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Old 10-17-2011, 02:09 AM   #1
xplornevada
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Default Cider primary infection-awful aroma/taste

I've been making hard cider for 3 years now, and I have an intermittent problem with truly awful cider coming out of my primary.

I grow, grind and press my own apples-primarily dessert and baking apples (you work with what ya got). I generally add sulfite and wait 24-36 hours, and pitch either champagne or cote d'blanc yeast that's been rehydrated in warm water.

The problem happens during primary fermentation. The cider usually ferments dry within a few days, but I can taste/smell an awful flavor in the cider. It's hard to describe the taste, but rotten banana peel might come close. The bad flavor intensifies in the secondary, and the texture becomes slightly oily. It is truly undrinkable and I've poured it out at this point..

I think I have this narrowed down to cider sickness, a bacterial infection, but the cider books say that cider sickness occurs during aging to sweet, low-acid ciders, and my problem is right out of the primary.

I'm just starting my cider making season here, and I'm going to try adding more acid to get my pH down to try to prevent this from happening this year.

If anyone else has any experience with this or any recommendations for preventing this, I'd appreciate the help.



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Old 10-17-2011, 03:18 AM   #2
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I'm brand new here with not 1 cider ferment, so take this with a grain of salt or two. I was just reading Andrew Lea's site earlier and found this listed under fermentation problems as well as storage problems:

"Cider 'sickness' is a disorder caused by bacteria of the genus Zymomonas (other types of which are utilised in the tropics for the production of palm wine). These organisms ferment sugars in the same way as yeasts, but they also produce large amounts of acetaldehyde which is said to give an odour of lemon or banana skins. In France, this disorder is known as 'framboise' since the odour is regarded as raspberry-like! The acetaldehyde also combines with the cider tannin to give a milky haze and the cider quickly becomes insipid and 'thin' in body. This problem only affects sweet ciders or those with residual sugar which are also low in acid (pH higher than 3.8), which is one good reason for fermenting and storing all ciders dry. Ciders which are naturally sweet and low in acid (e.g. French traditional) are obviously under greatest threat from this organism. Unfortunately it is totally resistant to SO2 so there is no easy control. The normal recommendation if ciders begin to become sick is to raise the acidity to 0.5% and to add an active fermenting yeast complete with nutrient. You will lose your sweet 'sick' cider but with a bit of luck you may end up with a much healthier dry one which will be some recompense! If the sick cider is already in active bacterial fermentation you will just have to let it take its course and then fine it and blend it off when all the sugar has gone. Once again, all equipment which has been in contact with cider 'sickness' should be well sterilised before re-use."



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Old 10-17-2011, 04:12 AM   #3
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These organisms ferment sugars in the same way as yeasts, but they also produce large amounts of acetaldehyde which is said to give an odour of lemon or banana skins.

That does sound concerning.
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Old 10-17-2011, 04:18 AM   #4
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Iv read in an earlier thread that they actually boil the apples to kill the wild yeast that is on the skin?!! Idk if it helps just wanted to throw my two cents in

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Old 10-17-2011, 06:23 AM   #5
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No, boiling won't help!!! for the millionth time don't boil your juice!!!

It sounds to me like the fermentation is a bit too warm. What temperature do you usually ferment at? During fermentation heat is produced, so if you start it too warm the possibility is you may have off-flavours produced when the yeast go into overdrive. Also pitching too much yeast can cause problems. Acetaldehyde is only a problem after the end of primary, when alcohol reacts with oxygen. During an active primary, sugar converts to alcohol without problems. If it is too active, the supply of nutrients becomes a problem, then you get weird flavours produced as the yeast uses different metabolic pathways.

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Old 10-17-2011, 09:30 PM   #6
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The banana odor and the oiliness would seem to be two separate problems.

The oiliness would likely be be a particular strain of the lactic acid bacteria. Even though you used metabisulfite, cider’s high pH makes it necessary to increase the dose you use in order to insure an adequate amount of free SO2.

When it does happen, the oiliness should be treated as is noted on various websites for “ropiness” or “oiliness” from lactic acid bacteria . SO2 and a reduction in pH and some method of forcing the “oiliness” back into the cider.

As far as cider sickness ... it does seem odd that you would have the problem with no residual sugar and getting the problem and right out of the primary like you say.

That cider.org.uk site is easy to read. If you want another site that will help you get to sleep at night ...
Everything you always wanted to know about zymomonas but were afraid to ask ...
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC413995/?page=1

If it is cider sickness, the hot ticket would seem to be to make sure your pH is always below 3.6, always ferment to dry, and use scrupulous sanitation on everything to avoid contamination.

If however it is not cider disease and just an issue of one of the acetates, then I’ll take another stab at it.

Right off the bat, let me go out on a apple limb ... because you used apples from your orchard and from your description it sounds, grind and press them before having given them a good bath in sulfites (before the skins are perforated) ... you may still have non-saccharomyces yeast that has taken hold. And consider too that because cider has a higher pH, your eventual metabisulfite additions might not be high enough to combat it (you need extra metabisulfite in high pH musts).
Normally the hard and fast way to check what yeasts are present or winning the battle is to just put a bit of the must under a microscope and observe the shapes of the yeasties ... this is probably not an option here though so on to more guessing ...

Banana odor usually is describing (iso) amyl acetate.
The production of this ester is usually not a problem, however if it is overdone it is still a wine fault. In apples, I would look at two things IF this is the issue ... 1) is your primary fermenting done under airlock or at least restricted such as a carboy without airlock ... and ... 2) is the fermentation temp on the cool side? Both of these increase the production of iso amyl acetate.

Though a problem with amyl acetate is somewhat unlikely ... if you were fermenting in a fairly oxygen deprived environment (as noted above), and consequently the over-production of amyl acetate was in fact the problem ... then next time I would use a bucket primary fermenter with only a cloth over the top. Also, if the temp during fermentation is a bit on the cool side ... maybe raise the temp (a bit up the recommended range for that yeast) to reduce the amount of CO2 in the must.

To be honest though, the more common problem would be another kissing cousin in the acetyltransferase family ... that is the production of Ethyl acetate (rather than the amyl acetate).
This is often described as a “nail polish remover” smell. And though it does not sound exactly like what you are describing, this is a much more common fault.

With Ethyl acetate ... first, the sulfiting should have helped prevent it. Sulfiting helps with avoiding (wild) non-saccharomyces yeasts which can cause it ..... it helps with too much oxygenation {([ETOH + O2 = acetaldehyde] + O2 = acetic acid)+ ETOH= ethyl acetate}..... and it helps with acetobacter or other bacterial infection which can cause ethyl acetate.

Another thing that can produce ethyl acetate ... yeast under stress.
You said that you used a Cote d blanc ... this is not the hand-to-hand fighter that some yeasts are, and also is a yeast that needs nutrients ... and cider is not known for its natural nutrients.
Pasteur champagne is much better in low nutrient environment and is a stronger yeast.

If nail polish seems to be the note, especially also if the cider seems a bit vinegary too ... and you did ferment in an open bucket or had too much in the way of exposure to oxygen ... this could be the culprit. The correction is to avoid oxygen exposure during fermentation, especially in the secondary and beyond.

I’d keep with the champagne yeast rather than the cote d blanc ... and if cote d blanc - use a nutrient like DAP. (actually if it were me I’d use K1-V1116)
I’d also give the apples a soak in K-meta or somesuch prior to grinding them.
And of course ... strict sanitation.

Just some ideas ... but just guessing at the problem. Hope it helps.

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Old 10-18-2011, 02:07 AM   #7
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First, I'd like to thank everyone that offered help here. I've tried a few of the suggestions offered here, but wasn't sure how much detail I could offer considering I've documented this thing to death in my own notebook!

I am familiar with Andrew Lea's site, and it's a terrific resource. That, and Annie Proulx's book have led me to believe this may be cider sickness. It's the closest thing I could find to relate to my problem, but it doesn't make an exact fit. It isn't the ropiness problem; the cider gets a [I]slightly [I] more oily mouthfeel, but nothing thick or ropey. And I don't boil, I only pasteurize fresh cider that I give away to friends. My mother used to put raw cider in my bottle, and I still like it without the cooked flavor.

I do sulfite the must, but I haven't been sulfiting the whole apples in the rinse water. I'll make that a regular part of my grind from here on out. I always use a dose of DAP as well. The early primary ferment is done in a poly bucket with a loose lid(just enough to keep the bugs out). Once it starts pushing out CO2, I put an airlock on it. I also think the early fermenting temperature could be a part of the problem.

A few weeks ago I made my first batch of cider and added a full teaspoon of NaMeta to five gallons, which was 4x too much. It took 10 days for fermentation to begin, and it developed that funky flavor at the end of fermentation. I figured that the long wait at about room temperature is what did it in. I grasp at a descriptor for the aroma made by this batch, but I wouldn't call it vinegary or nail polish remover. It isn't quite a rotten banana smell, but Lea describes wide variety of descriptors for sickness, and mine seemed to fit in there somewhere. I'm going to bottle this one off and hide it in the crawl space for a year and see what happens.

The most confusing thing about this is the way it comes and goes. If there were consistency I could nail it down for sure.

So in an all-out battle with this thing, I'm going to
1. sulfite the apple wash water
2. sulfite the must
3. keep the ph around 3.4
4. keep the post-sulfite, pre-yeast must very cool.
5. keep the fermentation somewhat cool.
6. use a starter
7. use champagne yeast.

Once I get this beat, I'll start experimenting and see where it leads.

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Old 10-18-2011, 08:20 PM   #8
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That sounds like a great game plan.

A few last suggestions ...
Keep the headspace in the secondary to a minimum ... avoid oxygen exposure as much as possible.

Make sure to actually rack the must off the lees near the end of primary fermentation (i.e. when you put it into the secondary fermenter) to avoid autolysis of the yeast sediment which can result in, amongst other issues, essence of “onion, rubber and skunk” (Mmmm good) from the formation of mercaptans.

Make sure to use an adequate addition of DAP. The nitrogen will help to guard against hydrogen sulfide, which, while you may not readily get that rotten egg smell right away, it’s presence can react to produce further problems too.

If all this does not correct the problem, I would suspect the problem is originating from something that is common to all affected batches so likely something brought in from the orchard or your grinder or press.

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Old 10-18-2011, 08:32 PM   #9
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Speaking of cleaning a grape/apple press ... here's a primer on how to do this ...


HOW TO CLEAN A GRAPE OR APPLE PRESS

First you have to SCRUB off all the dirt and grime ... then you sanitize.
The sanitizer must have direct contact and any schmutz will prevent that.
Every nook and cranny on any contact surface must be cleaned.

In commercial operations when they clean equipment some use the white plastic scrub pads rather than the green ones as they are a bit softer and a bit less likely to cause scratches which could harbor bacteria later ... especially for a press or grinder I’d say the green type plastic scrub pad are absolutely fine and is what I use when I clean my presses.

For the cleaning process the old timers use caustic soda and a citric acid rinse. I did this when I got my big press years ago.

The kinder, gentler version of this ... and a better practice, would be to use “Powdered Brewery Wash” (aka PBW) mixed with hot water ... apply, scrub in, wait 30 min, rinse off. You can Google to find PBW or inquire at your local brewer supply. (note, PBW creates pressure when you mix it with water ... be careful if you are using any enclosed vessel such as a pump sprayer ... a pump sprayer with no pumping - imagine that).
After rinsing then you sanitize.

For the sanitizing part ... I strongly recommend my old friend “Star San” ... an acid based sanitizer ... and probably the most cost effective thing I have ever bought for vinting. For a big press, a pump sprayer works just dandy.

For the final rinse, I carefully use my pressure washer with a wide tip on low power ... but a garden hose etc will work fine.

Then, to re-lube the screw and coat various metal parts etc use a restaurant grade silicone spray that has the “NSF” rating logo on it. This is NOT just any old silicone spray but one safe for food operations. Local restaurant supply places should carry it.

I should give a shout out to two other products which can be used for the cleaning process ... that is “Straight A” and also “One Step” which are often available at the brewer/vintner supply. They are similar and are both oxygenators (like “oxi clean”) but of the two, One Step has a higher level of oxygen and also detergent. Just gotta make sure you rinse *really* well.
Some who want to do it on the cheap actually just buy Oxygen cleaners at the grocery store like oxyclean. I haven’t done this but I suppose it’s an option.

ps. don't forget to sanitize all the press-blocks, mesh bags/hairs/cheese cloths etc.

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Old 10-19-2011, 05:43 PM   #10
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Wow. What an informational thread.



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