Thursday, September 27, 2012

It's time to put it in cider

I'm often asked, "What's your favorite thing to put in cider?"
Hmmmmm, that's a hard one.  I really like to put the wood in cider. Spices, fruits or vegetables can all go in cider but if you cram to much in, it can be ruined.  There is also a lot to be said about not putting anything in cider, just taste and enjoy its natural flavors.
With fall comes apples and with apples comes homebrewers carrying bottles of cider which tastes of paint thinner and nail polish.  This is a basic mistake and it doesn't take much to put some great flavors in cider.
To make it good you need to first understand what is going on in there.  With beer, we are breaking down starch into sugar, so the yeast can eat it, but the breakdown is not complete so there is a lot of residual sweetness.  Apples are made up of much simpler sugars so the yeast is able to consume nearly all of it.  The result will be a solventy and dry concoction which is not drinkable.
Here is the way to hear cheers and win awards in cider.  Take your five gallons of fresh juice or cider and freeze two gallons.  Add a Camden tablet and sugar to the other three gallons until you have a OG of around 1.070 to 1.080.
Add your yeast.  I have used ale yeast, cider yeast and wine yeast and the wine yeast has worked best for me.  The others seem to fizzledick around and then crap out before it is finished.  You want a yeast that will get in and get things done in cider.
Then just wait until fermentation is finished and the FG reads 1.000, or around there. Transfer to a boil kettle or a spouted vessel.
At this point the cider will just be a mess.  It will taste absolutely horrible and you will be tempted to dump it.  First, add the two gallons of fresh cider you have saved, this will bring the apple taste you are looking for back.  Give it a stir and taste it, then start adding sugar until it tastes as sweet as you want it.  I like it crisp, but not to tart.  If you want something more like a pie then add apple pie spices.  Everything is done to taste so the sky is the limit.  I guess you could make a carmel appletini cider if it floats your boat.
When the cider tastes exactly how you want it to it is time to arrest fermentation.  Potassium sorbate is supposed to work but I have never had much faith in it.  I normally heat my kettle to pasteurize the cider and then keg it to add the gas back.  If you don't have a keg system then get with the program, or just have still cider.
However, it is not always sunshine and roses in cider.  The juice is stuck inside apples and getting it out is a giant pain in the ass.  Hand presses can be built or purchased for not a ton of money but they have the disadvantages of being slow and hard work.  Luckily for me, my in-laws have an orchard and industrial cider press so I get about as much cider as I want without any real work.  If I didn't have this option I would probably buy cider instead of trying to press it.
Every brewer should keep a stock of cider on hand.  It doesn't count as drinking before noon because it is juice, it's gluten free and lots of people without a real taste for beer will go bonkers over all the things that go in cider.


GK said...

Irish Cider "Bulmers" is the best cider I have known. Whatever they use in cider its always batter than beer.

linuxman21 said...

I tried making apple cider last holiday which turned out horrible. I didn't think about sweetening and stopping the fermentation. I also used bread yeast as I saw someone do on youtube "inmate brew". After a few weeks of fermentation I dumped it because it tasted so horrible. I'll have to give it another try using your recommendations. Thanks!

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Anonymous said...

Hahaha I love your last paragraph... it's juice, so you can drink it before noon! Amen!

Ever look into getting a beer fridge for your beers and ciders?

andrew said...

Hahaha I loved your last comment about cider being juice so you can drink it before noon. Amen lol!

Ever consider getting a beer fridge for your beer and cider collection?

Persianxrose said...

I really love your blog. I've been studying up the distinct flavors on beer, and man you nail it pretty damn well. I started reading your blog because I'm working for a company that just developed a new tool for Cicerone schools, the Sonic Foamer. Have you ever tried it?

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