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Old 05-06-2009, 06:58 PM   #101
methane
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Wow,
This whole thread is awesome guys. Tons of great information here.
My Fiance loves Strongbow Cider, but I don't know what it is particular to that brand that she likes. Maybe it's drier, maybe it's sweeter. Does anyone know? Anyway, I want to try my hand at making some simple cider at home, and before I found this thread, I ordered up some Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast and I'm going to try buying some Pasteurized Cider at the store. I'm, frankly, too excited about the whole thing to wait for the pressing season to start. I've got some yeast nutrient which, like the poster above, I'd read was a good thing to have when doing Cider.

However, I've got a couple of lingering questions after reading the thread. Maybe I missed the answers, or misunderstood some advice.
1) If I want to bottle the cider I make, how can I get it to carbonate if I cold crash it?
2) What specific function does the K-meta serve in the cider process?

I'm imagining my process will be something like this:
Buy Cider, pour some off of the top.
Add yeast and nutrient.
Ferment at ~70 deg for 6-8 days.
Rack, ferment a few more days. ????
Cold crash, for 2 days.
Bottle.
Let bottles sit for about a week at Room Temp.
Refridgerate and drink at me leisure.

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Old 05-07-2009, 12:02 AM   #102
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Cold crashing will only slow down yeast, it won't kill it. You can use P.S. and sulfites to halt fermentation (or nearly halt) fermentation. But if you want a sweet & carbonated bottled cider, you need fermentation to get the carbonation, and if you are actively fermenting and there is sugar left over the yeast will eat it up producing more and more CO2 until your bottles explode.

The common solution is to let your cider ferment all the way out like EdWort does (takes at least 6 weeks) then sweeten with whatever you want and sorbate to prevent further fermentation. Then keg and force carbonate, then bottle from the keg. Without the keg you can get carbonated bottles but they won't be as sweet ... or they'll be likely to explode. This is advice from my local cider sage (who has placed in nationals a few times) so she certainly knows what she's doing.

Personally I think there is hope for sweet carbonated cider in champagne bottles, they should withstand enough pressure I think ... but I don't know anyone who has tried this. I'll be trying at least two of these in two months or so when my first 6gal batch comes out of my primary. My SWMBO likes sweet cider (like Woodchuck or Magners both roughly FG 1.020 lots of sugar left over) and as of yet I don't have a keg ... so I may have to get creative, unless I get a keg in the next couple of weeks.

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Last edited by opzo; 05-07-2009 at 02:25 AM. Reason: re-thinking and clarifying
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Old 05-07-2009, 06:49 AM   #103
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Mpschafe – Cheers! – If you like the Notty and want a little change of pace when those are gone, try the S04 and US05.

Methane – I’d advise trading your champagne yeast for some ale yeast. Champagne yeast ferments fast and dry. Ale yeast is a lot easier to control for final sweetness. The above three are my current favorites, but any will do. If you cold crash, it wont bottle carbonate. You have to drink it still. Or get a keg. I personally prefer it sweet and still over dry and carbonated, but that’s a matter of taste. K-meta is used to kill wild yeast and to prevent oxidation during long term storage. Since you are using pasteurized juice you don’t need it unless you want to age it a long time. I recommend skipping the k-meta, drink it all up in the next few months and get yourself some good fresh juice in the Fall.

Opzo – I mostly agree with you, except that cold crashing will also cause most ale yeasts to flocculate. So if you are careful, you can rack and leave the yeast behind, without the need for any chemicals. I have been doing this for years with no problems. I’ve done hundreds of bottles this way and the only time I ever had one break was with a wild yeast batch that I crashed at 1.020 and tried to save over the summer. So yes, there are some limits, but not difficult ones.

I’d be careful about intentionally letting a sweet cider bottle ferment though. If a champagne bottle blows it will really make a mess because the pressure is a lot higher. I used to help my Dad make wine when I was a kid and when one of those suckers blew it took out half a dozen bottles next to it and covered the whole cellar. I’m not saying it cant be done, but be careful. Once you start kegging, you wont want to go back.

I’m curious if anyone on this board has ever actually tried to cold crash cider with an ale yeast at 1.012 or lower and had a bottle crack? I don’t get it – I’ve been doing it for years with no problems. I realize that it takes a bit of care, but I don’t understand why folks seem to think this is so hard?

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Old 05-07-2009, 01:44 PM   #104
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Well, I was given a keg a while ago, but I haven't gone and gotten the valves and tanks that I need. So maybe this is a good excuse to drop some money on that. But I will try, for now, making some flat sweet cider with what I described. At least I can check the taste.

I'll post my results, but I'm sure they won't be anything as interesting or critical as what is already here. Still, more data points are always better...
I will try the recommended yeast next time. And I'll let you know how the yeast nutrient works out.

Thanks!

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Old 05-07-2009, 04:34 PM   #105
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CvilleKevin - thanks for the input. As far as I understand the risk of bottle bombs increases when you are bottle carbing, if you are using a keg to force carb the presence of CO2 and lack of O2 in the bottle should cease fermentation and keep your risk of bursting to a minimum, regardless of what FG you have ... right? This is what I hope to do, since SWMBO likes it sweet and fizzy.

Do you often fill bottles from keg (via counter pressure filler or something else) or do you just drink for a keg tap?

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Old 05-12-2009, 06:24 PM   #106
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Opzo – I’ve never tried to bottle carb cider. I’ve always used kegs for carbing. Bottle carbing is a lot more work. You either have to let it go all the way dry, and then add just enough sugar to give you the CO2 pressure that you want, or there are some expensive techniques used by European commercial cider makers, such as bottling the cider sweet and yeasty in champagne bottles, let ferment for a couple weeks, use a centrifuge to spin the yeast into the neck, then freeze the neck to keep the CO2 in the bottle, remove the cap, scrape of the yeast and reseal. That makes sense if you are selling bottles at premium prices, but not so much for drinking with friends (unless SWMBO also likes having a basement full of expensive but very cool looking bottling equipment - in which case that would be the Ultimate Setup).

Theoretically, you might be able to do it by using just enough k-meta and/or sorbate to keep the yeast from reproducing, so that they produce just enough CO2 to carb the bottle before they die. Or if someone comes up with a decent tasting yeast that can only tolerate 7 or 8 percent ABV, then you could bottle right before reaching the terminal ABV, knowing that the yeast will die before converting all the remaining sugar. Maybe someone on this board will invent a novel and reliable way to bottle carb sweet cider that works for home brewers.

Until then, using kegs is much easier. Plus, no bottles to clean. The presence of CO2 and lack of O2 wont be enough to cease fermentation though – you need to make sure that you get the yeast out. I usually let the secondary sit at least a couple of weeks at room temperature after cold crashing to make sure that fermentation doesn’t start back up again, before putting it in a keg for carbonating. The only exception is when it tastes really good and I know I am going to drink it all soon. I cant guarantee that this works for any FG, but it should. I usually crash at an FG of 1.012 or less, which is pretty sweet. The highest I’ve gone is 1.020, for wild yeast and Wyeast 3068. And I did have a bottle of wild yeast, which was crashed at 1.020, crack over last summer, so I sorta view 1.020 as the upper limit – although that was probably more because I didn’t get all of the yeast out, rather than because of the high FG.

I do fill bottles from kegs after they have been carbonated – for friends, family, taking to parties, etc. I thought about getting a counter pressure filler, but it looked like too much trouble, extra cleaning, etc. What I do is drop the pressure in the keg to where it pours without foaming, and just use the regular keg tap to fill the bottles. I use swing top bottles. If the keg is cold, it will help to chill the bottles to prevent foaming. I pour into the side of the bottle so it doesn’t foam, but right when the bottle is almost full, I let the cider fall straight down so that it foams up to the top. Then I snap the swing top on. The foam bubbles are all CO2, so when they dissipate, the head space in the bottle will be all CO2. Once I’ve filled as many bottles as I need, I re-pressurize the keg.

This technique keeps the bottles sparkling for at least six months. I cant say if it would last longer, because so far I’ve never saved any longer than that. Last year was the first time I’ve saved cider for any length of time and it was all still bottles from single gallon batches. This year I have saved a bunch of liters from carbonated batches and I’ll try to save some of them until next season to see how they hold up.

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Old 05-14-2009, 10:18 PM   #107
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CvilleKevin ... I now dub thee my "King of Sweet Cider"

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Old 05-18-2009, 05:24 AM   #108
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Hey Opzo – thanks for the moniker, but I’m not sure I can live up to it. The real sweet cider monarchy is in France, Spain, Britain and Germany – where they make The Chronic (cider that is). They would either ridicule me or maybe chop my head off for using Staymans and Ale yeast. In the US of A, cidering seems to be more of a loosely organized anarchy which is cool with me. I think the Appalachian foothills could be the Napa valley of apples though.

BTW - Thanks to everyone who has posted their results in the HBT forums – in this post and hundreds others. I started reading HBT less than two years ago to get some new ideas for recipes and found a ton of useful info. My process has improved by an order of magnitude in the past two seasons, mostly from ideas that I got from this site (such as trying Wyeast 3068, which my girlfriend loves – success!) The search function is especially helpful. I was originally just planning to experiment with recipes for one season and then go back to making keg batches, but I keep reading about stuff that I want to try (using malt instead of organic sugar sounds promising and there are at least a dozen yeasts I still want to check out), so I’ll probably be tinkering for at least another season or two.

I’m planning on doing a couple of tastings at my place in June and if any of you are close to Charlottesville Virginia and want to participate, PM me. I havent set dates yet - probably be on a Wednesday eve in the second half of the month, with Friday or Sunday as possibilities if I cant find a good Wednesday. It will be about 30 people, and the more with brewing experience, the better.

The first tasting is to check out 16 single gallon batches that are all variations of the same recipe, to test the effects of k-meta and k-sorbate at different points in the process, with and without cold crashing. All were done using the same juice which was pressed on Oct 30th, 2008 and is a mix of Staymans and Winesaps, unpasteurized, with an unsweetened sg of 1.050 and pH of 3.7. All of them had 3oz of organic cane sugar and 1.5oz of corn sugar to bump the sg to 1.060 and S04 yeast. I tried to stop them all at 1.006, but I wasn’t able to check them every night so one finished at 1.008 and a few went to 1.004 and 1.002. The 16 batches differ as follows:

1. No k-meta added before or after fermentation - cold crash
2. No k-meta before fermentation, ½ dose afterwards - cold crash
3. No k-meta before fermentation, 1/3 dose afterwards - cold crash
4. No k-meta before fermentation, regular dose afterwards - cold crash
5. 1/3 dose k-meta before fermentation, none afterwards - cold crash
6. 1/3 dose k-meta before fermentation, 1/3 afterwards - cold crash
7. ½ dose k-meta before fermentation, none afterwards - cold crash
8. ½ dose k-meta before fermentation, ½ afterwards - cold crash
9. regular dose k-meta before fermentation, none afterwards – cold crash
10. No k-meta before fermentation, 1/3 dose afterwards – sorbate, no cold crash
11. No k-meta before fermentation, ½ dose afterwards - sorbate, no cold crash
12. No k-meta before fermentation, regular dose afterwards - sorbate, no cold crash
13. 1/3 dose k-meta before fermentation, 1/3 afterwards - sorbate, no cold crash
14. 1/3 dose k-meta before fermentation, 2/3 afterwards - sorbate, no cold crash
15. ½ dose k-meta before fermentation, ½ afterwards - sorbate, no cold crash
16. ½ dose k-meta before fermentation, regular dose afterwards - sorbate, no cold crash


I bottled three liters from each batch and drank the first round at the beginning of the year (see page 7 of this post). I plan to test the next round at the upcoming tasting to see how they have aged, and then drink the last round sometime in the Fall. I’ll post the results, but if you are thinking about using k-meta and/or sorbate and want to check out the results firsthand, let me know.

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Old 06-03-2009, 01:38 AM   #109
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Well, I made the cider the way I described, basically.
I got some nice organic cider and pitched some champagne yeast in it. As predicted, the yeast worked quite fast. That was actually a problem. The cider was VERY carbonated and it made bottling difficult.
So, anyway, after about 3 days of letting the yeast do it's thing, I cold crashed for about 36 hours. Honestly, I was really that impatient. It came out pretty tasty, if I do say so myself. SWMBO likes it too.
I've now got some S-04 and US-05 yeast now, and I'm looking forward to giving those a try. But I've got a couple of questions after this first experience.
I noticed that the cider didn't clear up much at all, and I think this might be because of my choice of yeast. But I'm wondering if using the slower ale yeast might help this clear up a bit. I remember reading in this thread that the color will definitely change over time.
Also, How long do you usually cold-crash for. 36 hours was brief, but given pasteurized cider, and an ale yeast, how long would you expect cold-crashing to take?

Again, thanks for all of the great information. I'm looking forward to learning a lot more.

-Brad

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Old 06-03-2009, 02:47 PM   #110
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Hey Brad - congrats! good to hear that everything is working out.

Pasteurized juice takes much longer to clear. The pasteurization process sets the pectin. Some folks use a clarifier, but I prefer to just drink the cider cloudy if that's the way it comes out. It doesnt affect the taste at all - think of it like a hefe beer.

I've found that adding honey instead of sugar also helps it clear faster. Unpasteurized will clear faster, but not always - it depends on the types of apples.

I cold crash for at least 24 hours. Longer (two or three days) if I can, but often I am trying to stop several carboys at once, and only have room for one at a time in the fridge.

Did you take starting and final SG readings? I would recommend letting the cider sit at room temp for a few days after cold crashing, especially since you crashed after 3 days. My experience that the cold crash will stop just about any yeast if you are doing gallon batches, but I've never used that yeast before. If you've already bottled, I'd keep the bottles chilled until your drink them, just in case.

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