First time cider maker...something went wrong?
I started my first batch ever of hard cider almost three weeks ago. The recipe I used was 5 gallons of store bought cider, 3lbs brown sugar, 3lbs honey, and one package of Cote des Blancs yeast. I used a food grade plastic bucket with an airlock and let is ferment in a room at about 66 degrees F.
Today I transferred the cider to the secondary fermenter. I took a sample to measure the alcohol content (neglected to get a measure when I began though) and noticed that it read under 5%. So I got brave and decided to taste it...it had a taste of vinegar to it. I thought I was very carefully about sterilization and securing my airlock, but something must have gone wrong!
Can anyone provide suggestions as to what changes I should make when I make my cider again? I still have my original batch too...is it fixable?
First, ignore the 5%. It's potential alcohol and only useful if you knew where the batch started.
Second, it is nowhere near done. I'd estimate it's 2/3rds fermented at this point.
Third, removing it from the yeast so soon was a mistake. Re-pitch.
Finally, when the gravity has been constant for a week, then it's ready to age. Give it 6-12 months.
2. Try a different yeast. I've got poor results from CdB. Others have had good results, which is likely due to differences in juice mix and how different yeast respond. I've had best results with ale and wheat yeasts, they are easier to manage.
3. Use a better bottle for your primary fermentation. They are easier to handle, you can see what is going on, and you never have to worry about whether your seals are 100% secure. You want to eliminate potential air contact wherever you can. If you have been using the fermentation bucket for a while to make beer in, and are confident that it will keep a tight seal for 3 weeks, then I could see using the bucket to save a little money, but for easy of use and peace of mind, I'd still get the BB.
4. Start with the best juice you can find, preferably unpasteurized from the press, but if you cant find that you still want to start with the best tasting juice you can find. The yeast will work with the apple flavor, but they cant create apple flavor. a lot of table juice is crap for fermenting. buy some half gallons and see what tastes best. Initial sweetness is not as important, you want a lot of apple flavor in the middle of your mouth and a decently tart finish.
However - make sure you dont confuse other strong acids with vinegar. Cider acids can be pretty harsh tasting, esp citric and malic, but they will mellow over time. vinegar gets worse. If it is really got the vinegar bug then maybe you can give it to someone who wants to make vinegar. It usually makes good vinegar, but you dont want it around your brew area.
I was planning on keeping an eye on it for 3 or 4 weeks, so I thank you for the suggestion to keep watching it. The vinegar type taste was not overpowering so I am hopeful you are correct that it will in fact mellow with time.
I will try to avoid that yeast for my future batches. I only used it because it was recommended by our local brewing store and I was unsure what to use this first time.
Thank you both...I will definitely let you know how it turns out.
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