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Old 07-25-2012, 10:58 PM   #1
Jobo
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Default New, so of course I have questions :)

Just found this nice and informative site today, and I just read something that proves I am still pretty ignorant on proper cider brewing: letting the cider ferment to completion can change the overall taste/quality of the brew, possible making it taste worse than if you racked the stuff a quick 2 weeks after fermentation begins... who'd thunk it? Will my cider still be good? Here's the story:

Middle of March I got my hands on 1.5 gallons of fresh juiced cider for my first ever batch of hard cider (so that I could figure out how to improve things come apple season this fall). Per some very basic instructions I found, I blended it with 2 pounds of white sugar, pitched in some wine yeast and split the batch up between to 1 gallon carboys.

Also following the directions, I let the suckers ferment until fermenting stopped, and even let it sit and clear quite a bit before racking it of into 2 1.5 liter wine bottles. Total time fermenting was probably 4-5 weeks (even took about a week to get the bubbles going).

Sampling the clearest dregs that didn't fit in the wine bottles, I found the cider to be very strong, very tart, hardly sweet, and actually tasting quite a bit like wine. I'm not sure I'm keen on the taste because my favorite store-bought cider is Strongbow and Magners, which seem a bit sweeter (and definitely weaker in alch. content) than what I have created.

SO... I'm wondering if my first directions were wrong? Did I ruin the cider by letting fermentation complete before racking off into smaller bottles? What exactly does racking quickly (2-3 weeks after the bubbles start) do to help the brew?

If the stuff I have doesn't wind up tasting that great, but its still nice strong alcohol, can I salvage it by cutting it with regular juice and/or sweeteners?

Thanks in advance for the answers. As I have the time, I will be wading through your forums quite a bit to educate myself better, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to throw this up for discussion early.

Jobo

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Old 07-26-2012, 12:11 AM   #2
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I haven't done that many batches either (3-4). But generally, the more sugar you add, the stronger the alcohol content and the worse it is likely to taste straight after fermentation.

If its high alcohol, people suggest leaving it to age. The flavour should improve with time and the higher the alcohol, the longer that will probably take.

Maybe for your next batch try making it without the additional sugar. All the sugar does is boost the alcohol content, apples have plenty of sugar to begin with.

I made the mistake of shooting for a high alcohol content with my last batch, it was rocket fuel and I don't think I'm doing that again anytime soon

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Old 07-26-2012, 01:26 AM   #3
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Lots of different opinions on the proper time to rack.......The right way is the way that works for you.

I've been starting 30 gallons or so in the fall when fresh pressed becomes available. I have 2-15 gallon malt barrels I primary in. I deliver propane so I am very busy in the fall and winter. I will normally rack for the first time in late Feb or March when I have the time. I rack into 5 gal carboys and add whatever flavorings I choose. I then let sit and clear until June or so (unless the lees get heavy than I rack earlier.) I then stabilize, backsweeten to taste and bottle or keg.

I too started out using more sugar going for the high abv, I find that in general my ciders improve as my use of sugar decreases. Higher abv defenitely requires longer aging times as stated.

Note .....I live in MI and my basement is nice and cool fall thru spring. I think if you are fermenting in a warmer environment, you will want to rack sooner than 4 or 5 months.

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Old 07-26-2012, 08:50 PM   #4
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Thanks for the great answers.

It's very possible I have a high alcohol content. a tiny sip is making me think "tart wine". I'll have to be content with that I'm not a wine drinker, but I think maybe sweetening this with some frozen-concentrate juice will do wonders for the overall flavor.

I'm really itching to just sweeten the first bottle now and chill it and pray its good! LOL waiting for 2 months for my first batch to reach this stage is killing me.

The other part of me is nagging that i'd better age it all at least another month before prepping it for drinking. And yet another part thinks I should save some for a year before tasting it....

Glad I did this though, even though I started it out-of-season. Now I'm more prepared for the fall and putting together my first REAL batch of brew. Plan on starting with a 5 gallon batch, yet... I'm sure I'll wind up doing even more, cuz 5 gallons really isn't that much when ya think about stretching out over a whole year. o-0

So hey, what's the recommendation for brewing up something similar in flavor to Strongbow or Magners? Any special yeast? How much added sugar to hit 6% ABV? I don't want anything nearly as sweet as Woodchuck, nor as nasty as the Harpoon I once sampled !!

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Old 07-27-2012, 12:52 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jobo View Post

Glad I did this though, even though I started it out-of-season. Now I'm more prepared for the fall and putting together my first REAL batch of brew. Plan on starting with a 5 gallon batch, yet... I'm sure I'll wind up doing even more, cuz 5 gallons really isn't that much when ya think about stretching out over a whole year. o-0
Exactly......I made 35 gal from fresh pressed last year........It won't last until this fall's brew is ready to drink. Remember when you are starting your pipeline you not only have to last until next fall you really need your fall brew to last like 18 months.
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Give a man a beer, he'll drink for the day.Teach a man to brew, he'll be drunk the rest of his life.
I have 8 carboys, 8 cornies, 5-1 gal jugs, 200 wine bottles, 10 cases of beer bottles and a nice assortment of flip tops....My goal is to keep them at least 50% occupied
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Old 07-27-2012, 01:25 AM   #6
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If I'm getting what you're asking after.... racking alone won't save you. The yeasties, while they're running around nomming up all the sugar, float. Look up "cold crashing" and you'll get a lot of results in the forum.. Many yeasts won't run at fridge temps, and will stop so long as you keep them cold enough and then you MAY be able to rack off of them. There's a sticky at the top of this forum for that. Not an issue with a 1g jug, maybe more so with a 5g fermenter unless you've got a fridge you're not using for anything else

To get sweet or off-dry cider you have to -
a) cold crash
b) just drink it while it's going
c) let it eat all the sugars, stabilize rack and backsweeten
d) give it so much sugar that the yeast gets too drunk and poops out.

Since ciders aren't usually high gravity like that (ooh but some are) and most yeasts - even beer yeasts - won't poop out til at least 12% or so, you're gonna see a lot less of D than you would in a beer/wine forum.

Hope that helps.

Oh, or e) you could be a total philistine and just mix your dry cider with sprite. I've been there, works in a pinch.

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