Tag Archives: hard cider

Homebrews #31/32: (Caramel) Hard Cider

8 Nov

Unlike last year’s cidering from whole apples, this year I picked up six gallons of fresh-pressed cider (unpasteurized, of course) at a store in Philo. Split into two batches in sanitized bottles– one allowed to ferment with whatever wild yeast and bacteria were on the apples (what causes jugs of unpasterized cider to swell up if let sit), and the other dosed with crushed campden tablets for 48 hours to stun the wild yeast before adding Wyeast 4766.

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Tasting them after a week– the cider with Wyeast had gone pleasantly mildly dry with an apple flavor, while the wild-fermenting cider was going very tart.

I let the wild cider ferment fully dry, without sugar or bottling, yielding a still, sour cider that was a bit intense (“leathery”?) to drink on its own… but which James made into a good cocktail with lemon and fresh ginger.

But the other cider– this is what I had planned for a Halloween party– “caramel apple cider”. First, to make a cup of caramel:

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Then to keg the cider and keep it chilled under pressurized CO2 until the party (leaving it at room temperature would have let the yeast ferment the caramel and turn it back to a dry cider).

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Success– while a bit sweeter than the dry style I like, the aftertaste was definitely caramel, and it was easy-drinking at 4.5% ABV. Along with the tart cider, good accompaniments to a lunch of salami, cheese, bread, and olives:

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Cider Pressing and Fermenting

3 Sep

85 lbs of backyard apples + 19th century cast iron grinder and cider press + an afternoon of elbow grease (x2) + yeast + a few months = single-varietal Adina hard cider:

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The raw juice had a pH of 3.3 (a reasonable level for hard cider) and a specific gravity of 1.050 (expected, should result in a 6.5% ABV cider after fermentation all the way to dry).

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Fermenting with the special White Labs WLP775 cider yeast (rather than the dry champagne yeast and ale yeasts I’d used back in the previous kitchen-scale hard cidering with store-bought cider) in a glass carboy and then resting to condition/clarify/settle:

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And, about a month later, we racked it into bottles with a little sugar to carbonate it. As usual for a cider, it had fermented all the sugars (down to a specific gravity of 0.996, below even water). In a few months (just in time for Thanksgiving?) we’ll see how it is… but even the first taste of the unaged still cider was interesting– tart in a very crabapple way, but not at all harsh.

Update: Later– bottled and labeled:

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Homebrew, Cider, Snacks

14 Apr

What was going to be “an informal bread, cheese, and homebrew hard cider tasting” expanded a bit, as it always does.

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Highlights were the small carrots roasted in cider, the hummus made with plenty of garlic and a little cider vinegar in lieu of lemon juice, #3 of the hard cider experiments (made with unpasteurized cider and champagne yeast), the fennel salami mail-ordered from Seattle (which I’ve wanted to do ever since having it on a trip) and the Russian Imperial Stout (rich, coffee-like, well-hopped (not actively bitter but it kept the alcohol in check), 10% ABV, aged 4 months so far since brewing and really supposed to go 6+).

And the small, excellent group of friends-in-partaking.

Simpatica Dining Hall + Bushwhacker Ciders (PDX)

1 Mar

A reservation made months ahead of time turned out to be on the evening of a special cider-themed collaboration with Bushwhacker Cider. How fortunate.

Kitchen and dining room:

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The chicories with leek ash and egg (no photo) were amazing.

Chestnut soup with fried Jerusalem artichokes:

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Pickled quail egg, salmon roe…

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Gin-barrel-aged cider. And Alice (their granny smith cider) on tap.

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Butter turnips. Excellent rutabaga. And sure, some pork.

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Homebrew(?) #8: Making Hard Cider

1 Feb

I had four one gallon glass jugs and airlocks from the Rye ESB experiments (dosing with different hops and juniper), so I was on the lookout for another side by side brewing experiment. Then late last year I saw some fresh unpasteurized (rare!) cider at a farmers’ market and I had a project.

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There are so many things you can vary in cider– pasteurized or unpasteurized starting cider, type of apple, yeast (natural, cider, ale, champagne), adding extra sugar pre-fermentation (which primarily just boosts the alcohol, not the sweetness, since the yeast consumes it all), sweet vs. dry,  sparkling vs. still, and so on.

I decided to keep it simple this time and just make three batches, varying the source of cider, yeast used, and pasteurized vs. not, but staying with a simple dry, sparkling, no-extra-sugar style without any added flavorings. I made half a gallon to a gallon of each, and a month later bottled them (and of course couldn’t bottle something without making a custom label…). In a few months I’ll see how they turned out…

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This was all originally inspired by reading a stranger’s documentation of 80 one-gallon hard cider batches made with different yeasts, juices, and sugars:

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And to look up later– jotting down a few notes collected from reading and talking to people who’ve made cider:

  • Hard cider was traditionally made with more tart, sour apples– modern eating apples aren’t really the ideal source of juice for it.
  • You could make hard cider by just letting unpasteurized cider sit for months– the wild yeast on the skins will eventually ferment it, though you have less control over the final product and it could take a long time
  • People also often add yeast to have more predictable fermentation, ranging from champagne yeast (a neutral taste, ferments it very dry like a wine) to beer ale yeasts, to cider yeasts (selected over time to not handle high alcohol levels well– more about that below)
  • Unlike beer, which has a range of more complex sugars in the wort that yeast can not easily ferment (which leads to some residual sweetness and body after the fermentation is complete), the sugar in apple cider (like most fruit sugars and cane sugar) is simple and easily fermented. This means that unless you interrupt fermentation in some way (such as “cold crashing” — setting cider in the fridge to drop most yeast out of suspension, or adding something that kills the yeast), all the sugar will be fermented and you will end up with a completely dry cider with no sweetness (a final specific gravity of about 1.000). Some people like this, and older ciders were this way, but it’s a question of style.
  • You can’t get a sweeter cider by just letting it ferment dry and then adding significant sugar before bottling– the residual yeast will ferment this sugar in the bottle, produce CO2, and eventually build up enough pressure to cause the bottle to shatter.

So generally, your easy options for some combination of sweetness and/or carbonation are either:

  • A dry sparkling cider (let it ferment fully, then add a measured small amount of priming sugar before bottling, just as you would when bottling a beer– this sugar will be consumed by the residual yeast and produce the CO2 for carbonation). This is what I did for this batch.
  • A sweet still cider (do something to halt the yeast before it fully ferments the cider, and then bottle– but with the yeast halted, no carbonation will be produced)
  • A sweet carbonated cider through non-standard sugars (ferment dry, use yeast plus priming sugar to carbonate, and also add Splenda, xylitol, or some other non-sugar sweetener that the yeast can’t digest). I had no interest in using this sort of additive.
  • Or, do what larger breweries do and brew a sweet, still cider, deactivate the yeast, then force carbonate it with a cylinder of CO2 in a keg.
  • Some specially-bred cider yeasts have been selected over many generations to go dormant in the presence of moderate alcohol levels– so they stop working before every last bit of sugar has been fermented and leave a slight bit of sweetness.