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Old 09-21-2013, 07:10 PM   #1
columbian
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Default bitter cider

I used to make cider casually decades ago. It was cloudy and yeasty, but fun to drink.
Being all grown up now, I picked, ground and squeezed a variety of apples last Fall (2012), then loaded up a 5-gal carboy and fermented it with a store-bought yeast. After fermentation had stopped, I racked it a couple of times, yielding the clearest cider I ever made. After that I racked it into gallon jugs (plastic juice bottles) and put it on a garage shelf.

But about then, I started having health problems, and was unable to care for the cider.

When I finally tasted it, about a month ago, it was not pleasant-- kind of brackish and bitter. I tried simply dissolving some brown sugar in it, and even bottled a few bottles like that, kind of hoping for either a sweeter cider or possibly some carbonation.

The resulting stuff tastes sweet, but the underlying bitterness comes through a lot. The taste is not sour, like vinegar; more like kerosene.

Is there likely any way to save these 2-4 gallons of hard work and apples? This year’s crop is kind of small, and I am not strong enough to pick or do the cleaning, grinding and squeezing yet, anyhow.

Sorry if these questions have been asked and answered already. I looked, but didn’t find anything.

Thanks for any help.

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Old 09-21-2013, 08:04 PM   #2
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How long did you say it has been going? A month?

As I have read and observed time solves 90% of bitterness problems.

Another thing is, did your cider ferment fast? Usually when it does it creates these different alcohols that can be described as having a kerosene like taste or smell. So there's that.

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Old 09-21-2013, 08:24 PM   #3
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I have a feeling that the kerosene aroma/flavor is a result of the plastic bottles that you stored your cider in. Have you ever left a half drank bottle of water in your car for a week or two then cracked the lid and smelled and/or drank it? I've never tried one, but you could try filtering it with an activated carbon filtering kit. Good luck.

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Old 09-21-2013, 09:00 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maverick22 View Post
How long did you say it has been going? A month?

As I have read and observed time solves 90% of bitterness problems.

Another thing is, did your cider ferment fast? Usually when it does it creates these different alcohols that can be described as having a kerosene like taste or smell. So there's that.
Started fermentation last November (2012) so time's probably not the solution.
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Old 09-21-2013, 09:07 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by PVNelson View Post
I have a feeling that the kerosene aroma/flavor is a result of the plastic bottles that you stored your cider in.
That's certainly possible. But 2 things give me hope it's not:
1 these jugs are sturdy, and apparently well-made ones from fruit or vegetable juice;
2 It tasted sort of like this right after fermentation in a glass carboy had stopped, and during the first few weeks after racking.

As they've sat through Winter, Spring and Summer, the temperature was not controlled other than by being in the garage, it was less hot in the summer and less cold in the Winter.

By the way, I froze a lot of sweet unfermented juice from the same batch, and it tastes great.
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Old 09-21-2013, 09:23 PM   #6
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You don't happen to have ph strips lying around, do you?

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Old 09-21-2013, 09:27 PM   #7
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Couple of possibilities. Most likely, from your description, is wild yeast and/or bacterial effects; these cause the kind of solventy, chemical-y, odd flavors that I used to describe as somewhere between bitterness and sourness. Sometimes this actually improves a cider, by adding complexity (especially if it's Brettanomyces at work), but it can be too much and then it's bad. Storing in plastic unfortunately seems to promote this kind of thing, by slow oxygen diffusion into the cider.

Another possibility is simply oxidation from being storred so long in plastic. Usually this gives cardboardy taste, but in ciders it can also produce these odd chemical flavors.

Neither is reversible, I'm afraid. If it isn't too overpowering, sometimes you can add honey and let it referment, and the honey notes help offset the wild character - if that's what it is.

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Old 09-21-2013, 09:36 PM   #8
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You don't happen to have ph strips lying around, do you?
No ph strips here, but I can get them.

Why do you ask?
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Old 09-21-2013, 09:38 PM   #9
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You can test if your cider has turned acidic due to oxidation.

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Old 09-21-2013, 09:40 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Albionwood View Post
Couple of possibilities. Most likely, from your description, is wild yeast and/or bacterial effects; these cause the kind of solventy, chemical-y, odd flavors that I used to describe as somewhere between bitterness and sourness. Sometimes this actually improves a cider, by adding complexity (especially if it's Brettanomyces at work), but it can be too much and then it's bad. Storing in plastic unfortunately seems to promote this kind of thing, by slow oxygen diffusion into the cider.

Another possibility is simply oxidation from being storred so long in plastic. Usually this gives cardboardy taste, but in ciders it can also produce these odd chemical flavors.

Neither is reversible, I'm afraid. If it isn't too overpowering, sometimes you can add honey and let it referment, and the honey notes help offset the wild character - if that's what it is.
Not good news, but not unexpected either. Sounds like I cut my losses and do the next one in glass.

For the secondary fermentation, would it be ok to put only about 3 gallons in a 5 or 6.5 gal carboy? Or would the extra space create a problem? and do I put an airlock on during secondary?

I don't even remember why I put it in the plastic instead of another carboy.
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