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Old 02-13-2012, 02:53 PM   #1
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Default Lees in secondary and taste is drab.

Hello everyone, I'm completely new to brewing, and part way through my first batch of Cider. It's four gallons of a mixture of off the shelf pasteurized cider and juiced Fuji and Braeburn apples. The acid level was fairly low with the juice at hand 3.8-4.0. Unfortunately this time of year, even juice without chemicals added is somewhat hard to find. I'm working a "from juice" recipe that I picked up at Midwest Homebrew Supplies.

I've just transferred the batch to secondary after 13 days in primary and have a couple questions to pass by the more experienced cider makers here.

I'm a little concerned that quite a bit of the lees was siphoned with the cider into the secondary fermenter. While siphoning, I attempted to keep the tip about an inch above the bottom, but it seems the lees was disturbed in the process and then decided to take a ride. Is this something to be concerned with, or am I worrying over nothing?

The second question has to do with the flavor. The cider was tasted after I checked the SG (now 1.000 flat) and acidity, and found to be disappointing. It is bland, almost watered down, with a strong tangy finish. Quite frankly a combination I would not think possible. I've been lurking this forum for a few weeks now and everyone seems to agree the flavor improves while in storage. Perhaps it is because I used Cote des Blancs champagne yeast? Is this something to be expected, if not is there any fixing it?

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Old 02-13-2012, 03:08 PM   #2
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The lees in the bottom of your secondary isn't a problem at all. (Unless there's an 1" or more) and even then you should be fine. You could always rack it again in another month if it bothers you though.

As for the flavor, it's going to be a waiting game at this point. I think you'll find that the longer you let it bulk age, the more it will come around. I'd wait it out before deciding on adding anything additional, but an apple juice concentrate might help add some complexity. You should be able to find those in the frozen food section of your local supermarket. Keep in mind concentrate IS fermentable and will also raise your ABV if you let it go back to 1.000.

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Old 02-13-2012, 03:11 PM   #3
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Just rack whenever you have lees over 1/4" thick after about 60 days, so don't worry about the lees.

I'd suggest adding some acid blend (maybe a teaspoon) and even a tiny bit of tannin (like 1/8 teaspoon) to see if that brightens up the flavor.

Eating apples just don't make very good cider.

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Old 02-13-2012, 04:45 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper
Just rack whenever you have lees over 1/4" thick after about 60 days, so don't worry about the lees.

I'd suggest adding some acid blend (maybe a teaspoon) and even a tiny bit of tannin (like 1/8 teaspoon) to see if that brightens up the flavor.

Eating apples just don't make very good cider.
+1 for the acid and tannin additions.

Alternatively you might oak it for a softer feel. You can get oak chips or an oak spiral at your local home brew supply. I did this with a harsh jet fuel cider I had and it came out very good. The oak mixed with the spices very nicely and its one of my favorite batches.
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Old 02-14-2012, 12:48 AM   #5
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Looking over at the carboy I can't help but laugh as the lees is just a hair under an inch. Guess I might rack it again after a while.

I have some tannin to add, but will probably wait until I go pick up some acid to add to the solution.

I gather that during harvest season people go pick up crab apples to add tannin and some body to the cider, but are there any store bought apples that are fit for cider? I'll have some fun later this year when the trees start producing, but until then what do you guys do for a more robust brew?

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Old 02-15-2012, 02:44 PM   #6
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I brew a very strong black tea and add it to the cider for tannins. 6-8 tea bags steeped in 16oz of h20 for a few hours. Usually put the jar of tea next to the yeast starter and dump both in the 2nd day.
Actual "cider apples" are not really fit to eat so you wont find them in any stores that I know of. Start talking to some local farmers. An apple farm near me has grown them for generations and makes a special press of apples just for hard cider in the fall.

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Old 02-15-2012, 07:25 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jkoegel
I brew a very strong black tea and add it to the cider for tannins. 6-8 tea bags steeped in 16oz of h20 for a few hours. Usually put the jar of tea next to the yeast starter and dump both in the 2nd day.
Actual "cider apples" are not really fit to eat so you wont find them in any stores that I know of. Start talking to some local farmers. An apple farm near me has grown them for generations and makes a special press of apples just for hard cider in the fall.
Interesting, I had been planning on going the english breakfast route for a future batch once I got the hang of it. Perhaps I may as well try that this weekend in order to save the batch.

There is some large apple tree club out of Iowa I keep hearing about that has dozens of different and supposedly "long forgotten" apple varieties. Eventually I hope to obtain some grafts from there, but that could be a while off. I might just need to find some more members of that club up by me so that I might barter for some apple bounty.

I'm getting excited again, thanks for the info guys!
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Old 02-19-2012, 02:18 AM   #8
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Unfortunately, the "bland" is usually what happens when you ferment out store apple juice all the way... It's why we usually stop it somewhere between 1.01 and 1.02 - then it has some appley-ness left in it...

As you age it longer (Say like 1-year) - the apple-ness will start to come back...

Expensive Organic apple juice concentrate will help add back some "Interesting" into your cider... My experience is also that it helps it age out to a better flavor.... Check your local health food store...

Thanks

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Old 02-19-2012, 07:49 AM   #9
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Hrm, I hope to have this batch consumed far before a year has passed. I might go check out a whole foods or trader Joes to see what they have.

For my next little batches I managed to get a few apples that are listed to be "good" for cider making: Jonagold, Granny Smith and McIntosh. Through I've seen these listed as cider apples on some sites, I assume they're at the minimum threshold for something drinkable. Anyway, I'll find out.

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Old 02-19-2012, 10:28 AM   #10
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It fermented to 1.000 in 13 days? Not bad. I'm currently doing my first run with Cote des Blancs and some yeast nutrient as well so this fact interests me. It definitely kicked up into high gear VERY quickly. My last batch was with Montrachet and no yeast starter and it took about 5 weeks to ferment. This batch with the Cote des Blancs is 3 gallons of White House "Cider" and 8oz of Belgian Candi Sugar just to see what happens. The previously mentioned batch of Apfelwein has 4 gallons worth I bottled 2 months ago that I back sweetened and added some cider extract to @ bottling. Even at 2 months, it's very harsh on alcohol. Part of it is being extremely carbonated, but even back sweetening and adding the extract didn't really cover up the harshness.

Realistically, if you're using juice or cider with a Champagne Yeast fermented completely dry, you're making wine. Even if you aren't adding extra fermentables like dextrose, it's still wine. There's nothing wrong with that at all but I think a lot of people that try it are expecting their "cider" to taste like alcoholic apple juice.

I second the notion to add some oak. I'm thinking I may do that with this batch that is going right now. French Oak Cubes, and maybe a little bit of mild dry hopping with Progress and Willamette just to see what it's like. The cool thing about this stuff is that it's cheap.

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