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Feb 16, 2018
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Hey guys, I was thinking of making a low alcohol cider (around 2% give or take) that you could drink all day without losing too much of your senses. (hopefully nothing over the top sweet) I'm sure I could mess around and make something drinkable, but before I start my experiment I figured I'd see if anyone else has a tried and true method they could share, so I'm not going into this blind. I've seen a couple threads from people saying their abv is too low and they want help beefing it up, but nothing on purposely making a low alcohol cider. I'd appreciate any recipes, recommendations, or even speculation from someone more experienced than I am. I'm planning on doing a 5 gallon batch. I don't have any cider mills in my area, and even if I did it's February so I'll probably be using store bought additive free apple juice. Thanks in advance guys.
You will need to figure out what way you are going to stop fermentation. The sugars are all but 100% fermentable, and most apple cider will be around 1.040 and finish around 1.000 (or lower), which puts you are about 5.54% ABV. You can look at techniques on back-sweetening wine to get an idea as to how the process works, or bottle pasteurize if you plan to bottle.
I know the stabilizing chemicals are considered safe but I was planning on dishwasher pasteurizing in swing tops.
Haha maybe I was over thinking it. I hadn't even considered mixing it with a soft cider. My original plan was to just pitch yeast into the apple juice, and go about it like I'm making a soda, only let it ferment for 2 or three days before bottling, allowing to carbonate, and pasteurizing, but I'm also fairly new to this so I'm not sure if this method would work or not. It seems like it would be simpler, and maybe safer to just add juice at serving or after halting fermentation and before bottling.
I'd just make a cider with whatever juice you are using, when its done, add back apple juice until you get the abv you want. If you are trying to carbonate, that's a little tricky, basically keep opening bottles and check the carbonation, when its about where you want it, then pasteurize.
An easier way to achieve the same thing is to bottle the regular ABV cider with priming sugar and when you drink it, "blend in the glass", adding about 50% apple juice or whatever else you might like to mix with it.
So would i need to carbonate to a higher volume if I plan to mix it with a still cider? I have a batch of Edwort's Apfelwein going right now but that's probably going to be for when I intend to lose track of my senses. Once my carboy is freed up from that I'm probably going to do a batch with ale yeast for this project.
Hi Daniel C Tilden - and welcome. Why ale yeast? Apples are fruit and wine yeasts are great for fermenting any kind of fruit. The thing about yeasts is that different strains highlight different flavors and mask different flavors and produce different flavors. So , by all means go for an ale yeast ... but what is it that you are looking for from the yeast?
You ask about making a lower ABV cider and you can but there is a specific and measurable amount of sugar in any batch of apple juice. You use an hydrometer (or a refractometer) to measure it. But that sugar is what is in the batch. Let's say, for the sake of argument that there is about 20 oz of fermentable sugar in every gallon. If your goal is to ferment out only half of that ( an FG of 1.025) or about 3% ABV then 10 oz of sugar are still in the cider and that makes for a sweet cider. If soda sweet drinks are what you like , no problem. But if you prefer a more dry cider you cannot in any simple way get rid of that sugar (diluting the apple juice with water will cut the sugar BUT who can drink apple flavored water?) unless you ferment it dry.. but then the ABV goes up to about 7%.

So, bottom line, you CAN treat the apple juice much like kvass (a low ABV beer made from bread) by fermenting the juice for a few days and then sticking the fermenter or bottles in the fridge to inhibit continuing fermentation but the juice has enough sugar without any additions to make a cider of about 6 or 7% ABV. You can start this and then halt it after a day, 2 days, 3 days , 4 days.. etc etc by rapidly chilling the cider but what you cannot do is remove the sweetness that comes from the residual sugar.
I was going to go with ale yeast for the lower alcohol content, but am wide open to recommendations on yeast strains. after reading what you said, I see the flaws with that, because I don't really care for anything too sweet. Do you think there is a way to make a less low abv cider that isn't watered down? My aunt has a crabapple tree in her yard (the small ridiculously tart ones) maybe if I wait til they're ripe, freeze and mash enough of them and mix them in with my apple juice it would add tartness cut sweetness, and halting fermentation early wouldn't result in something too sweet or watery? I'm a fan of IPAs, I know hopping won't remove sugar but do you think the bitterness could counter the sugar and cut the taste of sweetness? Sorry for asking so many questions in one post.
But no yeast will have any problem with a lower starting gravity or a lower ABV . That's like saying you are going to drive your Prius rather than your Lamboughini the 50 yards because of its fuel efficiency.

Adding hops might cut the sweetness but how will you utilize the alpha acids? Are you going to boil the apple juice? You could but then you will be making jam and not cider... You will cook the apples and then set the pectins. Dry hopping would work BUT then you bring out the aroma of the hops and not their acids... I don't know that you can achieve your goal of both a very low ABV cider that is not sweet.. That's more challenging than making a sweet and sparkling wine..