As always, I'm thinking about a few experiments for this fall's harvest. This year, they all hinge on primary, where I have what I think is an important question.
This question refers to a freshly pressed cider with a yeast inoculation occurring shortly after pressing, say within 1 hour of the first few drops. Nothing will have been added to the cider and primary occurs in a clean room that is basically sealed off from all other parts of the house.
1a. Could one safely get through primary using a bucket with just a cheesecloth placed over the top? By safe I mean avoid bacterial infection. I have heard folks say this is desirable, as it gives to yeast plenty of oxygen but I've never tried it.
1b. On average, how long would it be before a safe "shield" of CO2 is being produced by the fermentation, which prevents air from contacting the must?
2. Is reducing airspace and airlocking preferable? I can see how this would prevent infection, but I can also see who this could stress the yeast or even thwart their efforts to consume sugars?.
3. Does aerating the must by stirring (I use a drill attachment) significantly increase the likelihood of infection?
Basically, I want to go through primary in a big stainless steel pot that can't be airlocked, loosely covered so no bugs or dust get in there, but I want to do my best to not ruin 5-6 gallons of freshly pressed cider.
In essence, I would love to hear what kind of vessels you use for primary and how you treat their exposure to air.
Thanks for your help.