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Old 01-10-2009, 09:38 PM   #1
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Default A noob, blindly making cider

Let me start by saying I'm a complete noob. I made beer a dozen years ago, but cider's a new beast. Further, I've been dragged into this via my brother and law. We're knee deep into it now, and of course, now I decide it'd be a good time to look for direction.

Here's what we've done.

We've obtained 2 used bourbon barrels and had a selection of apples pressed by a local farm. We've got about 100 gallons of cider in 2 barrels.

These barrels are sitting in my garage, and have equilibrated to "ambient" conditions. In NJ that means they are near freezing at the moment.

We've added a significant amount of cane sugar to the barrels (Around 40lbs, per barrel)

I've added about 8 cups of raisins to each barrel with cinnamon and nutmeg.

At the recommendation of a local wine maker, I've added a starter of 2 champagne yeast packets to each barrel.

The barrels now sit, cold awaiting nature to take it's course. The bung on the barrel is still open, however we are planning on sealing it with an airlock in the next week.

What can I expect? Will this work? How long will this take to get cider? Do I need to rack this into a secondary container? What can I do to improve what we've done (besides bring this inside! The wife would kill me).

Your advice is appreciated.


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Old 01-10-2009, 09:49 PM   #2
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The only problem I see is the temperature- since fermentation generally happens in warm temperatures (65-85 degrees seems to be the temperature that yeast like best) you won't have any fermentation until summer.

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Old 01-10-2009, 09:51 PM   #3
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for being a noob that's a heck of a way of jumping in feet first. I'm still playing with 1 gallon batches
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Old 01-11-2009, 01:19 AM   #4
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I would think that wood barrels + freezing = bad news. I could very well be wrong, though. If it were me, I'd be looking for artificial means of raising the temp, like heat blankets, space heaters, aquarium heaters, etc.
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Old 01-11-2009, 03:39 AM   #5
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It is going take one hell of a cold spell to freeze a 50 gal barrel of cider, however as Yooper says, It ain't going to ferment. I would get some way to get the cider up to temp and get it fermenting. If you can get it up to 65 degrees you can hopefully get it started. This is a great plan ....just started it a little to late. I remember farmers always having a barrel going in the barn or unheated basement. These were obviously started in the fall and fermentaton would slow up as the temp dropped. That was some of the best cider I've ever tasted. Sweet and beezy(slight carbonation). Come spring time it would start up again
"Your HYDROMETER is the only BEST indicator of fermentation activity. Nothing else is accurate or consistent"...Revvy

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Old 01-11-2009, 05:50 AM   #6
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Wow, that is a ton of sugar. 40lbs of sugar in 50 gallons will raise the sg by something like 30 points. So if you started with an sg of 1.050, you are looking at 1.080 now. For future reference, the place I get my juice from makes barrels of great farmhouse cider. They start in November (Central Virginia) with just the natural yeast and dont add any sugar until the fermentation is well underway, and usually less than 10lbs per barrel over the whole fermentation

Since its January in NJ, you might want to try a lager yeast like Saflager S23 or Brewferm Lager. A lager yeast will do better in cold temps. Siphon off a gallon of juice and pitch a packet of yeast at room temp. In two days, the gallon ought to be fermenting pretty strong. During the warmest part of the day, pour half a gallon in each barrel. That ought to get it started. The the question is how do you stop it. Maybe you wont need to. I dont know if the S23 can ferment out something starting at 1.080, but it can take a batch from 1.065 to bone dry at low temps.
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Old 01-11-2009, 04:11 PM   #7
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Fermentation temperatures for Pasteur champagne yeast is 59-86F according to jack keller's page. Definitely need to raise the temp. Jack also adds 1.25 lbs of sugar to his apple juice wine, so the 40 lbs doesn't seem excessive, though o course there's no way to know without testing the specific gravity.

Oh yeah,and that's a bit of a crazy way to get started.

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