One of the things that keeps me blogging is the lack of information about certain topics available online – and this is one of those. There is oodles of information, youtube videos, and so on for still cider and even moreso bubbly cider achieved by fermenting dry then priming with sugar for carbonation, none of which I wanted to make. I wanted to make old-school bubbly cider. Like it would have been done eons ago, using the sugar present in the must to make the bubbles. Fortunately it’s extremely easy, barring one small detail surrounding not having bottles blowing up, literally, all over.
So here’s what I did. Picked apples. Crushed and pressed apples. Did not rack off the clear juice – left the sediment in for yeast nutrient and flavor [for better or worse]. Let the pressed juice ferment naturally – no added yeast, no campden tablets, no pectic enzyme, zero. Let it bubble happily away until S.G. of about 1.003 – which was a bit of an overshoot, as I was shooting for 1.005, which is what I’ve read my flip-top bottles can hold for pressure were the yeast to fully ferment the remaining sugar. [side note: champagne bottles can take 1.010, kegs far more, wine bottles are a major no-no] It hit 1.005 yesterday but I simply didn’t have the time to bottle yesterday. C’est la vie. Fortunately I have a batch that was still not fermented down that far, so added some of it’s sweeter still-fermenting-and-very-clear must to get to 1.005. Once there, and I was careful with the S.G. tests as I didn’t want bottle bomb issues, I racked into the bottles, flipped the tops shut, and will now let them sit for a while to continue fermenting in bottle. With ever-so-versatile rubbermaid containers inverted over the case to contain any potential disaster.
Yes, I know there are risks involved with wild yeasts not wanting to finish the job or bringing off flavours to the party. I get it. The advantage I have on this front is that I have 9 carboys with different fruit from different locations in each, so I’m expecting some variability. Worth noting that every last one of them is fermenting happily and healthily. I’m not sure why this is a surprise, but it is. Also appeasing any fear of wild-yeast-malfunction is if some goes stinky-sideways, I still have uses for it. Vinegar, or some other cider byproduct. If they all go sideways I’ll reconsider my yeast strategy.
How does it taste? Ok. Which is what I was expecting. Freshly made cider isn’t optimally tasty, especially flat. Like beer, it’s way better ice cold and bubbly. We’ll see if this batch gets there. Oh – one last thing, volume. I did just under an 11L carboy of this batch in 1L and 500ml flip-tops. I plan on doing another batch once one of the particularly clear carboys hits the correct S.G.. Might also do some back-sweetened-type/primed version. We’ll see. I have some time to figure it out, and about 200L of fermenting goodness left to get me there.
… i’m a newbie… what’s S.G. stand for?
Deb – Specific Gravity, it’s a measure of density of a solution relative to water, which is 1.000. My starting S.G. was 1.062 with it being full of natural sugar, and as the yeast eats it up, it lowers until it’s around 1.000, or even a bit below as alcohol can affect it. Anyway, when making booze, it’s a critical measurement. The device [hydrometer] is inexpensive and available at winemaking supply stores.
Fascinating! Watching and waiting with interest…..
Kevin…Invest in a refractometer, you won’t regret it. I love what you’ve done here. Almost every “hard cider” recipe out there calls for adding brown sugar, etc. etc. etc, but to me that kills the “purity” of true cider. They most certainly didn’t do that “back in the day” and it’s so much more appealing to know you can go from apple to end product with nothing else added, including yeast. Yes, wild yeast is a gamble, but its one that’s worth taking, especially with the volumes you seem to be getting. Bottle bombs are certainly a risk, but those flip top bottles have never let me down, not once.
If i had that kind of volume, I would consider using multiple yeasts just to experiment a little heh. French Saison yeast, a few ale yeasts, even the Rosalaire strain to add some sourness and funk.
Awesome stuff Kevin!
Barry – I have a refractometer. :) I suppose it would be helpful when figuring out when to bottle and needing a narrow range of measurement?
Yeast experimentation sounds fun indeed. For now, I’m pleased with variability based on apple varietal, as I’m still trying to suss out which are good for what purpose. But I now have done 3 seasons of the one from my yard, so could use that one for yeast fun next year. Thanks for the input. One of the benefits of posting – next year I can come back and review what I did, ideas like yours, and go from there – so thanks!
I guess i forgot that with volumes like yours, the little it takes to fill up the measuring cylinder is literally a “drop in the bucket” haha.
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