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Old 10-29-2012, 08:53 AM   #1
markowe
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Default OK, so I made cider vinegar... What did I do wrong? (let me guess...)

Damn', my 5L batch, painstakingly juiced with an electric juicer, pitched with S04 ale yeast is now officially vinegar. In fact, thinking back, it has had a somewhat sour smell (detected by sniffing at the airlock) from fairly early on, guess it was doomed from the start.

Problem is, I only had a 10L demijohn, so there was a ton of headspace - everyone emphasises that oxygen is a no-no, but I am thinking there must have been a problem with the airlock too, maybe the bung wasn't quite airtight.

Is that really so critical? I guess everyone is going to say it is...!

The odd (or not so odd) thing is that I did a little litre batch with the same juice and same process, but with no yeast added, to see what the wild yeast would do, and it's produced a great-tasting cider, and no vinegar..! Only difference was less headspace and I guess probably a better-fitting airlock...

So is the oxygen likely to be the main culprit?

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Old 10-29-2012, 05:21 PM   #2
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I don't know what caused your vinegar, but I can tell you about my experience. I have a pair of 5gal better bottles with 3 gallons each (lots of headspace, one montrachet and one S-04), and my cider tastes fine. It's been in the carboys 3 weeks today, I tested gravity late last week and drank the samples. I am quite sure the fermentation is complete, and I'll be fine with dry cider. I am not concerned about the headspace in my carboys, and will be bottling when I am happy with the clarity, which based on how it has been going, will be soon.
I have read in this forum, from some experienced cider makers, that too much headspace is bad, but frankly I don't fully understand why. Seems to me, the yeast works and gives off co2, that gas is heavier than air, and will push everything but the co2 out the airlock. I won't try it, I like the insurance provided by the airlock, but that basic principle leads me to think that as long as you don't fool with it, and it's not windy, an open carboy would be fine. Of course, this is my first effort at cider, I've only made beer up to now. Maybe fruit juice has properties that make it react negatively to lots of surface exposure.

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Old 10-29-2012, 07:01 PM   #3
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Any fruit fly altercations while you were processing the juice?

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Old 10-29-2012, 08:43 PM   #4
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its mostly for secondary. after fermentation is mostly finished and you want to age something, there should be no air

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Old 10-29-2012, 09:12 PM   #5
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Yeah, I think I get it now - no, it wasn't fruit flies, at least I didn't see any around. Although I also see the airlock more as being just extra insurance when fermenting - I notice in general British homebrewers seem to use airlocks a fair bit less than you do across the pond - the longer version of the story is that actually primary was done REALLY quickly, and I racked to the 10L demijohn asap, figuring that it couldn't be done already and there would be enough residual action to create a CO2 blanket again. But it seems maybe I was wrong and I just put my precious cider in with 5L of oxygen-acetobacter. Nice one. Couple that with a possibly dodgy airlock on the secondary, and, well, I can make a lot of salad dressing now . Actually, right now it's not incredibly palatable even as vinegar - I hope at least THAT will improve with age

Morals:

- no headspace in secondary or just bottle asap and don't bother with secondary
- fit that airlock like your life depended on it.

Not sure if any chemicals would've helped, but I much prefer not to add K-meta etc. if not REALLY necessary, and my wild batch seems to show that it isn't.

Guess I will be more careful next time...

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Old 10-30-2012, 05:33 AM   #6
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I have done ciders with a whole lot of head-space with no issue, although I haven't bulk aged it in a secondary with a lot of head-space so I can't comment on that.

I would make the airlock fit well and make sure you have the right size for your container. That said I take mine out to take a smell or steal a taste (bad practice I know) with no issues in my 16 batches so far, however I keep them sealed tight and make sure nothing can get in them for the first week or so of fermentation until it gets alcoholic enough to be semi-antiseptic.

I do clean my growlers pretty well before I ferment in them, maybe it was your sanitation?

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Old 10-30-2012, 02:31 PM   #7
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If your end product is still degassing, a lot of head space shouldn't make any difference as long as your bung and airlock are intact and not removed for samples. I always rack off the lees, then secondary till it clears and pectins settle. Then rack again off the pectin but make sure I see some airlock bubbles otherwise leave it on the pectin. It doesn't take much degassing to give it a good cover of CO2 if you catch it right.

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Old 10-30-2012, 02:41 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TAPPAR View Post
I have done ciders with a whole lot of head-space with no issue, although I haven't bulk aged it in a secondary with a lot of head-space so I can't comment on that.

I would make the airlock fit well and make sure you have the right size for your container. That said I take mine out to take a smell or steal a taste (bad practice I know) with no issues in my 16 batches so far, however I keep them sealed tight and make sure nothing can get in them for the first week or so of fermentation until it gets alcoholic enough to be semi-antiseptic.

I do clean my growlers pretty well before I ferment in them, maybe it was your sanitation?
Always a possibility it was sanitation, but if the wild yeast batch survived going through the juicer, which is hard to sanitise at the best of times, then it's strange it would've picked something up off the container.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AndrewTodd View Post
It doesn't take much degassing to give it a good cover of CO2 if you catch it right.
Hmm, I think I missed the boat, that's the problem - it wasn't something I thought about too much. Evidently the primary had completely finished, it was certainly pushing 1.000. Guess I thought there would be a little residual activity, and there wasn't, end of story.

Anyone know how you go about improving a cider vinegar? Might as well try and salvage it for that if nothing else! It doesn't taste great at the moment, bit funky. I don't mind a bit of cider vinegar at all. Just would've preferred cider
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Old 10-30-2012, 02:47 PM   #9
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Cask it and age the vinegar. Use the Vinegar to make good BBQ.

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Old 10-30-2012, 02:57 PM   #10
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I racked my apfelwein off the lees just before spring and its still degassing slowly. Just had a bubble gurgle as I was checking on the cider next to it that I just started. My guess is your air lock or bung isn't good.

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