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Old 11-20-2011, 01:05 AM   #1
DanMalleck
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Default First batch bottling: questions on malic acid and process

So I helped a friend make hard apple cider last year. It is still sitting in the carboy and we're (finally) bottling it tomorrow.

She likes tart cider, like that which we have tried in the UK. I learned that this tartness can be boosted with malic acid.

I would like to know people's opinions on the plan I have for bottling, to ensure good tartness. I am mostly a home beer brewer, so I could really use some gentle suggestions.

I am going to boil priming sugar in water and chill it (like we do with beer). Then add it to the bottling bucket and rack the cider on to it.

I am going to boil some malic acid in water, too--probably a Tbsp or more in 1 pint. I will chill it and then add 1 cup of this solution to the cider, stir it up, and taste it. At some point we'll get the right amount of tartness.

Once that is done, I will bloom and pitch dry champagne yeast (I racked this about 4 times, so don't expect the yeast to still be working) and bottle. Champagne because I'm not confident of the gravity, but it's pretty strong (someone helped me calculate this to be about 7.5, but I want to make sure I have yeast that can handle it if its stronger.

Questions: How much malic acid should I put in the water to ensure that I will not have too little? Is 1 Tbsp going to make a significant difference in 4 Gallons of cider?

In beer making we worry about oxidation from splashing aroudn while bottling. Is this something I should be worried about here, too?

finally, just an additional question. I thought that clear bottles were a no-no in beer because of hops which get skunky flavours from UV light, but assumed since there are no hops in cider, this isn't a problem. So I have clear glass bottles for this batch. Now I've been finding that clear is bad for cider too. How bad is it to use clear bottles?

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Old 11-20-2011, 02:35 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by DanMalleck View Post
So I helped a friend make hard apple cider last year. It is still sitting in the carboy and we're (finally) bottling it tomorrow.

She likes tart cider, like that which we have tried in the UK. I learned that this tartness can be boosted with malic acid.

I would like to know people's opinions on the plan I have for bottling, to ensure good tartness. I am mostly a home beer brewer, so I could really use some gentle suggestions.

I am going to boil priming sugar in water and chill it (like we do with beer). Then add it to the bottling bucket and rack the cider on to it.

I am going to boil some malic acid in water, too--probably a Tbsp or more in 1 pint. I will chill it and then add 1 cup of this solution to the cider, stir it up, and taste it. At some point we'll get the right amount of tartness.

Once that is done, I will bloom and pitch dry champagne yeast (I racked this about 4 times, so don't expect the yeast to still be working) and bottle. Champagne because I'm not confident of the gravity, but it's pretty strong (someone helped me calculate this to be about 7.5, but I want to make sure I have yeast that can handle it if its stronger.

Questions: How much malic acid should I put in the water to ensure that I will not have too little? Is 1 Tbsp going to make a significant difference in 4 Gallons of cider?

In beer making we worry about oxidation from splashing aroudn while bottling. Is this something I should be worried about here, too?

finally, just an additional question. I thought that clear bottles were a no-no in beer because of hops which get skunky flavours from UV light, but assumed since there are no hops in cider, this isn't a problem. So I have clear glass bottles for this batch. Now I've been finding that clear is bad for cider too. How bad is it to use clear bottles?
It's not bad to use clear bottles- just keep them out of light. Cider doesn't skunky, but it can get light struck which ruins the flavor.

Oxidation is a big risk- just rack and bottle carefully and you should be fine.
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Old 11-20-2011, 05:02 AM   #3
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With additional malic acid you could risk malo-lactic fermentation which will lower the acidity back down. While MLF is not a certainty, it could undo much of your having added that additional acid for taste in the first place (other spoilage issues too, potentially). You are at higher risk for this as well if the cider bulk aged on any lees bed at all.

Another couple possibilities are using citric acid or tartaric acid.

Citric acid is often used to brighten a wine. But also with a citric acid addition, technically *if* MLF occurs because of available nutrients and the malic acid from the apples, the citric also being metabolized by the bacteria could create acetic acid (vinegar) to detectable levels. Though I don't think the small citric dose you would assumedly be using is really much of a risk.

One common workaround would to use lysozyme and SO2 (k-meta etc) to prevent MLF, then you could go ahead with the acid additions and not worry about it ... but lysozyme is quite expensive and many don’t like sulfites in their cider and besides, the sulfiting will make your yeast too sluggish if you are going to bottle condition/carbonate.

Another way around this would be to use Tartaric acid as your acid addition. Technically, about 1 teaspoon per gallon should give you about 0.1% raise in Total Acidity. But especially if you are doing it by taste, I would go up in increments no larger than ½ teaspoon tartaric acid crystals per gallon at a time then re-evaluate.
If you are using 32 ounce test portions of cider to determine how much acid to add, then 1/8 teaspoon increments (add-taste-add-taste-etc)
Test portions while figuring acid-to-taste is a very good idea. I would *not* add the acid to your boil like you were saying.

In general, any time you adjust acid it is a really good idea to have and use a TA/Total Acidity test kit and also pH test tape ... I’d hesitate to raise TA above 0.5%.
If you don’t have the equipment and chemicals to measure TA, you can do it by taste ... but carefully.

For what it’s worth, in general, some variables to help prevent MLF in wine include ...
Insuring adequate levels of SO2 ... this means keeping the pH a bit lower (i.e. more acidic) say around pH 3.4 ... and using sulfites. (not really applicable though if you are yeast carbonating though)
Insure there’s no extra nutrients from having added nutrients that were not used up in the initial ferment and/or nutrients that developed because the cider sat on the lees for too long.
Lower storage temps help.
Higher alcohol % helps ... though this is neither here nor there with regard to your already fermented cider.
And fine filtering to remove any residual nutrients ... but if you don’t have such a filter then this obviously would not apply.

What I would do?
First I’d be relying on testing as well as taste ...
I’d be using citric acid if the additional acidity I wanted was slight to moderate.
If the TA was really weak ... say 0.3% or below, I’d be using tartaric and citric. (I like the brightness citric imparts).
And I'd be shooting for a total acidity not higher than about 0.5%

All this having been said, *if* the cider is going to be drank fairly soon (within a month or two) and *if* after carbonating you are going to keep it in the bottom shelf of the icebox ... and *if* you did not introduce large amounts of unused residual nutrients by over adding yeast nutrient (or adding it too near the end of fermentation) nor by letting the cider sit on the lees during all that aging ... the odds are you could probably get away fine with adding the malic and not get MLF *if* that’s all you had and you were willing to take the slight risk.

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Old 11-20-2011, 12:37 PM   #4
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Default Lots to think about

Thanks Jacob.
That is a lot to figure out. Sadly, all I have is malic acid, and pretty mediocre ph test strips!

Questions back: I have racked this cider about three or four times. It is currently sitting on a tiny bit of sediment, I'm not sure if it's lees in the sense of dormant yeast, but am not sure. I'm pretty sure much of the yeast is out of solution by now (well, if my brewing experience is anything to go by, racking four times will take away any chance of enough yeast to disable carbonation without additional yeast). So I don't know if this qualifies as sitting on lees for any length of time or not, as per your lactic acid caution. The sediment could be proteins that have fallen out--the cider is still cloudy after a year. The question is: is this the lees about which you've cautioned me?

Another question: if I were to take the gamble and use malic acid, what proportion would you recommend? Would i use 1 tsp per gallon like you said with the tartaric?

BTW, I was not saying I'd add the malic to the boiing cider, but to a bit of boiling water to dissolve it. Then chill the liquid and add in increments. Is this not a good idea? I just figure it would be easier to dissolve this way, as well as sterilize the liquid and avoid contamination.

We're doing it today.

Thanks so much. Any timely responses would be great, but of course I recognize the lateness in this question so if its too late, it's all my fault.

Cheers!

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Old 11-20-2011, 11:26 PM   #5
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Having racked it that many times I would expect that any dusting on the bottom of the carboy is insignificant, and the fact that you’ve not aged it on the lees per se, I’d think you are likely in the clear on any developed nutrients (with regards to MLF).

The measure using each acid is a bit different but not really significantly enough to change your measures much ...
1 gram of tartaric will raise a liter of must by about 0.1% (e.g. raise a must that has a TA of 0.3%, to 0.4%)
1 gram of malic will raise it by about 0.112%
and 1 gram citric, by about 0.117%
so they are all quite close ... in terms of measure, 1 teaspoon of tartaric would equate to .88 of a teaspoon of malic for raising TA the same amount.
I’d use the increments from my previous post ... particularly in light of the fact that you are doing this by taste anyway and those increments are pretty conservative (add- then taste-add-then taste etc) Now, to be sure, a series of portions ... say 4 or 5 six ounce portions each with different amounts of acid added is actually much better for comparing side-by-side ... but the measures for acid can get pretty small when trying to dose a 6 oz portion of must.

As far as dissolving the acid in hot water ... that would be fine. Just keeping in mind that you need to keep the numbers straight as to the representative amounts so that you can scale the acid measurements from your test batch/portion up to the whole batch.

Good luck!

btw: I should mention that MLF is not necessarily a bad thing. Ideally, you want to introduce the stain of the malolactic bacteria (by purchasing it etc) that is the best for your purposes ( pH comes into play here as well) ... but allowing “wild” malolactic acid bacteria to do the work for you does not necessarily mean that you will have off-flavors in your cider ... though that is a possibility. The name of the game in MLF is, both the right bacteria and controlling the process. As you’ve probably read, MLF has benefits for both wine and cider. However the process does convert malic acid to about 67% as much lactic ... in other words, you will lose approximately 33% of your acidity from the process ... and having added the extra acid to brighten the cider to begin with, it’s kinda two steps forward, one step back. But for your purposes, should be all good anyway.

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Old 11-21-2011, 12:01 AM   #6
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Default Thanks again

Thanks for your help. Everything seems to have gone well. The incremental additions of malic acid dissolved in solution allowed us to hit a flavour acidity pretty quickly (with what amounted to about a little under 2 tsp malic acid for 4 Gallons.

We've discussed doing this again with maybe the addition of raspberries (my friend's plan, not mine, to be honest, I don't find cider all that compelling, but I do have the carboys and other gear). We will spend some time on these and other posts to make sure we get it right next time.

Cheers!!

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