Originally Posted by NewBrewB
Subbed because I opened my test bottle of my first cider attempt and it was clear that I need an education.
I got the cider from a local orchard (not pasteurized) and put it in a cleaned and sanitized cheeseball tub. I poked a hole in the lid and inserted a stopper. I pitched a pack of dry safale s05 (I think). A couple weeks later I boiled water, added 1/3 pack of bottling sugar, and bottled like normal. This morning I put the sample bottle in the fridge to try it. It wasnt horrible, but it was light greenish/almost clear in color, mildly bitter, and not carbonated enough.
Should cider be pasturized pre-fermentation?
Does cider need more bottling sugar than beer, in order to reach sufficient carbonation?
Should one add spices/sweetener after fermentation to mellow the bitterness? How can you add sweetness without creating bottlebombs from over-carb?
Let me give you my two cents
1) Cider actually benefits from not being pasteurized pre-fermentation. Something about the pasteurization heating changes the proteins present in the cider (kind of a slight hot break) and actually renders your finished product cloudier than a similarly unpasteurized batch. Search around and you'll find lots of posts about this phenomenon in the forums. One thing that I and others successfully do when working with pasteurized apple juice stock before adding yeast is to remove about 8-12 ozs of juice and replace it with a pound or so of honey and actually make a cyser. This has a twofold effect of first upping the OG and giving the cider an extra kick in the pants and secondly something about the honey allows the pasteurized cider to clear better and reduce the haziness of the final product.
2) The cider does not need any extra sugar for priming. Cider is hard to carbonate properly to begin with and having it finish sweet and not dry is another big challenge. See #3 for that.
3) The bitterness you're tasting is probably the dryness of full attenuation that is a "problem" of non-commercial home ciders. Cider is like wine, it wants to naturally finish dry and unlike beer, there's not a whole lot of other flavors in there to stand up to that dryness. Another possibility is the flavor of the apples that they milled for you (cider apples are traditionally the more tart apple varieties) or potentially some slight vinegarization, if that's even a word. Do a search for help on stopping fermentation and/or backsweetening cider and you'll find a million topics to help you with trying to recreate the sweet kinds of cider out there. You have two options. First, you can halt the fermentation before it dries out and reaches full attenuation by crash cooling and adding Kmeta and/or sorbate and leaving the residual sugars as your source of sweetness. Second, you can let it dry out and then crash cool, add Kmeta and/or sorbate to stop fermentation from reactivating, and add more sugar to taste. The next challenge is carbonation. It's nearly impossible to bottle prime a sweet carbonated cider without producing bottle bombs. Most successful sweet and carbonated ciders are done by either of the two above methods and then using a keg setup to force carbonate.
Now don't be discouraged. Cidering is great and allows less adventurous folk to enjoy some of your alcoholic creations if they're scared of hops and barley homebrew. Plus ciders are super easy to make and can tide you over betwixt brew seshes. Just know that recreating the Crispin's and Magner's of the world takes a little extra measure of work. Good luck!