After following this thread for weeks, and studying it like a 14-year old lingers over his first crush, I have finally bottled the first round of this brew. I'm a bit lit from the "samples and breakage" associated with any bottling process . . . so, I guess a solid success in the end! Here's what I did"
BATCH 2 CARAMEL APPLE
2 Gallons - Whole Foods Pasturized Cider
Yeast: M02 - Mangrove Jack's Craft Series Cider Yeast
Follow Oldmate's recipe (see thread)
Juice OG - 1.056
Batch OG = 1.072 (w caramel syrup, follow "Mike's Caramel Apple" thread)
FG = .996
ABV = 9.98%
Ferment Temp: 70-degrees
Ferment Time: 21 Days
Wow! Dry! Very Dry. Was hoping for more caramel flavoring from the original mix, but I think it was over fermented. I should have taken a sample at 2 weeks with the thief. Back sweetened with caramelized honey as per recipe, as well as 3/4 cup dextrose (boiled in 2 cups H20), and 2-12 oz cans of concentrate, AND . . . right, can you believe I"m saying AND! 10 oz Caramel sauce boiled in 1 cup H20 . . . . outside opinions thought 10% alcohol content took away from the flavor. Bottled and cold-crashing for 2 weeks . . . will see if smooths out and picks up some sweetness to balance the kick!
Next Round: Focus on caramel flavoring in the back-rack process, not in primary. Will try again with only 14 days fermentation to balance dry with needed sweetness expected for caramel apple experience. . . . will also rack to secondary for more settling. The yeast, juice combination retained a lot of suspended matter. A tertiary settle might work well if not bottle conditioning.
Thanks everyone for your posts and the great social-learning process! . . . . anyone done anything with Trader Joe's Spiced Cider?