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Old 10-12-2012, 06:23 AM   #1
siouxbee
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Default Frustrated with cider...lots of ??? long post sorry

So I have been lurking for about 6 months, and have been brewing hard cider for about a year and a half. My results in the beginning were excellent, but all brews since June have had issues. It really seems like since I have been taking notes, writing things down and using a hydrometer things have gone downhill. I honestly don't know what I am doing wrong. I had a batch of cider in June that tastes like acetone, and most everything else tastes murky. I worked for almost a year before I found the forum and then realized I "discovered" the recipie for Apfelwien without ever seeing a recipe, so I thought I was doing ok. Maybe I am drinking too many craft ciders, but my latest flavors taste murky. I'm drinking a super dry from May and it is awesome-but the second Cherry batch tastes mucky. The first batch I dropped fresh cherry juice in and it was the best batch yet-but I went to bottle pasturize and blew the lid off the pot in the driveway and lost 6 out of 12 bottles. The first time I bottle pasturized I did it in the house and only lost one but didn't continue after the bottle bomb in the kitchen. Next night was the driveway and the pot lid flew 10 ft in the air-so I am a little gun shy about that. I cold crashed the rest of the batch so there was no more waste/danger, and the next batch I let sit for 2 weeks in the carboy. Not too bad, but doesn't smell as good when you open the bottle and is a bit winey. It never did carbonate in the bottle very much, and I am still sitting on it without having to pasturize. It has a little sparkle but isn't super fizzy. The next batch I let sit in the carboy for a week, and it has been in the bottle for about a week. When I racked it, it tasted great fresh-but in the bottle a week later I poured half out and couldn't finish my glass. It was just funky and dissapointing. I am bottling in 22oz irish death bottles (hubbys fav) and I bleach and rinse them-run them through the dishwasher on rinse at least 3 times and then finish with a full dry cycle for sanitation.
I'm frustrated, because it seems like since I have been taking notes and documenting everything that the taste has gone downhill. Am I oversanitizing? Is it the difference between fresh cherry juice and frozen? And when I am doing regular apple dry it has a "nose" that gets your attention. Do I have some weird bug in my carboys? Am I brewing too long in the carboy and bottle pasturizing is not something for me? I'm such a newbie and really frustrated, and I don't know where to go from here. I am using my cider press this weekend, and I just don't want to ruin the cider I'm gonna squeeze because it is ALOT of work! Thanks for your opinions, advice and expertise. I appreciate.

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Old 10-12-2012, 11:45 AM   #2
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Were you fermenting at higher temps over the summer? What kind(s) of yeast are you using?

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Old 10-12-2012, 01:36 PM   #3
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At 1st I was thinking fusels from higher fermentation temps, but I'd describe that as "solvent-like" not "acetone." Acetone has a distinctive odor, fingernail polish remover. This make me think that it's possible that it MIGHT actually be ethyl acetate. Here's what Jack Keller has to say about it:

"Fingernail Polish Remover Smell: The wine is contaminated with ethyl acetate. There are three ways a wine can become thus contaminated. (1) Ethyl alcohol and oxygen can interact to create acetaldehyde, which can react with oxygen to create acetic acid (vinegar), which in turn can react with ethyl alcohol to create ethyl acetate. This pathway can be easily shut down by preventing oxygen exposure with the wine. Since this is impossible, one can at least minimize it to what is absolutely necessary (racking, stirring, testing, bottling). This can be done by topping up adequately, using an inert gas (such as argon -- or even CO2) to sparge the new carboy of oxygen when racking, leaving the bung on the carboy except when absolutely necessary to break the seal, and keeping sulfur dioxide levels sufficiently high that no vacant molecular interstices exist for oxygen to populate. (2) Bacterial contamination of the wine (by acetobacter) can allow the creation of acetic acid, which then combines with ethyl alcohol in the wine to form ethyl acetate. The key to prevention, again, is maintaining an aseptic level of sulfur dioxide to preclude contamination and/or prevent contamination the same way oxygen exposure is prevented. (3) Finally, ethyl acetate contamination can be created by yeast under stress as well as by many bacteria besides acetobacter. In the first instance, maintaining an optimal temperature for the yeast strain employed, using a good mineral water in the must (if water is even used), yeast nutrient for non- grape wines, and a nitrogen source (Yeastex-61 or some other specialized nutrient) for yeast strains requiring ample nitrogen (see Strains of Wine Yeast) will eliminate yeast stress. In the second instance, if you follow the procedures for preventing acetobacter contamination, you will prevent the others as well.

In many cases of ethyl acetate contamination, running a small aquarium pump through an airstone "blows" ethyl acetate away in just a few days. Of course, the wine usually oxidizes during this treatment but can be consumed quickly or converted into a fortified wine in which oxidation is a requirement (such as Sherry or Madeira-type wines). In more severe cases, the ethyl acetate will be blown off only to reveal excessive acetic acid. When this occurs, the wine cannot be saved."

Hope this helps. Regards, GF.

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Old 10-12-2012, 05:47 PM   #4
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You say that the fresh Cherry juice came out fine. Was that a one time creation or have you used fresh and it also turned out bad after keeping notes? What frozen juice were you using and how did you add it? I'm wondering if the frozen had some preservatives in it that might have funked it up. For the cider to funk up after a week is pretty drastic. You seem to have a feeling of what "good" tastes like. Don't forget that cider takes a while to mellow out (months) but the whole week in a bottle points to something wrong. I'd say go to basics. Try a straight out simple dry cider and progress from there. Whatever you do don't toss the "bad" ones out. Let them age and go back to see if they change.

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Old 10-12-2012, 09:22 PM   #5
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use some Potassium metabisulphite , its your "animal instinct" telling you its something wrong with the drink ( thats why you cant finish your cider), some other creatures like bacteria and fungi like your brew too lol ( i had the same feeling before adding sulphites had a restraint). cheers

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Old 10-12-2012, 09:31 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by quakeman View Post
use some Potassium metabisulphite , its your "animal instinct" telling you its something wrong with the drink ( thats why you cant finish your cider), some other creatures like bacteria and fungi like your brew too lol ( i had the same feeling before adding sulphites had a restraint). cheers
Actually you might be right. In one of my experiments I didn't use sulphites on unpasteurized juice and several people that tried it didn't like it because it was a little funky. It didnt have a nail polish bite to it just wild yeasties funk. I'm not sure that having it in the bottle for one week would cause such a change though. Could be the sanitizing of the racking equipment too.
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Old 10-12-2012, 10:37 PM   #7
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I don't think it is the fermenting temps, although that is a valid idea... I relocated my brewing site from one end of the basement to the other because it seemed too cold. The "new" site I have been using about 6 months and I'll have to check records when I get home-but I think the one great batch of cherry cider was done at the new location. The thermometers on the carboys are usually about 65-68 degrees.
I used my cider press to juice bing cherries and did not treat the 1/2 gallon juice with anything and froze the rest in 1/2 gallon portions. The yeast is montrachet, and I have been using tree top from costco. I've been trying to replicate a recipie 3 times consistently and put it in the "keeper" book, and I guess I need to go back to one of the original ones and see how it turns out.
I think my acetone apple is the batch I either made with honey or corn syrup-and looking through my notes today I started brewing with plain old white sugar. Somewhere I read dextrose is better, so I have done a few batches that way and I thought I had a couple good ones but I could be wrong...lol. I think I stopped using table sugar because I thought it was what gives us the pounding headache and I thought I would try the dextrose.
I appreciate all the insight.

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Old 10-13-2012, 01:04 AM   #8
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I've made some sulphury, funky, and just plain gross ciders in my day. However I don't ever toss anything. Play around with acid blends and tannins if you are so inclined. Age, age, age. I've had some of those nasty, funky ciders open up after being forgotten about for a few years. Good luck and remember that we are all just drunk scientists.

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Old 10-13-2012, 03:36 AM   #9
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Reading through the notes I scrawled I think the cider with the acetone aftertaste was fermented with some honey and I used carbonation drops in the bottles to prime with. I'm willing to bet it was wild honey, and I am thinking that the combo of the unknown honey content and the carb drops it created a chemical reaction? Also, I did not have anyone else taste this rotten stuff, so it is possible I am having a stronger reaction to it than others would as I can't ingest artificial sweeteners of any kind. The front of it was very apple tasting and the end is the ick. I'm willing to try aging some of my "murky" cherry ciders but that batch I am pouring out.

So I am going back to square one and will start my basic dry this weekend. Sadly I have 6 empty carboys that need to be fermenting, and one batch I need to transfer into a secondary. That one is the first batch I have ever used yeast nutrient with and I manipulated my "keeper" recipie so crossing my fingers that this twist is good.

The "acetone" batch is the corn syrup sweetened batch. I cracked open a bottle from the batch after the may disaster, and it has a very honey finish. Not my fav, but interesting and it is growing on me...

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Old 10-13-2012, 12:38 PM   #10
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Honey is simply sugar, if you didn't notice something blatantly wrong with it beforehand it most certainly wouldn't "react" in such a way. Prior to bottling, was this still a good batch as far as you know? acetone in more than one bottle? I wonder if perhaps the wild yeast fermented some/most of this batch before the montrachet kicked into gear?

It should be noted that bleach is not intended for cleaning AND sanitizing. Any matter that was in bottle that didn't get rinsed out with water was still probably there. Also, some dishwashers aren't too effective on getting water onto inner surfaces (sorry if I'm preaching to the choir here!). Using a bottle brush, a recommended foaming cleanser and some elbow grease can be quite effective.

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