that talked about the addition of acid and/or tannins, and even a few comments about how carbonation can give the appearance of body.  When I bottled the cider, I purposely did not add priming sugar to it; instead, I put fizz drops in three of the bottles, and labeled them "sparkling", and left the others as they were.  My daughter tried one of the regular ciders last night, and it had moderate carbonation.  Maybe one of the sparkling ciders will be "better", as far as body goes.

One comment that I ran across in one thread stated that the reason the OP wasn't getting the body or the flavor they wanted was because of the apples they were using.  I'm no expert, and I haven't been home brewing for long, but I "get" that.  So, my next attempt is going to be done while using a local cider, rather than a store-bought one.  However, I think that if I was planning to have some cider available in the off-season for apples and cider in general, I could use the store bought cider, add some sugar and some brown sugar, and have something that would be pretty good.

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