Am I doing this all wrong?

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timtune

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So far I have bought store cider dumped it in my carboy and added yeast.
When the airlock bubbles less than once a minute (about 18-20 days) I rack it right into bottles. Then start drinking it immediately. No "ageing".
So far I've been happy with the taste and I get about 7.5-8.5% alcohol based on the 3 batches I have done.

For me this is very simple and it appears to work. However the more I read the more complicated folks seem to want to make it. Am I way off? Or is the proof in the pudding?
 

Culinarytracker

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Are you taking any specific gravity measurements to tell the abv?
Are you carbonating in the bottles with the remaining fermentation activity?

If you're just winging it by feel and familiarity then it'll work until there's an unexpected change somewhere in the process.


I thi k most people around here like to at least have the consistency of some OG and FG measurements to know for sure that fermentation is complete.
 

Chalkyt

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Yep that will work, especially if you are drinking your cider right away. If you are keeping your cider for a while and it isn't fully fermented then it will continue consuming sugar, and converting it to alcohol and CO2. This will build up pressure in the bottle to the point where it can result in a bottle bomb or a volcano on opening.

Having said the scary bit, if you are bottling after two to three weeks the SG is likely to be down around 1.010 or below, so the carbonation buildup (on the basis of 1 volume per 2 gravity points) isn't likely to be more than 4 or 5 volumes of CO2 which is getting towards Champagne level and possibly approaching the pressure limit for some bottles. But, to be safe it is worthwhile knowing the bottling SG in order to know the potential pressure that might build up. Typically cider, beer etc. is carbonated to around 2.5 volumes of CO2.

That is why some of us fuss about SG readings before we bottle. Fully fermented cider should have a SG of 1.000 and at that point, no more CO2 will be generated and it will be very dry (i.e. no sweetness). Some of us will bottle above this based on how much carbonation or sweetness we want (or achieve this by adding "priming" sugar to fully fermented cider).

Pasteurising (see Pappers post at the top of the page) lets you stop the fermentation process where you want it. As a guide, medium sweet cider has a SG of around 1.015, medium dry is 1.010 and currently I like to bottle at around 1.010 then pasteurise at 1.006 for a touch of sweetness and slight carbonation. Everyone has different tastes.
 

DuncB

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Forgive me but I assume the link to Pappers was in another thread?
Would like to know how to pasteurise a beer if I ever get some of that LA 01 yeast.
 

Chalkyt

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The Pappers post is a "sticky"at the top of the first page of the forum.

Pasteurising cider is based on applying a lethal level of heat to kill the yeast and so stop fermentation, without "cooking" the cider or producing other undesirable effects. The idea is to apply the lowest possible heat for enough time for this to take place. As a rule of thumb, 65C to 70C for about ten minutes will do the job. There are several ways to achieve this, and the Pappers method is one of them.

For a more in depth explanation, find my post of 1 February and read its attachment "Heat Pasteurising and Carbonation 2021". During 2020 there was a lot of interest in this topic on the forum and lots of time to experiment with cider, since most of us were isolated due to Covid 19 (at least here in Oz). If you do a search on the forum for "pasteurisation" or "carbonation" you will find a wealth of information from others.
 
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timtune

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I take hydrometer readings before and after. Here are my readings.
Batch #1 1.050 1.000
Batch #2 1.052 .995
Batch #3 1.056 1.004

Are these readings such I should not have bottles exploding? I don't know what carbonating in the bottle means. Theres just a small pop when I uncap a bottle.
 

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Usually, wine makers who aim for a sparkling wine ferment their wines (or ciders or meads) brut dry (below 1.000) and then add a known and specific amount of sugar to which they may or may not pitch a tiny amount of yeast. Knowing that there is not a molecule of fermentable sugar remaining before they add a very specific amount of sugar and knowing that there is enough viable yeast to ferment that added sugar completely means that they know precisely the amount of CO2 that will be trapped in the bottle and so they will know precisely the pressure the bottle is under from the gas and the pressure the cap or cork is subjected to. And that means that they choose precisely the right packaging for the carbonation they have deliberately created for this cider, that wine or this other mead. No guesswork, no bottle bombs, no eruptions upon opening, and no flat drinks when the expectation was for the wine to be sparkling. And if they are really experienced wine makers they might riddle the bottles to collect the sediment in the necks of these bottles that will from from this secondary fermentation, and then they will expel the sediment while still keeping the CO2 nicely trapped. Very similar to the process used in the making of champagne.
 

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Those readings look quite normal. Batches 1 and 2 suggest that the cider was (almost) fully fermented, resulting in little if any carbonation in the bottle, maybe just a puff when opened. Batch 3 probably had a little way to go, so bottling at 1.004 suggests that by the time it continued fermenting down to 1.000 in the bottle you would get a fairly normal carbonation or fizz of about 2 volumes of CO2... a bit under soft drink or beer. So no signs of bottle bombs or volcanoes with those numbers.

If you intend to continue making cider it is worth getting either or both "New Cider Makers Handbook" by Claude Jolicoeur or "Craft Cider Making" by Andrew Lea. These book are similar but have different focus and cover all of the above plus lots of other useful stuff.
 
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timtune

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So again anything under 1.010 is safe to bottle w/o fear of exploding? or is that even a bit high?

Is it ok to take off the air lock to do a check? I thought that would let air in and interupt the process
 

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So again anything under 1.010 is safe to bottle w/o fear of exploding? or is that even a bit high?

Is it ok to take off the air lock to do a check? I thought that would let air in and interupt the process
No, 1.010 is not safe. Unless you're going to pasteurize first you should let the ferment complete before bottling. Some yeasts will bring cider below 1.000 so even that could give you pressure in the bottles. Yes, it's safe to take a sample.
 

Chalkyt

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Sorry to throw numbers at you again, but heed Maylar's warning... and probably a bit of explanation is worthwhile.

Bottling at 1.010 and letting the cider fully ferment would typically result in 5 volumes of CO2 in the bottle. At room temperature, say 25C, this would be a pressure in the order of 80psi. On a hot day, say 30C, this would increase to 90psi and on a real stinker of 40C you would be approaching 130psi because more CO2 is driven out of solution and builds up as gas (and hence pressure) in the bottle air space as the temperature rises.

So what does this mean? Bottles are batch tested to pressure standards when they are made, but this testing is by statistical random sampling of the batch such that not every individual bottle is tested. Authorities such as the US Department of Commerce set "standards" like 200psi for non reusable bottles and this figure is fairly typical of other standards. However, there are studies that show the spread of performance of individual bottles in a batch can be as high as 50% because although modern bottle making is a well controlled process, there are always variables that can't be completely controlled and sub standard bottles do get through. This means that although the sampling of bottles in a batch might allow it to pass the "standard", there could be a small number of individual bottles that weren't tested and could only withstand 50% of the test pressure (say 100psi). Although this is quite uncommon, it could be one of the bottles that you happen to use.

This can be seen from time to time in a process like beer bottling where "bottle bombs" go off during production line heat pasteurising.

Stresses build up in glass over time. If a bottle is subjected to excess pressure for a short period of time (such as during heat pasteurisation) then the pressure is returned to "normal" when it cools down, often no harm is done since the released CO2 is absorbed back into solution and the pressure drops. However if the pressure is maintained then stresses may reach a critical level (usually at corners, changes in thickness, nicks, scratches, etc), resulting in BOOM.

So bottling in commonly recycled bottles (such as beer bottles) at 1.010 and then letting the cider fully ferment is taking it very close to worst case danger territory.

Edit: It occurred to me that I should add this edit in order to avoid any confusion. When I said that I will sometimes bottle at 1.010, it is to retain some sweetness because I will then aim to heat pasteurise at 1.006. That is a level where there is still 15g/litre (about 3 tsp per litre) worth of unfermented sugar left in the cider which won't be converted to alcohol and CO2 because heat pasteurising kills the yeast and stops the conversion process. Also there has only been 0.004 worth of CO2 built up in the bottle between 1.010 and 1.006 which equates to 2 volumes of CO2 (about the same as beer etc).

I guess a word of warning is that trying to heat pasteurise at the right point can be a bit tricky. I "cheat" and don't actually measure the 1.006 but monitor the CO2 buildup using a bottle with a pressure gauge fitted. This tells me when 2 volumes of CO2 has been reached (which coincides with about a 0.004 change in SG). This can also be estimated by filling a soda bottle and using the squeeze test... when it is firm it is carbonated to around 2.0-2.5 volumes. I am not really aiming for a particular level of residual sugar, just the sort of sweetness that others like, and this approach works for me. Others will let the cider fully ferment then add the required amount of sugar to achieve the same result.

So, taking your earlier comment about some folks making it complicated, it really isn't. You can get there just using a few "rules of thumb" as long as you understand what is behind them.
 
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timtune

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So would 1.004 or 1.00 be a safe "rule of thumb?
 

Culinarytracker

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So would 1.004 or 1.00 be a safe "rule of thumb?
The safe rule of thumb is to wait until fermentation is complete, and the gravity hasn't changed for a few days. It doesn't matter if that is 1.010 or 0.090. That's when you can add the correct amount of bottling sugar and know that it's going to work out.
 

Maylar

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So would 1.004 or 1.00 be a safe "rule of thumb?
Too many variables to say for sure. It depends on where the yeast will finish and that's unpredictable. In the 10 years I've been making cider I've seen final gravity vary between 0.996 and 1.004. So if your at 1.000 and it finishes at 0.996 you'll have fizzy cider but no bottle bombs. If it's at 1.004 and goes to 0.996, beware!
 

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I've had some ciders made with wine yeast go to .990. Bottle bombs for sure if bottled at 1.004 and not pasteurized!

Here's the easy way to do this- wait until fermentation is done. Check after at least three days to ensure that the SG is unchanged. Then, if you wish to carbonate, add the correct amount of sugar to the cider and bottle.
 
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timtune

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Thanks for the great responses. Can I test by lowering a hyrdrometer into carboy with fishing line? Or do I need to draw off a sample?
 

Chalkyt

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Drawing off a sample reduces the opportunity for any pathogens to cause trouble. However I have simply dipped the hydrometer through the top of the carboy without issues after making sure it was both clean and well sanitised with Starsan and rinsed with boiled water. "You pays your money and takes your chances".

What to use as a rule of thumb or bottling is a can of worms. You need to do your own research into how your yeast behaves. Once again the arithmetic comes into play...

Bottling at 1.004 with a cider that finishes at 1.000, will generate about two volumes of CO2, i.e. 24 psi at room temperature which shouldn't trouble any bottle.

The same situation which finishes at 0.990 will generate seven volumes of CO2, i.e. 119psi at room temperature which certainly is in bottle bomb territory.

Having said that, I mostly use SO4 yeast which I generally find finishes above 1.000, so I am comfortable aiming for bottling at 1.004. Claude Jolicoeur suggests that beer or mineral water bottles are fine for up to 2.5 volumes of CO2, and even Brewers Friend Calculator typically comes up with between one and two teaspoons of sugar per litre for most beers etc. So, all of this points towards a general acceptance that priming for carbonation will involve raising the SG by 1.004 or more.

Clearly the strength of bottles also comes into play. I accept that recycled beer bottles (which many of us use) generally are O.K. up to 100psi, but others have different views. Grolsch bottles are stronger than ordinary beer bottles but have an "accidental" built in safety valve in that their rubber seals can start leaking at around 75psi (I have found this to be the case and imagine that any flip top bottle might be the same).

So the short (or in this case, long) answer is as long as you know how your cider is going to ferment, you can make safe decisions about carbonation without risking bottle bombs.

Cheers!
 
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timtune

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So the safest method is keep checking until my batch SG bottoms out.Then I know nothings happening in the bottles but my batch will be dry no fizz at all.
 

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So the safest method is keep checking until my batch SG bottoms out. Then I know nothings happening in the bottles but my batch will be dry no fizz at all.
After the SG bottoms out, then you can use a priming sugar calculator to figure out the proper amount of sugar to add when you bottle, so that you have the exact carbonation level you want.
 
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timtune

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After the SG bottoms out, then you can use a priming sugar calculator to figure out the proper amount of sugar to add when you bottle, so that you have the exact carbonation level you want.
But nothing wrong with just bottling w/o extra sugar if I'm ok with it dry, correct?

Also can I use rate of bubbling in the airlock as a rough gage to bottoming out? As I said I was bottling when it was about less than once a minute. Would at least two minutes between bubbling mean anything?
 

Maylar

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But nothing wrong with just bottling w/o extra sugar if I'm ok with it dry, correct?
Absolutely.

Also can I use rate of bubbling in the airlock as a rough gage to bottoming out? As I said I was bottling when it was about less than once a minute. Would at least two minutes between bubbling mean anything?
Bubbles mean nothing. The one tool every brewer MUST have is a hydrometer.
 

Chalkyt

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Well, you have kept us all entertained for a few days. Learn to love your hydrometer. There is an old adage "if you can't measure it, it aren't real". Of course this applies to finding out if your fermentation has finished since lack of bubbles can be the result of a stuck or slow fermentation due to low temperature, lack of nutrients, too much alcohol, etc, which can change. While my fermentations seem to go quite quickly (measured in weeks with store room winter temperature around 12C), others (such as Claude Jolicoeur in Canada where winters are very cold) seem to regards months as normal. So slow fermentation won't produce very frequent bubbles.

While we are rattling around fermentation, can anyone with a chemical or food technology background suggest why some yeasts finish below 1.000? My guess is that because alcohol has a SG below 1.000, high alcohol brews are likely to be below 1.000... but I don't really know. Do some yeasts convert sugar into more alcohol and less CO2, etc?
 
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timtune

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I actually have 2 hydrometers, but I like the idea of checking for bubbles to know it's likely a good time to draw some off to check. In other words I'm as lazy as they come and I want to be sure when I test it's time to go
 

Chalkyt

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Yep I have a second finishing hydrometer with a range 0.990 to 1.020. It is really useful when you get down to the business end of fermentation because the graduations are wide apart and easy to read for small SG changes. Worth the money!
 
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timtune

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I've heard of lowering the hydrometer into the carboy with fishing line. Wouldn't that effect the reading?
 

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Not if you could get the fishing line off, but then why not drop it in carefully in the first place.
I can't see how you could account for the weight of the line and it's offset in any accurate manner at all.
Getting it out of the carboy I expect is the challenge after dropping it in.
After all you don't use fishing line as a means of retrieving a worm after it's been for a swim it's for pulling the fish in.
 
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timtune

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I was talking to a woman at a wine making store and that was how she said they do it. Didn't make sense to me either but thought I'd ask.
 

DuncB

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Food grade silicone putty moulded onto the end of two chopsticks with the end of the hydrometer inbetween.

Then you have a custom hydrometer inserter and extractor. Ask the dental surgeon for a couple of blobs of silicone impression material.
 

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