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Home Brew Forums > Wine, Mead, Cider, Sake & Soda > Cider Forum > First Hard Cider Batch - No Sugar
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Old 01-15-2013, 09:43 PM   #1
benfarhner
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Default First Hard Cider Batch - No Sugar

After getting a few batches of homebrew under my belt, last fall my neighbors pressed apples, and I decided it was time to try some hard cider. I decided to go the easy/natural route, and pitched a regular dry yeast (Safale American) straight into 2 gallons of unprocessed unfiltered fresh-pressed juice, no sugar added. It's pretty darn sweet on its own (and delicious!) so I figured it wouldn't be an issue.

I racked it into secondary after a month, and racked it again after another month when I noticed it was still bubbling a bit (!) after relocating the carboy. It's cleared up nicely and smells fantastic.

My question, now, is how long do I have to wait for it taste good? It smells like a delicious hard cider, but it tastes like water and rubbing alcohol. I was expecting some harshness before it has time to mellow, but this just seems like a lack of flavor. Did my omission of sugar cause this? Did something else go wrong? Or do I just need to wait it out?

I'm planning on doing 5 gallons this fall, so I'm hoping to have a better idea of what I'm doing by then

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Old 01-15-2013, 10:34 PM   #2
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Need more info sg reading. Temp. Yeast strain fg

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Old 01-15-2013, 10:59 PM   #3
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What type of apple? Many eating apples will yield bland cider.

You can always add some frozen apple concentrate.

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Old 01-24-2013, 07:18 PM   #4
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Unfortunately, in my excitement to try making cider, I neglected to take a specific gravity reading. I also did not take temperature readings, and basically just left it in the closet to do its thing, although the house has been fairly cool over winter. I've since moved it into the water heater closet which stays a bit warmer, although now that I've racked it twice, that won't have much of an effect. I used Safale US-05 American Ale yeast. I activated and pitched the whole packet, despite only having 2 gallons of juice; could that be an issue? The apples used were "deer" apples from an orchard in Eastern Washington, which supposedly make great cider (and they do in fact make delicious juice).

I guess I was mostly just curious if other people had experienced this sort of thing. Next batch I do, in the fall, I will certainly keep a detailed log of the process so I can hopefully track down the culprit.

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Old 01-24-2013, 07:25 PM   #5
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Actually, my preference for a tasty cider is to not add sugar. Sugar creates more alcohol, so it is "boozier", but it's also drier in the finish and without much apple flavor. So you seemingly did it just as I would have.

It's possible that you just don't have great cider apples, but it's also possible that the temperature got a little high and that's created some of that alcohol flavor.

I'd just age it, and see how it improves with time. Usually, the "apple" flavor comes back with some age.

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Old 01-24-2013, 08:01 PM   #6
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Thanks, Yooper. The temperature would have been too low if anything, but it was actively bubbling for at least a week.

It's coming up on 3 months on the 31st, so I'll give it another taste then. How long is it typically aged before bottling/drinking? Just curious so I don't get impatient

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Old 01-24-2013, 08:07 PM   #7
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45-60 days is a good window without any additional sugars added. But then again, I also make small batches that are ready in 2-3 weeks. (Store bought juice makes a nice quick young cider) Some people add a lot of extra sugar and drink them in 8-12 months. The apples used will also have a determining factor on how long it will need to age.

You'll have to just keep playing with it until you decide what type of end product you like best. Dry, semi, carb'd, still, high ABV, low ABV. You'll always get a myriad of answers on the forum because everyone has their own methods and what they like best in a cider.

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Old 01-24-2013, 08:23 PM   #8
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Deer apples are just picked up drops, usually late season cleanup. The problem as far as cider goes is you may very well just get one variety of most anything. They will make good juice but as cider they can be very lacking in character.

You may want to contact the orchard and see if they get apples pressed for themselves or others. This time of year and for the next couple of months apples will be taken out of storage for use and many are not great for eating apples so local mills are apt to be pressing some good blends soon. I'll be checking on that soon myself. That is the way it works here in my area of NH.

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Old 01-24-2013, 10:42 PM   #9
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You'll get some complexity once the malic acid from primary changes into lactic acid.

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Old 02-07-2013, 04:26 AM   #10
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Thank you for the feedback, everyone!

krackin, that makes sense. This fall I may try some small batches with specific varieties of apples as well to get a feel for what flavors each type of apple gives.

Good news! I sampled the cider again, now that it's been just over 3 months, and it tastes a lot better than last month! Much better apple flavor, much less harsh. I was starting to worry I may not get anything good out of this experiment, but my faith has been restored I think I'll give it another couple months before drinking the rest of it, but I really like where this is going now!

One question, though. In the last week or two, the cider has developed a thin film on the top of it, with a few tiny white bubbles in it. Is this normal? I gave the cider a good swirl and it seemed to dissipate. I didn't notice any odors or off flavors, but I just want to make sure I don't have a bacteria infection or anything going on there that I don't want.

Thanks again for everyone's help!

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