Originally Posted by PolskiFil
So i recently got addicted to drinking cider after my last ski trip to Vermont and decided i wanted to start making my own. I have been reading through the forum and looking at tutorials to get some general knowledge and feel i have a good base to start off of.
I acquired some brewing equipment from an uncle that makes wine. He gave me a 5 gallon tank along with an airlock and some tubing for racking. I am planning on using organic apple juice for my first few batches to get a feel for things and then plan on pressing my own apples.
The process i was gonna do is simply poor the juice into the jug along with the yeast, Let it ferment out till the bubbles have slowed down (like i have read) them to bottle Carb them in some grolsch bottles that i have.
Could you guys give me any pointers or things that i should look out for that beginner's usually experience? Also if i want the cider to be a little more alcoholic do i have to heat the juice with the sugar before i put it in the jug or can i simply mix the sugar in the juice without heat?
Thanks For any help!
First and foremost I would say that you need to avail yourself of a hydrometer. Waiting until the bubbles slow down then bottling in glass is a potential recipe for loads of broken glass - potentially in your face.
You need to wait until gravity is stable - this is measured with the hydrometer. You can kill yeast activity by adding sulphites but if you want more natural as you say then you need to wait until the readings are right. I would then recommend waiting some more for conditioning/maturing at cold temperatures if possible). Maturing cider pre-bottling is more efficient than post (although you will still need to leave the cider to carb up and do a bit of conditioning in the bottles).
Don't worry about the sugar or the ABV first time around. Plain apple juice should give you 5 - 6%. If you don't like how it is, tweak it next time. Sugar will bump up the abv but make it really, really dry and tasteless. Naturally fermented cider will already be super dry so don't add sugar unless you think (from experience) that it needs it. If you want a headbanger, mix it with some brandy.
That brings me to the next thing - straight apple juice will give you a dry cider
1. You stop fermentation early by adding sulphites or crash chilling and kegging (if you have a kegging system) or crash chilling and not priming bottles. I would not recommend the last for anyone new to cider and personally I would not recommend sulphites either as I hate them.
2. You add an unfermentable/less fermentable sugar or artificial sweetener.
I use milk sugar (lactose) at the beginning - boil it up with a small amount of water, just enough to dissolve, cool it and add it in. You can add it in after ferment as well but I'd rather give everything time to integrate.
3. You look at keeving which is a really complicated way of doing things that I don't fully understand. Interesting but way to complex for a first cider.
You can also use a less attenuative yeast - champagne and wine yeasts are often used which will dry everything right out. I haven't used it but I've heard good reports from people using the wyeast sweet mead yeast.
As for pasteurisation - Soft cider is subject to infestation from e.coli and may benefit from pasteurisation. Because your cider is to be hard cider and is acidic and alcoholic when finished and dominated by yeast while it's fermenting, e. coli is much less of a worry. Make sure your juice (soft cider) is fresh and your yeast is active and fresh (I make a starter with mine) and there should be no need to worry about cooking your juice.
I aoplogise if the above seems complex - really all it means is
1. get juice, sweeten with lactose
2. add yeast,
3. ferment and measure properly,
5. bottle (and mature again).