Success, right out of the gates. I’m pleased. It’s probably worth mentioning that I wouldn’t call myself a big cider lover. I haven’t minded the stuff, but it’s taken a while to take a shine to it. So why bother then? I’ve been making apple wines, and although I enjoy them, some variety in the form of carbonation would be appreciated, especially on hot summer days. I also wanted to make a product with fewer inputs. Apple wines requires chaptilization, which means adding sugar to get the 12% or so alcohol content vs the 5-8% that the juice would naturally ferment to. I was using sulphites, pectic enzyme, acid products in some cases, oak. Then my recent visit to France inspired me to shed it all. To simply take juice, let the yeasts present in the juice and air ferment it, and leave it at that.
I wrote about the making of it here and here. You can watch the stuff ferment here. You can even back way up and check out the flower blossom stage here.
At bottling, it wasn’t terribly exciting. No carbonation at that point, just a semi-dry flat cider. But then, as it was supposed to, it gradually picked up carbonation from the remaining sugar in the fermenting must. Although not evident in the photos, it now gets a 2-3″ head of foam on it when decanted – which is sensible to keep the lees out of the glass. As the bottle fermentation continues, it keeps getting foamier, which is pretty darn cool if you ask me. No CO2 products. No priming bottles with sugar. Just plain old juice fermenting in bottle. Neat.
It now tastes lovely – far better than I’d expected, as cider can be pretty funky from fermentation smells that aren’t always pleasant. Since discovering that the austere acidity of apple wines benefited from back-sweetening with elderflower syrup – which softens the texture and gives it gewurztraminer/ehrenfelser type notes on the nose – we’ve been doing the same to the cider at times, and it’s damn good. Highly recommended. Ends up coming across like a nice white wine aromatically, with the refreshing carbonation of a light beer or bubbly wine. I find I prefer it as-is, dry, with food – and picked up with the elderflower as aperitif. At this stage, it’s not just me that likes it – others who don’t normally dig cider are also loving it. Success. Here’s hoping that bursting bottles don’t burst my bubble.
every time you post about anything apple related I get slightly jealous that I’m allergic to basically all forms of apples. Good thing the rest of the fam isn’t. My parents had a bottle bursting incident with home made root beer way back in the day. Scary stuff and an awful expensive mess.
Great stuff Kevin!
Kevin, That looks wonderful! I just was offered access to four overloaded apple trees here in Stanwood…. Now I just need a garbage disposal. You mention 5-8% alcohol, that might just fly. I assume your hope here is for shelf stable storage? What bottles are you storing these in (I have heard stories of wine bottles blowing, and I talked to one guy who used old champagne bottles, with wine corks and home made wire bales, but he said something about opening the bottles outdoors)
Hilda – fortunately there are other fruits! Good to hear about the bottle-bomb stories – motivates me to keep the carbonated bottles under rubbermaid bins to contain any potential future mess.
Barry – thanks. I’m really pleased with the ciders, can’t wait to do more!!
Adam – 4 heavy trees should be a good 1/2 tonne or so for ya! Get a garbage disposal with high HP so it doesn’t overheat. 5-8% is simply what the natural sugars would provide if dry, in many cases. Shelf stable would require higher alcohol. And even then, my wine cellar doesn’t require typical shelf stability as it’s cool. I’m using flip-tops. Champagne bottles might be next – but I think I’ll just skip straight to kegs – then I can rest easy re: pressure.
every time i read about your latest food adventure, i just think to myself how wonderful it would be for your blog to dispense a sample of whatever it is you’re talking about lol
“why yes kevin, this cider you made is amazing!” ;)
Ok, so I bottled 5 gallons of traditional cider last night as per your instructions. I’m also hoping that bursting bottles won’t be bursting my bubble! From the timing of your posts, it seems like you waited a couple of weeks to try it out. Is that right?
Marcus – I waited until the S.G. was 1.005 as per the specs of the bottle capacity to hold pressure. So I was watching the S.G., not the time. Hope that helps, and so glad you’re taking a run at it!!!
Right. I meant how long until your first tasting after you bottled. Two weeks? More? Sorry for the confusion.
Marcus – duh, sorry about that. Your estimation based on post-time is likely correct. It’s been progressively more carbonated since then, and now when decanted [I find it useful so the whole bottle can come out in one pour, leaving the lees behind – far better end result], it has a big head of foamy awesomeness. Good luck and let me know how your turns out!
Well, it’s been over a month and my cider hasn’t carbonated. The first bottle that I opened after two weeks had a little carbonation, but the one I opened last night was flat as a pancake. One possible mistake was putting the bottles in my basement right after bottling (around 62 degrees f.) Do you think that is too cold?
Marcus – Hm. I put it in my basement at about the same temp, maybe a couple degrees higher for a couple weeks before storing at 6C or so. That is odd. Assuming you have residual sugar in there and have active yeast, they should do the job. I’m stumped.
Thanks for the input. The only thing I can think of is the yeast either died or went dormant in the bottling process. This stuff is always an adventure to try. Maybe I’ll have better luck next time!
Since I kinda took over the comments on this post I thought I would give an update on my previously failed sparkling cider attempt. Come to find out, I must have made a hydrometer reading flub. A little over a week ago I checked the sugar levels in one of my flat bottles and lo and behold, there wasn’t any. There was no sugar! I mixed up a simple syrup and added until the sg level was right. Since I fussed with that bottle so much I tossed it, but opened the rest of the bottles and added the appropriate amount and re-sealed them. A week and a half later…. I have sparkling cider! And its awesome! Kind of a back-assward way of doing it, but it looks like it worked. Disaster averted. Thanks for the coaching Kevin!
Marcus – fantastic!! I may end up doing some of that very same thing, as I only have 1 bottle of the traditional method [for lack of a better term]. Thankfully I have a few carboys to which I can back-sweeten to carbonate. Enjoy your newfound wealth.
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