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Old 02-04-2013, 07:16 PM   #1
Hedo-Rick
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Default "Leaving cider on it's lees too long"

I've read in a number of cider books not to "leave the cider on it's lees too long"...most say not longer than a month.

But I've always been curious if a month means a month after fermentation has ceased, or if it means a month total with fermentation time?

Because my cider has been going two weeks now and is down to 1.003, still burping (every few minutes) through the airlock and I can see a small amount of Co2 bubbles coming off the bottom. But I have a 1 3/4" ring of lees on the bottom of my carboy and don't want to take the chance of getting some kind of off flavor.

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Old 02-04-2013, 07:20 PM   #2
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Subbed to this. I'd also like to know the answer. I only initially ferment my cider for 5 days then bottle, leave out for one day, then cold crash it in the fridge until I drink it up. I really don't have the fridge space for 5 gallons so for now I'm making it 1 gallon at a time, until I learn a better way.

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Old 02-04-2013, 07:48 PM   #3
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I left my last batch in the primary for 2 months, then bottled. Did the same last year. I didn't notice any off flavors, but I don't have too much cider experience.

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Old 02-04-2013, 10:58 PM   #4
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Overblown fears IMO, I've tasted ciders that sat on the lees for 6+ months with no off flavors. That being said, you can rack you cider to secondary now and let the last of the fermentation build up a protective CO2 blanket.

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Old 02-04-2013, 11:25 PM   #5
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I rack to secondary on about day 5-7 and then only after another 60 days or so, or when there are lees more than about 1/4" thick. I don't like the flavor of ciders or wines that have sat on the lees for very long, although sometimes it's worse than others.

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Old 02-05-2013, 04:52 AM   #6
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I have been casual about letting cider sit on the lees. Perhaps I haven't run out of beginner's luck yet, but I have not had the yeast impart any noticeable off-flavors. This year I really pushed my luck and let 45 gallons (my largest batch ever) sit on the lees for almost a month after the airlock stopped bubbling. To my relief (and amazement) it turned out to be my best batch.

I will probably change my tune on this after I experience a batch that's gone funky from dead yeast, but, for the time being, I try to open the fermenter as little as possible, because that just seems like I'm putting my cider at risk of catching an infection.

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Old 02-05-2013, 02:03 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper View Post
I rack to secondary on about day 5-7 and then only after another 60 days or so, or when there are lees more than about 1/4" thick. I don't like the flavor of ciders or wines that have sat on the lees for very long, although sometimes it's worse than others.
I read somewhere that letting cider/apple wine sit on lees too long would encourage malolactic fermentation. I don't know how true this is, because I let my sparkling cider sit on its lees for up to a year at a time. Perhaps it's because we use beer yeast?

Yet... Revvy is adamant about letting Apfelwein ferment/age/bottle condition for well over a year. Maybe its because Montrachet and EC1118 are not very tolerant of MLF?

I don't know, its above my paygrade. But, whatever the case is, there's definitely some solid experience behind aging cider on lees without off-flavors.
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Old 02-06-2013, 12:54 PM   #8
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IF youre using bread yeast ,i'd get it off day 1!!!!

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Old 02-07-2013, 08:57 AM   #9
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Checked the gravity today and was at 1.002 so I racked to secondary.

Added a teaspoon of pectic enzyme before fermentation and it's getting crazy clear!

The Wyeast 3463 I used definitely leaves a more tart finish than the Cotes de Banc. But yet, the 3463 finished .002 higher than the Cotes de Blanc.

Gonna let it hand out in secondary for a month, back sweeten to 1.010, bottle condition and then pasteurize.

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Old 02-08-2013, 07:27 PM   #10
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Leaving cider on the lees too long encourages autolysis which is the enzymatic breakdown of the dead yeast.

That can be good or bad, though usually for most home wine and cidermaking purposes is avoided just to prevent introducing potential problems.

On the downside, with autolysis from “sitting on the lees” you can end up with wine faults like Hydrogen Sulfide and sulfur and mercaptan off odors. Also the process puts nitrogen nutrients back into the wine which can increase the likelihood of unintended MLF (malolactic fermentation) if there has been exposure to that bacteria.

On the upside: with wine and with some styles of cider, sitting on the lees is promoted to provide certain esters, a bit of nuttiness in the flavor and a rounder, fuller mouthfeel and when a controlled MLF will be used.
The enzymes from autolysis can also help to reduce long term oxidization which can be good for wine you will put down and hold ... and those enzymes also can bind up some of the molecular changes that cause astringency in wine as tannins age (more of a wine thing than a cider thing).

There's a bunch or variables you have to control when you let cider (or wine) sit on the lees ... the type of yeast, the temp, the pH etc.
In general ... if you are not going to manage the use of “sitting on the lees”, it is best avoided.

Yoopers advice above is a good rule of thumb.

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