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FSR402 10-01-2009 01:37 PM

I thought I would share some info
My brew club has some amazing brewers in it. One of which has won cider maker of the year at the NHBC 3 or 4 years in a row now.
Anyways one of them posted some info on our club forum about how to make cider and how to back sweeten it.
I found it very interesting and informative so I thought I would cross post it here. Enjoy :mug:

Making Hard Cider:
Cider making, like beer brewing, can be likened to fishing: Sit on a dock with a cane pole, a hook and bobber and some worms, and you can catch fish. However, if you want to catch a Bonefish, Walleye, Muskellunge or a Blue Marlin, you need specialized equipment and procedures.

The goal in making a hard cider, other than making something you personally enjoy, is to make a complex, interesting alcoholic beverage. A lot of flavor profiles are allowed, or accepted in a hard cider that would be a serious flaw in other fermented beverages. Flavor descriptors like "Horse blanket", "Barnyard", "Bacon", or "Smokey" might sound bad, but as long as they don't predominate and are in balance with other flavors like "Sweet", "Floral", "Acid", "Apple" and "Tannins", in some styles of cider they are desired and enjoyable.

The Easy Way:
All you really have to do is leave the cap loose on a jug of (unpreserved) cider, and leave the jug on the counter. When it gets good and tangy, it's at about 3%. I used to do this back in college. I would get two gallons, put one in the fridge, one on the counter. When the one on the counter got good and fizzy, I would mix them together, and store them in the fridge. This makes a very sweet cider, and needs to be consumed rather quickly, as it will keep working in the fridge. This cider does not actually fit any established guidelines as a hard cider, but it's tasty and fun.

Still Easy:
To get slightly more serious about it, replace the cap with an airlock. After it's done fermenting (spontaneously, with the naturally occurring yeasts and bacteria), you can add back about 10% sweet cider (if desired), and store it in the fridge. It will also need to be consumed quickly, as the thin plastic jug is not impermeable to oxygen, and the cider will eventually turn into vinegar.

Getting Harder:
To get a lot more serious, put it in a glass jug or carboy, and use an airlock. That will keep extra oxygen out, and prevent vinegaring.

To be completely out of control, get ten gallons, knock out the wild stuff with campden, add pectic enzyme, acid blend and wine tannins. Pitch the wine yeast of your choice, ferment it out, adjust the final acidity and sweetness after malo-lactic refermentation has occurred in the spring, stabilize it with sulfites, counter pressure bottle it and make fancy labels for the bottles.

Those are the real basics. Below are some specifics.

FSR402 10-01-2009 01:38 PM

continued. :drunk:


The Juice.
You need unpreserved cider. With the E-Coli scare, a lot of mills put preservatives in their cider. This juice will not ferment out. Make sure you find a mill that cold pasteurizes or does not pasteurize at all. Most mills will do a special pressing for cidermakers if you pre-arrange it.
Here in Michigan, at least for the next ten years or so, most cider mills can't tell you what apple varieties are going into their juice. Most orchards are still primarily dessert apples, and they pick and squeeze whatever is ripe at the time. Proper hard cider juice is hard to find, with the proper balance of bitter, tannins, sugar and acid. If you can access crabapples, it's a fun experiment to add about 5% crabapple juice to a cider.

Single variety or "vintage" ciders.
There are some vintage cider apple varieties that will make a well balanced cider all by itself. These apples contain the required balance of sugars acids and tannins and don't need to be blended with other varieties to achieve the proper balance. You won't find any of these apples in the grocery store, and they are hard to find in Michigan in general. Apple varieties like Dabinett, Kingston Black and Brown Snout will make wonderful single variety ciders, but if you tried to eat one "out of hand" I bet you wouldn't like it. Most cider variety apples are not good to eat.

You really should have two fermenters. I recommend glass. After letting the juice ferment out in the primary (the first glass container) it's a good idea to rack (siphon) the cider to a secondary to clear.
That gets it off the spent yeast, and other stuff that falls out of solution like tannins, proteins and other apple pieces-parts.
A racking cane and siphon hose makes the job pretty easy.
After fermentation is complete, you may want to bottle, especially if you have made a five gallon batch. You can use wine bottles and corks, beer bottles and caps or flip top bottles, like Grolsch bottles. I wouldn't use wine bottles and corks unless you are absolutely sure the cider is done fermenting. Wine bottles are not designed to handle pressure. If you bottle it early, you might blow the cork out, or even blow the bottle up!
If you have a kegging system, it really makes things a lot easier. You can rack into the keg even if the cider isn't quite done fermenting. It can finish in the keg, and you can adjust the carbonation, acidity, sweetness, etc. on the fly by opening the keg, and adding whatever you want.
Most any homebrew supply shop will carry most of the items and equipment I have mentioned.

You can add lots of things to a cider to adjust the flavor to your tastes, or to style guidelines. Acid blend, used in wines can be added to taste, along with tannins and pectic enzyme. Acid blend can be added post fermentation, but everything else needs to be added pre fermentation. Pectic enzyme helps break down fruit pectins which can cause haze in the finished cider.
Sugar and/or other fermentables can be added to boost the alcohol content. Purists will say not to add any fermentables for an authentic cider, and there is a limit to how much of what you can add and still call it a cider (if that's important to you). Add too much sugar, and your now making a wine. Add honey, and now your making a cyser (an apple-honey mead). If you're not worried about adhering to style guidelines (http://www.bjcp.org/styles04/) then the sky is the limit!

Campden and sorbates:
I mentioned campden and sorbates previously. Campden tablets (sodium or potassium metabisulfite) are used to temporarily prevent fermentation in ciders and wines. Campden tablets are added 24 hours before you pitch your intended yeast. Campden works by knocking out the bacteria primarily, and I have been told it doesn't have much effect on yeasts. At any rate, it doesn't stop the fermentation, but slows it down for about 24 hours. Then you pitch your yeast strain, and it, being healthier than anything that just got dosed with campden, quickly takes over, crowding out any other yeasts and/or bacteria that may have been present.
When you add potassium sorbate, it works by preventing any further yeasts or bacteria from reproducing, effectively ending any further fermentation.

"Malo Lactic Fermentation"?
This is a natural process that usually takes place after initial fermentation, and when the temps warm up a bit. Bacteria present in the cider converts malic acid to lactic acid, and produces a smoother flavor profile. Not really critical that it happens, or that you know about it, but it's one of the reasons a good cider matures over the course of a year.

How to make a sweet finished cider?
The first process I talked about makes a sweet cider, but it's not a finished cider. It has to be consumed while it's still working, or it will most likely finish dry or go to vinegar. There are three good ways to make a sweet finished cider:
Back Sweetening

You need to taste your cider as it's fermenting, and when it gets to the balance of sweetness you like, you can add potassium sorbate to stop any further fermentation. This works well, and is done with wines all the time. If you're sensitive to sulfur compounds though, you won't like it. I can usually smell the sulfur compounds in preserved ciders and wines.

Back Sweetening:
After your cider has fermented out, you can add fresh juice or sugar to it to adjust the flavor to your liking, and then preserve it. Another way to preserve the cider without using sulfur compounds is to heat pasteurize. I have done this by back sweetening, bottling, and then running the bottles through the dishwasher. The hot water will heat all the bottles up and kill the yeast, preventing further fermentation. This works pretty good, although I have found my dishwasher gets pretty hot, and has burst a few bottles (out of about 200 I've run through the process), has driven carbonation out, and even caused the caps to bulge. But the cider tastes good. I have since determined I don't have to run my dishwasher on "Heat Boost". Holding cider at 160F for 15 seconds will provide adequate sanitation. I ran a beer bottle of water through a standard dishwasher cycle with a thermocouple in it, and it reached 150F. A half- hour at 150F will sanitize as well. I'll try this next time. As of 01/22/07, my cider is still clearing. (9/30/09 update - this works well att he lower temp setting. It even retains most of the carbonation!)

You can use kegging/force carbonating and counter-pressure bottle filling in combination with one of the preservation techniques listed above to get a sweet, sparkling cider. A much less equipment intensive method is to bottle prime. By adding up to 1 cup of sugar/five gallons of cider (cane sugar or corn sugar will work nicely for cider) and bottling in beer bottles will give a carbonated beverage, but probably not very sweet.

I have made bottle conditioned sweet sparkling cider using the following technique: Back sweeten a finished cider with (too much) fresh cider, and bottle in beer bottles. I bottled about 12 bottles in small 6oz bottles (called "nips"), and test a bottle about every two weeks. When the carbonation level got to where I wanted it to be, I then ran the rest of the bottles through the dishwasher to heat sanitize, and lock in that level of carbonation.

This is an old English process, adopted by the French. You add PME, an enzyme that breaks down pectins, and calcium chloride, a salt that causes the broken down pectins to coagulate. If that sounds lovely, you'll really like this: The French call this process "Defecation", although the French pronunciation probably sounds better than ours. Basically, the pectate gel and other precipitates of the process remove most of the yeast nutrients from the cider. Provided you siphon the clear juice away from the precipitates before it starts fermenting, the yeast won't have the nutrients it needs to ferment all the available sugars, and you end up with a sweet finished cider, albeit a bit less alcoholic.

Post note (9/30/09): I just put my latest attempt at a keeved cider in the fridge. I added some PME I had in the fridge (although Jeff claims you don't really need the PME) and added 0.4oz of CaCl2. I found conflicting info on the net - Add the PME and wait until the juice starts to show some seperation, then add the CaCl2, and one sight said to add the CaCl2 first. I split the diff, and added both at pressing time. Another key is to keep the juice cold whil it's keeving. I have mine in the fridge right now, at 37F.

mikejamesnelson 10-21-2009 12:38 AM

that helps alot thanks for the info:tank:

gregbathurst 10-21-2009 01:33 AM

Thats a really good post, sounds like someone who has made lots of good cider.
I like the comment "A lot of flavor profiles are allowed, or accepted in a hard cider that would be a serious flaw in other fermented beverages. " Cider can be a lot more interesting than many people think.

Philosopher_Ted 10-21-2009 01:45 AM

Awesome! This has a lot of information I've wondered about and not had the time to glean out of hundreds of posts! Thanks so much!

RugenBrau 10-21-2009 02:20 AM

When you pastuerize in the dishwasher, how full are your bottles?
Do you run it for the full cycle or a specific time? There is a good thread on pastuerization in Equipment and Sanitation forum

CvilleKevin 10-21-2009 05:10 AM

Interesting post and I agree with most of it, but it falls short in a couple of areas:

1) Juice - perhaps in Michigan the cider mills dont know what kind of apples they are using, but I find that hard to believe. The mills I have dealt with know exactly what kind of apples they are using. They might not want to tell you, because they are using crap apples, but they know. The key to good cider is to start with good juice, and if you get that right, you dont need to add tannin or acid blend. If you have heirloom apple trees that is great, but you can make a good cider with a blend of commercially available apples. Stayman and Cameo make a good base juice in warmer climes. Northern Spys are good in colder climes. Macs and Empires are good to blend for aroma, Jonathans and Winesaps for tartness

If the person you talk to at a cider mill doesnt know what types of apples they are using, politely ask to talk to someone else. Or call another orchard where they know. Almost every cider mill has at least one employee that makes hard cider and they know what apple blends work well in your region. You just need to talk to the right person.

2) preserving - I agree with the author that k-meta/sorbate leaves an unpleasant taste. Thats why I cold crash. Its a little more work, but doesnt stomp on the taste

3) backsweetening - IMHO that is what you do when you have to salvage a batch that you waited too long to crash, or if for some reason the crash didnt hold. Not something that you do on purpose. Unless you are a large commercial cidery trying to save money by using less apple juice.

4) keeving is what the French do so that they can bottle carbonate a sweet cider without creating bottle bombs. The point is to artificially create a stuck fermentation by limiting the nitrogen. Low nitrogen juice is a lot easier to manage. The French use mostly wild yeast but you can get a similar effect by using yeast that use more nitrogen (most ale and wheat yeasts) and rack or cold crash to get them off the dead yeast, which serves as nutrient. In theory, you could bottle carb a stuck ferment as the french do by adding a bit of champagne yeast at the end, as it is more tolerant of low nitrogen, although it might take a few broken bottles to determine just the right amount

Kauai_Kahuna 10-21-2009 11:18 AM

Very nice post, and responses.
I really wish that the original poster got tagged somehow even if it was a board name or nickname. I just like to know where credit should go. (Or blame, but in this case it is all credit).

LightningInABottle 10-21-2009 11:20 AM

You don't have to look too hard to find cider mills in michigan who are proud to list their apples. http://www.yatescidermill.com/ http://www.dextercidermill.com/ are two local mills that will tell you what apples are in their mix. Or go when they are pressing and ask the press operator. At one of the mills I go to you can watch them press behind the counter and can ask them questions. Usually the people working the presses light up when you ask them such a question, they are used to answering the most obvious typical questions over and over and actually appreciate a more specific question.

egoods 10-21-2009 02:36 PM


Originally Posted by LightningInABottle (Post 1623006)
You don't have to look too hard to find cider mills in michigan who are proud to list their apples. http://www.yatescidermill.com/

I can't speak for the Dexter Cider Mill because I haven't been out that way since I was really really young. But this is my first fall in... yeesh 10 or so years that I won't be heading to Yates for some cider (Thanks to the fact that I now live 500 miles away). I grew up around 19 and Dequindre, so I drove past Yates almost daily. In High School a friend of mine worked as a presser there, I can tell you they're good people, and are really proud of the cider they make.

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