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Old 08-18-2011, 02:30 AM   #1
Oct 2010
Boulder, CO
Posts: 61

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.

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Old 08-18-2011, 03:01 AM   #2
oldmate's Avatar
Jun 2010
Sydney, Australia
Posts: 909
Liked 27 Times on 22 Posts

1a. Yes, you can do that and once fermentation dies down you can transfer to a secondary without too many problems. The fact is that we usually don't do that (except for maybe for the first or second days) because you are just increasing the risk of problems from occurring such as infections, oxidation etc. Long story short, it is possible, buy why risk it?

1b. Whatever your lag time is. Mine is usually about 4 - 8 hours before I start seeing any real signs of fermentation.

2. Headspace is not so much of an issue in primary, but if you intend of leaving it in there to age you will want to top up with either more juice, or something like marbles which pushed the volume up without diluting it. I don't understand your point about thwarting the yeast from consuming sugars though..

3. In a sense, yes, but you are innoculating your must with millions upon millions of yeast cells which would over-ride an infection at this early stage (not to mention a drop in pH and increased dissolved CO2). Yeast love the oxygen and aerating the must is a standard practice.

My primary vessels are usually large plastic carboys that have an airtight seal and an airlock. I have three 5 gal versions of this, I then have three 5 gal glass demijohns for secondarying. I also have two 1 gal glass demijohns which are used for primary/secondary if I want smaller batches or if I want to bulk age a small amount of a bigger brew instead of putting it all into bottles. I also have a 1/2 gal glass demijohn but it hasn't been used yet.. might just get rid of it (I bought a whole lot of apple scrumpy which came in it).

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Old 08-18-2011, 03:31 AM   #3
Apr 2009
Posts: 1,022
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Aeration isn't an issue for cider. There will be plenty enough oxygen in there for the yeast to work. Infection before the ferment starts isn't a big issue either, it's at the end of fermentation that the problems start. This year I had one batch in my primary fermenter, which doesn't have a tight seal, and it was going a bit slow so I left it a few days longer than usual. Unfortunately too much oxygen got in and acetobacter got to work, so now I am experimenting with cider vinegar. Once the production of co2 slows down oxygen can move against the flow, because the oxygen concentration gradient is very steep from outside to inside. Its only safe to have a loose cover while there is vigorous production of co2, so you need to transfer to an airlocked container with no headspace as soon as the fermentation slows. Check with a hydrometer every day, or even twice a day, if it slows or gets to 1.015 its time to rack to secondary. Better to be over-cautious than lose your batch.

With cider, so long as you have a healthy ferment and no headspace, you aren't likely to get problems. Don't get too obsessed with cleaning and infections, oxygen is your real enemy.

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Old 08-18-2011, 06:53 AM   #4
dinnerstick's Avatar
Nov 2010
utrecht, netherlands
Posts: 2,019
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in an open fermenter you can more easily remove the 'chapeau brun' or brown hat, the scummy muck pad that floats to the surface, which in a glass carboy can be a real pain especially when trying to rack from underneath it.

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