Hi, I am new to homebrewtalk.com and attempting my first go at hard cider.
I combined frozen concentrate, organic juice, and store-shelf juice for about 1.5 gallons of final product. I know that unpasteurized, unpreserved cider is best (and I plan to get 5 gallons from a local orchard in November), but I could not find any cider at the store without potassium sorbate in it. One of the juice products I used had malic acid in it. I've read that ascorbic is OK, but is anyone aware if malic acid has any negative effect?
So here's what I used:
2 quarts Juicy Juice 100% apple juice
2 quarts organic apple juice
4 cans 100% apple juice concentrate
Red-Star Montrachet yeast
I warmed the juice just to bring it to about room temp and put in in my primary fermenter (plastic bucket) with the pectin enzyme anad yeast nutrient. S.G. was 1.070, which is high (I think). Heated about 1 cup of the juice and sprinkled the yeast over, let it sit for a few minutes, stirred and added to the fermenter. I did not use campden tablets IN the juice (although I did sanitize with it) because it was all pasteurized juice. Added the airlock and placed in my coat closet.
24 hours later, the air lock is bubbling away and the closet smells lightly yeasty.
So here are my questions:
1) Do I just leave this concoction alone for 3-4 weeks (as some previous posts have indicated) and then rack into my secondary?
2) Once in the secondary, how many months would you recommend? And is racking once a month good/necessary/sufficient?
3) I want to bottle carb the cider and I would like it to be sweet (NOT dry!!!). When should I bottle (at what S.G.)? Also, if I bottle when it has not completely fermented out, do I still add a sugar (I want to use apple juice concentrate) when I bottle? This is the part of the process about which I am most confused (vs. adding potassium sorbate and back sweetening, etc.). I have read about people adding 2 cans per 5 gallons of cider before bottling. If you have done this, did you let it completely ferment out (S.G. 1.000 or less) first?
4) How long in the bottle? I've read many people state that the longer it goes, the better is tastes. Your experience?
I know this has been long and painfully similar to other noobs' posts. Thanks for any advice!