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Old 03-16-2011, 11:23 PM   #1
gregbathurst
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Default Using crabapples in cider

Recipe Type: All Grain
Yeast: any
Batch Size (Gallons): 6
Original Gravity: 1.055
Final Gravity: 1.000
Boiling Time (Minutes): 0.0
Primary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): 7-100days
Secondary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): 30 days
Tasting Notes: full bodied cider

I decided to record some observations on using crabs in cider. This is not based on science or tradition, just my experience making cider using crabs to give extra interest.

Firstly, there is a basic premise in cidermaking that you can make cider from any type of apples. Some may disagree, but you don't get any really nasty flavours in any sort of apple. You may get some odd flavours that some may find objectionable, but no really nasty flavours like foxy or rotten odours. This is assuming the apples are fully ripe and not rotten. It may be difficult to tell with some crabs when they are ripe, because of bitterness but if you test the S.G. they will get good sugar levels like any apple.

The basic taste of crabs is dominated often by bitterness and sourness. The bitterness comes from tannins, and gives your mouth the furry, dry towel feeling. The sourness is from the high acidity many crabs have, and usually gets a lot better as the crabs ripen. If a crab is mouth-puckering sour it needs more ripening time.
There is also a lot of sweetness in many crabs, I find it easy to get SGs around 1.060 when my orchard apples are struggling to get to 1.055. Testing the sweetness with a hydrometer or refractometer is a good way to test ripeness. If the SG has got to 1.060 it is a good time to harvest crabs, though you can often leave them longer because the bitterness tends to discourage some insects. Sometime they get soft and floury as they ripen, this is fine, it won't affect the juice. If your crabs don't get good sugar even at the end of autumn they should still be fine to use to add tannin.

There is a lot of variation between crabapple trees. Some have small crabs like small cherries, some have bigger, brightly colored crabs. I find that the bitterness is worse with small crabs, and less with bigger crabs. This means the bigger crabs can be used in larger volumes, so help a lot to boost sg and acidity. Smaller crabs are more time consuming to pick and you won't get a lot off each tree, but can provide a good dose of tannins even in small quantities.

The usual analysis of crab juice that I use is;

S.G. 1.055-1.065

pH 3.1-3.4

Off a medium sized standard tree with crabs about 1 inch diameter I would get about 100 pounds of apples (or more) giving about 6-7 gallons of juice. You don't get as much juice off a crab as you get from a normal apple (by volume), crabs just have less juice and firmer flesh.
Crabs are smaller but you often get a very good harvest with lots of little fruits in clusters. Being smaller they are easier to shred, they get drawn into the blades of whatever sort of shredder/disposal unit you are using.

You would normally use about 10%-20% crabs depending on how much tannin they have. I have made some 100% crab cider from some mild crabs I have, its a touch bitter but I enjoy it so far. English bittersweet or bittersharp varieties are usually used at least 40% with some Single Variety ciders made.

After pressing taste the juice and test with the hydrometer. The juice will taste very sweet and you won't notice the bitterness so much behind the sugar, but be careful, the sugar ferments out and will leave the bitterness behind. Usually you will have a lot more orchard apples than crabs, so blending your crab juice into your desserts and cookers isn't so difficult. You can blend before or after fermenting, I find it more convenient to blend as I press the juice, but if you wait till after fermentation you will get a better idea of the final flavor. Remember, it's a fact that tannins get smoother as they age, so cider with crabs will taste better with some age.

I would recommend using crabapples to get extra tannins and body in your cider if you don't have access to bittersweet/bittersharp cider cultivars, but you have to be a bit cautious and use commonsense. Whatever happens you will get a cider that is absolutely unique.

Greg

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Old 03-16-2011, 11:37 PM   #2
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Great info

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Old 10-31-2013, 12:41 PM   #3
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I have just begun brewing...a true newbie. I have crabapples in a common area in my neighborhood and nobody else uses them! I've had some strange looks, but I have made a bunch of crabapple jelly and butter. Trees are still loaded...so I'm making cider! Or cyser, I guess. I just started a second batch in the primary fermentation by key. The first batch is in a carboy. I'm doing 2 gallon batches, but realized that I under- measured the water for the first batch. Being a Liberal Arts major, I am mathematically challenged. I only have 1 gallon, plus 32 oz. Whoops. The SG was 1.015 going from primary to secondary. Eventually, I want to prime with Munton's CarTabs and bottle in fliptops (which, I have heard could be an issue, but I already bought them). Anyway...cider looks and smells good. Flavor is bright and dry. Should I add water or just go with it as is? What are your feelings on backsweetening and what do you prefer to use? I appreciate any comments and suggestions!

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Old 12-16-2013, 09:01 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mattmmille
I have just begun brewing...a true newbie. I have crabapples in a common area in my neighborhood and nobody else uses them! I've had some strange looks, but I have made a bunch of crabapple jelly and butter. Trees are still loaded...so I'm making cider! Or cyser, I guess. I just started a second batch in the primary fermentation by key. The first batch is in a carboy. I'm doing 2 gallon batches, but realized that I under- measured the water for the first batch. Being a Liberal Arts major, I am mathematically challenged. I only have 1 gallon, plus 32 oz. Whoops. The SG was 1.015 going from primary to secondary. Eventually, I want to prime with Munton's CarTabs and bottle in fliptops (which, I have heard could be an issue, but I already bought them). Anyway...cider looks and smells good. Flavor is bright and dry. Should I add water or just go with it as is? What are your feelings on backsweetening and what do you prefer to use? I appreciate any comments and suggestions!
Did anyone get back to you?
I know it's been a while but PM me if u have questions
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Old 12-16-2013, 09:19 PM   #5
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I've had some follow up questions that got answered. I have four batches bottled. One is a blend with Fuji juice and it's quite good, but barely carbed...may get better with time. One, I back sweetened, primed, carbed and pasteurized. It would have been better, but too much lees in the bottles gave it a yeasty flavor. The other two, including batch #1, were fermented out dry, primed ...and are much like Champagne. Trying for a half sweet, carbed cider. It's a learning experience, but fun. All are drinkable. Tips are always welcome!

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Old 12-17-2013, 03:22 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mattmmille
I've had some follow up questions that got answered. I gave four batches bottled. One is a blend with Fuji juice and it quite good, but barely carbed...may get better with time. One, I back sweetened, primed, carbed and pasteurized. It would have been better, but too much less in the bottles gave it a yeasty flavor. The other two, including batch #1, were fermented out dry, primed ...and are much like Champagne. Trying for a half sweet, carbed cider. It's a learning experience, but fun. All are drinkable. Tips are always welcome!
Sounds like you just need a little more trial and error and you will be good...
It sounds like you're having fun though and it's nice to hear, brewing is the only thing that is keeping me sane right now with a lot of trials and tribulations in my life...
So keep it up and keep having fun AND FOR GODS SAKE DON'T DOWNLOAD THE NEW APP IF YOU'RE ON A SMART PHONE!
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Old 02-19-2014, 06:12 PM   #7
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I was thinking of using crab apples too. thanks for info it a great help.

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Old 02-20-2014, 04:00 AM   #8
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When crab apples are back in season, I'll definitely be using them again...but I do like the Safale S-04 yeast better than Champagne. I might experiment with some others too and blend with other apple juices.

Just for kicks, I tried using Murray's Apple Cider to do a "Super Easy Cider"...comes in a 1/2 gallon glass carboy, made from whole apples in Roanoke, VA, has no added sweeteners or preservatives and is pasteurized. Sanitized airlock and around the cap, opened and pitched Safale S-04 yeast (I think I used about 3 grams...have to check my notes). Popped on the airlock and let it go. I did check the OG at 1.051 and SG at 1.014, and then racked for a couple days to clarify and bottled. (I didn't check the FG, but I assume it didn't change...or not much. No priming. No additional sugars. After a month in the bottle, lightly carbed (a nice surprise!), but not close to having to be pasteurized. Fairly sweet and lots of apple flavor...not very fermented tasting; the alcohol is dangerously masked!

I can easily see doing a crab apple blend with this; however, I would have to add campden or heat pasteurize the crab apple juice. I would rather not introduce the sulfite from the campden...maybe pectin enzyme will help with minimal heat pasteurizing. (I have a couple of family members who are sensitive to sulfites.)

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Old 03-12-2014, 03:56 PM   #9
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I haven't read through all the posts but I will add that I use about 30-50% crab apples in my cider to drink fresh because it adds a little more tartness to it. Usually I use the orchard apple's for hard cider since they are sweeter and I just assume they have more fermentable sugars. Great post, thanks for sharing.

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Old 03-17-2014, 10:40 PM   #10
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Default Using crabapples in cider


Last year I harvested 3 5 gal buckets worth of crab apples and pressed them, getting about 1.25 gal of juice. The press utilized body weight so I'm sure there was at least another 1/2 gal of juice left.

Came out at around 8% abv. I left it flat, and back sweetened with some apple concentrate. It actually came out really nice, had a fair amount of tartness.

I agree with the previous post, utilizing a 50% mixture would require less juice and would probably be very close to a consistently drinkable cider.

My 90ish % mix was a bit too much. My Concord grape wine on the other hand...way too tart. Need a lot bigger grapes.


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