A HOME BREWER’S PERSONAL JOURNEY THROUGH HIS CRAFT – PART 35 – HARD CIDER
Decided it was high time I wrote another post for this blog. I have let it slide for far too long.
Looking over my Brew Log for ideas as to what to write about this time around, I noticed a style of brew I had not yet addressed: Hard Cider!
Probably the simplest of brews, it is just fermented apple cider or apple juice. It can very easily be made more interesting by adding whatever flavoring you desire. The following recipes use some spices, fruits, brown sugar, or honey. As you will see, the most important thing to remember is, be sure to use only organic apple cider or juice. If it contains any preservatives other than citric acid, it will NOT ferment. The preservatives will kill the yeast, no matter how much you use.
For my first attempt at making hard cider, I felt no need to keep it simple. It was go big or go home. I was not thinking apple cider; I was thinking apple pie…
Apple Pie Hard Cider
- 5 gallons Tree Top 100% pure pasteurized apple juice with no additives or preservatives.
- 16 oz can Tree Top frozen apple juice concentrate
- 2 cups dark brown sugar
- 1 oz Ceylon Cinnamon sticks (3 sticks)
- 6 oz Newman’s Own Organic raisins
- 10g Lalvin EC-1118 Saccharomyces Bayanus Champagne Yeast (2 pkg)
- Priming: 1 qt apple juice & ¼ cup dark brown sugar
5 Easy Steps
- Pour 4 gallons apple juice into fermenter, pitch yeast.
- Heat 1 gallon apple juice to 160 degrees.
- Add crumbled cinnamon sticks, brown sugar, and raisins.
- Reheat to 160, remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes.
- Add partially thawed concentrate to cool mixture and add to fermenter without any straining.
OG 1.055 – probably not 100% accurate as some additional sugars should be extracted from the raisins.
Activity began in less than 2 hours. The next day it was very active, fizzing away like a whole box of Alka-Setzer. This kept up for about four days before it began to slow. After seven days in the primary, the cider was ready to rack to a secondary. Intermediate gravity 1.000, this is completely fermented! ABV should be about 7.25% Taste was very strong and tart, good.
Another seven days in the secondary and it had cleared fairly well. Time to bottle. I was unsure how to prime this, wanted a champagne like bubbly but avoid making bombs. Went with a method described in Charlie Papazian’s Joy of Home Brewing for determining the amount of kraeusening to use.
Kraeusening is a priming method using a measured amount of gyle. Gyle is unfermented wort separated from the brew prior to pitching the yeast. This sterile gyle can be refrigerated in a sealed container until ready to prime for bottling. The question is: How much wort to save as gyle? The sugar content and specific gravity of each brew can be different. Charlie devised a simple calculation to determine this.
Quarts of Gyle = (12 x gallons of wort) / [(specific gravity – 1) x 1000]
For this cider that works as follows:
(12 x 5 gallons) / [(1.055 -1) x 1000}
60 / 55 = 1.09 qts of Gyle
Note that the denominator in this equation is simply the last two digits of the specific gravity.
Whew! That was more math than I expected to get into! Let’s get back to the brew!
I did not hold back any gyle at the start of the brew so went with another quart of apple juice plus a ¼ cup of dark brown sugar to increase the gravity of the juice. The FG at bottling was 0.999 so, I called it 7.3% ABV.
This took about 2-3 months to develop the level of carbonation I wanted. It was very clear, like the original apple juice. Flavor was light and tart, like an apple! Very refreshing! Very good!
My next cider was basically a remake of the first adding more sugars, more spices, more raisins, and a different yeast. Unfortunately, I also used a different apple juice, unfiltered this time.
Spiced Apple Hard Cider
- 4 gallons Tamarack Farms Pure Pasteurized Un-Filtered Apple Cider
- 3 qt Tree Top 100% Apple Juice
- 24 oz Tree Top 100% Apple Juice frozen concentrate
- 2 cups dark brown sugar
- 1 cup cane sugar
- 4 tsp yeast nutrient
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp whole clove
- 15oz Newman’s Own Organic raisins
- 1 vial White Labs WLP099 Super High Gravity Ale yeast
- 2 pkg (10 grams) Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast
Procedure was nearly identical to the first cider:
- Pour 4 gallons apple cider into fermenter.
- Combine 3 qt apple juice, brown sugar, cane sugar, yeast nutrient, cinnamon, clove, and raisins and heat to 160 degrees.
- Remove from heat and add frozen concentrate to cool.
- Pour into fermenter and pitch yeast.
OG 1.062 – again, probably not 100% accurate.
There were a couple possible mistakes. The yeast was five months past its use by date and the 3 qt apple juice was left over from the first cider, so was in the fridge for several months. I was not concerned about the yeast as it had been constantly refrigerated. The juice still looked and tasted fine so, I was not concerned with this either.
Not a Lot Going on Here
Well, maybe the yeast was too old. Five days with no sign of beginning fermentation. Added two packages of the Champagne yeast. It still took over 48 hours for any minimal sign of activity. Some raisins floated to the top and there was a thin ring of tiny bubbles around the edge.
Now at 11 days with no significant activity. Pitched two more packs of the Champagne yeast and 1 tsp of yeast nutrient. Then I went back to the store to look more closely at the label on the apple cider. I had wrongly assumed that Pasteurized, Un-filtered Apple Cider would be organic, without preservatives. Wrong! I did not record what it contained but, I believe, it was sodium benzoate. That is what was inhibiting the yeast.
After another 10 days, there was a thin layer of yeasty looking bubbles on the surface. I withdrew a small sample to check gravity. 1.067, actually higher than the OG. This would seem to indicate some sugars extracted from the raisins and very little fermentation, if any. It tasted like it was still good, not spoiled, but still tasted like spiced apple juice.
Some Last Ditch Efforts
I tried one last thing to get the fermentation started. Prepared a starter with 1 quart Martinelli’s Pure Apple juice and two more packs of Champagne yeast. This fermented very well for 3 days before pitching into the stubborn cider.
Seven weeks of minimal activity ensued, reaching a gravity of 1.051 for 1.5% ABV. Taste was very sweet and heavy with the spices coming through stronger than before.
Thinking that is was perhaps too cold in the basement, I set the carboy on a heating pad to warm it and maybe kickstart the fermentation. No change, no decrease in gravity. But, did I give up? Not completely.
I made some nice spiced apple jelly with part of the cider and used some for making a brine for turkey the next Thanksgiving.
The brined turkey was excellent
OK, so after that fiasco, I made one other hard cider… quite successfully, I might add!
CranApple Hard Cider
- 4 gallons Pure Pasteurized Un-Filtered Apple Juice (no preservatives or added sugars)
- 12.5 oz Organic cranberry concentrate
- 48 oz wildflower honey
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient
- 1 tsp yeast energizer
- 10g Pasteur Champagne yeast
- Priming: 2/3 cup honey
Bring 1 gallon water to boil and add honey and cranberry concentrate. Stir until fully dissolved and remove from heat. Add 1 gallon apple juice; this should cool it to about 90F. Add yeast nutrient and energizer and pitch yeast. I did not rehydrate the yeast as 90F is the perfect temperature for rehydration. Pour the cider into the fermenter and add the remaining 3 gallons of juice. OG 1.060
Cider was merrily fizzing away the next day. Left it in the primary for too long, about three weeks before getting it racked to secondary. It was still very cloudy but showing signs of clearing. Taste was tart and fruity with very little residual sweetness. Intermediate gravity 1.000 for 8.2% ABV.
Cider took about six weeks in the secondary to clear to the point I felt it was ready to bottle, priming with 2/3 cup honey. There was no change in gravity from the 1.000.
Developed a nice level of sparkle, a rapidly dissipating champagne like effervescence. There was the faintest hint of pink from the cranberry. Very dry and tart and very good. Thankfully, a successful effort.
I hope to make another hard cider at some point. The cost of organic apple juice has gotten a bit prohibitive. I will do another someday.