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Backsweetening tips

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Stretch_s

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Hi All,

Anyone have any tips for backsweetening cider? The last couple batches I've made, I've used splenda to sweeten and then dark maple syrup to prime for a natural carbonation level of about 2-3 volumes. I like a pretty sparkley cider! I'm not a huge fan of the splenda taste but I don't know how to do a non-fermentable sweetening that will still allow me to do a natural carbonation. I don't have a forced carbonation setup so if I add apple juice or other concentrates I would have to halt the ferment with potassium sorbate and then not get my carbonation, correct?

Appreciate any tips!
Stretch
 

Yooper

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Yep, you’ve found the dilemma with the sweetening and bottle carbing issue. One possible solution is to pasteurize the bottled cider once fermentation is where you want it (see the sticky thread in this forum for the details), but it could be troublesome and/or dangerous if done incorrectly.
 

Raptor99

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I've been using Swerve, which is mostly Erythritol. It is another non-fermentable sugar that does not leave an after taste. I've also tried Stevia, but it leaves an after taste that some people find objectionable.
 
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Stretch_s

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Awesome, thanks so much for the tips. I will give Xylitol and Swerve both a try. Thx again!
 

Rick Stephens

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I like the results from Xylitol, but the cost was hitting higher than I wanted. So I went and read through all the posts and threads on this site (a couple week long study!) and started pasteurizing. Just so you can consider it, here's the method I use that has done over 25 gallons this year.

My favorite recipe is to let 5 gallons of cider finish fermenting at around 1.000 SG on either Nottie or S04 yeast. I then rack into a bottling bucket and add 4 cans of blueberry/pomegranate frozen apple juice concentrate, GENTLY stir in so as not to add oxygen back. Then I bottle in pint belgians and one 12 ounce plastic coke bottle with normal headspace.

After a couple days I start going by and giving the plastic bottle a squeeze once or twice a day to see how the bottle carbing is going. Once the plastic bottle firms up hard, I will sanitize a cap and open one of the pints to see how it sounds, and if I think it sounds right, I pour a little to taste and see how it bubbles. I then immediately cap and return that bottle to the batch. I repeat until it's right where I want it.

Once I hit the spot I am aiming for with carbonation, I heat up two canning pots, one to 140, one to 175-180ƒ. I use big canners, so I can do around 8 pints at a time. I want them to be entirely submerged when 8 bottles are in the bath. I do ten minutes in the 140ƒ, then move them to the 175ƒ for 10 minutes. Since I use a big burner propane camp chef stove it only take a couple minutes to warm the 140ƒ back, and after pulling the bottles off the 175ƒ it again only takes a few minutes to get back to temp and transfer the next batch over from the 140 bath. I do this as a step method to limit temperature shock which might break a bottle.

I have done this exact procedure now with several one gallon batches and five 5 gallon batches in the last 4 months with nary a problem. I used to use an open bottle to test how warm the contents got in the bath, but stopped doing that and just use an infrared gun to shoot the bottle as they come out to make sure I hit 150ƒ internally to be certain of yeast kill.

The end product is semi sweet, tastes and has the aromatics of blueberry pomegranate and is 2.5-3 atmos carbonated. What's not to like?
 

brew_darrymore

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My method is to mix xylitol plus priming sugar in a bottling bucket. You'll end up with sweet carbonated cider in about 3 weeks.
 

Chalkyt

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As outlined by Rick Stephens, I also use heat pasteurisation to stop fermentation at the carbonation level that I want after back sweetening with juice, AJC, sugar etc.

I measure SG before bottling, add sugar or whatever if needed for taste then 0.005 for carbonation. I like my finished cider around 1.006+. According to Andrew Lea, medium dry cider is about 1.010 and medium sweet is about 1.015, so it is all a matter of individual taste. The "squeeze the plastic bottle" method works quite well for assessing carbonation as when it is firm you will have about 2.5 volumes of CO2 (hence allowing the 0.005 extra, since 0.001 fermentation results in about 0.5 volumes of CO2). Instead of the squeeze bottle If you want to get a bit more technical, in my case I use a Grolsch "test" bottle with a pressure gauge fitted so that I know when the pressure is 2.5 volumes and the bottles are ready for pasteurisation (use it for a taste test while pasteurising... yum!).

Having said all that, my pasteurisation experiments have come up with a simple method. The idea is that in order to stop fermentation, the cider needs to be exposed to 50 pasteurisation units (heat x time... read about this elsewhere on the Forum) although there is some evidence that 30 PUs are enough. Also, if the temperature is kept low enough, so is the bottle pressure, thus reducing the chance of bottle bombs (but still take PPE precautions like goggles and gloves).

So, my "magic" ratio is to have about 7:1 volume of heated water to volume of sealed bottles of cider. In my case 15 litres of heated water in a bucket to 2 litres of bottles being pasteurised (I get fifteen 12 fl oz or 330ml bottles from a 5 litre carboy, so I pasteurise three batches of five bottles, with each batch occupying about 2 litres of heated water space as each bottle occupies around 400ml).

With the bucket water heated to 80C (176F) and the heating source turned off, and the bottles at room temperature (around 20C) put in the bucket, equilibrium temperature of 65-70C is reached in 7-10 minutes (i.e. the point where the hot water slowly cools down and the bottles slowly heat up to where everything is at the same temperature). The bottles are then removed and allowed to cool down. This generates more than enough PUs to kill the yeast and stop any further carbonation. There is a lot of leeway given that pasteurisation occurs at temperatures above 60C so time and temperature isn't super critical. I haven't found that "overpasteurising" by leaving the bottles in the hot water for too long at these low temperatures has any effect on taste. Even at 70C the bottle pressure will only reach around 100 psi which is well below the industry pressure standard for beer bottles.

This method pretty much follows the "Pappers" approach at the top of the Forum. It probably sounds complicated but it really isn't... heat the water, pop the bottles in, take them out!!!!
 

bmd2k1

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I hate the aftertaste of artificial sweeteners. I use Xylitol, which has none. Tastes like sugar and is not fermentable.
How much do you tend to add per gal?

Cheers!
 

Rick Stephens

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How much do you tend to add per gal?

Cheers!
Best part with Xylitol is that it is used 1:1 equivalent to sugar. I would recommend that you take out a measured amount of your cider, like a pint, and add a measured amounts of xylitol until you like the taste. Then do the math and add the amount your taste buds like to the rest of the batch.
 

Epond83

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I believe lactose is fermentable so it would not be suitable for back sweetening on a brew with some amount of active yeast in it.
 

Epond83

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Hmm my googling was too fast, yes fermentable by something; but importantly not by brewers yeast.
Thanks for the correction!
 
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Stretch_s

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Just tried my first back sweetening with Swerve. I dissolved 1.2 cups Swerve in about a cup of freshly boiled water, then added it to my bottling bucket with a bit of wine tannin and some robust maple as a primer, then racked 5 gallons of fermented cider at FG 1.000. It tasted GREAT without a nasty aftertaste. The only thing I noticed after bottling is that it seemed to leave a very gritty residue both in the bottling bucket as well as as in the taster glasses that I sampled with.

Has anyone else noticed this when using Swerve? I'm hoping perhaps it just continues to dissolve further as the bottles age and carbonate, but we'll see...

Thanks,
Stretch
 

doublejef

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What do you guys think about the idea that it is possible to add like 20g/l of withe sugar (twice what we should use for carbonation) and bottle it into champenoise with a cork stopper (with the metal retainer). Some people told me that it will ferment until well carbonated and the yeast will die because of the pressure without exploding the bottel that can assume it?
They say it will give a off dry sugar (10g/l will stay unfermented) even if cider was perfectly dry at bottling.
I deserve a try but I don't have tools to put those king of cork on my bottle.
 

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Lactose isn't very sweet, and adds a lot of mouthfeel to your brew. To backsweeten a cider you'd probably have to add quite a bit, which would increase the mouthfeel in the cider which you definitely do not want.

I have backsweetened meads and stuff with xylitol before, and I've also used aspartame and sucralose, but to be honest, sodium saccharin works just fine for me, and I'll be using it again in the future. A teaspoon per 5 gallons of cider is enough to impart sweetness that I enjoy. It's VERY sweet so if you can find it raw (like in cider kits), I'd get some. A tiny bit goes a loooooong way.
 

Toxxyc

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Some people told me that it will ferment until well carbonated and the yeast will die because of the pressure without exploding the bottel that can assume it?
Nope, the yeast will continue eating the sugar until one of the following happens:

1. The sugar is finished.
2. The yeast is actively killed, either with heat or chemicals.
3. The yeast reaches its alcohol tolerance.
4. The yeast is physically removed from the cider, as in with microfiltering.
5. The temperature of the cider is dropped to below the yeast's active temperature.

For the most part the above is all true. Numbers 3 and 5 should be highlighted as unpredictable scenarios, because with number 3 yeast can sometimes look like it falls dormant at it's tolerance and then after a while it picks up again a bit if conditions are favourable. Number 5 is always a problem because the yeast doesn't STOP fermenting, it just slows down REALLY slowly. I've seen bottles overcarbonate even when they were stored at near-freezing for prolonged times. That can also lead to a bottle bomb.
 

doublejef

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And what about pressure? For sure it does kill the yeast at a certain level (or knock it out for good). The question is what level and if some bottle can handle it. Also what happen when you open it.
 

Velnerj

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I think the easiest way to sweeten is to do it at serving. Add a bit of simple syrup to your glass or some apple juice and pour your dry cider over it. Bam! Sweet cider no hassle.
 

TheBluePhantom

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And what about pressure? For sure it does kill the yeast at a certain level (or knock it out for good). The question is what level and if some bottle can handle it. Also what happen when you open it.
I did a soda once in champagne bottles, crown capped with a very old capper. It overcarbed in the fridge, not good for the flavor. Went to dump it a few weeks later... My son opened one with a triangular bottle opener, it sounded like a really big firecracker went off, wrapped the cap around the opener so that he had to pry it off. The pop instantly went to foam and created a 3 foot fountain. About 1/4 of the pop stayed in the bottle. The rest of the batch was not as loud, but every one did a big fountain.

The guy who owned the lhbs that sold me the bottles said that the bottles are strong enough so that the crown caps will usually blow off before the bottle goes.

Basically, you don't want to try this.
 

Rick Stephens

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I did a soda once in champagne bottles, crown capped with a very old capper. It overcarbed in the fridge, not good for the flavor. Went to dump it a few weeks later... My son opened one with a triangular bottle opener, it sounded like a really big firecracker went off, wrapped the cap around the opener so that he had to pry it off. The pop instantly went to foam and created a 3 foot fountain. About 1/4 of the pop stayed in the bottle. The rest of the batch was not as loud, but every one did a big fountain.

The guy who owned the lhbs that sold me the bottles said that the bottles are strong enough so that the crown caps will usually blow off before the bottle goes.

Basically, you don't want to try this.

Great post!
 

doublejef

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I did a soda once in champagne bottles, crown capped with a very old capper. It overcarbed in the fridge, not good for the flavor. Went to dump it a few weeks later... My son opened one with a triangular bottle opener, it sounded like a really big firecracker went off, wrapped the cap around the opener so that he had to pry it off. The pop instantly went to foam and created a 3 foot fountain. About 1/4 of the pop stayed in the bottle. The rest of the batch was not as loud, but every one did a big fountain.

The guy who owned the lhbs that sold me the bottles said that the bottles are strong enough so that the crown caps will usually blow off before the bottle goes.

Basically, you don't want to try this.
It looks like a funny things to try (for a 10 year old kid like me).
that's what I feared, the bottle can hadle it but it's a mess when you open.
In the mean time, I get som feedback from guys who make Champagne. They tell me that pression is a part of the reason why what they add into the bottle after poping the yeast out of the bottle (I don't know if everybodu know the technique Champenoise here). But it's also because there is very few weak yeast left in the bottle at this time.
So maybe it will work with a very clear cider that have stay a long time (6 month or more) in secondary.
I will meet a guy in the next week that use this technique for a small commercial production so I'll can tell you more about this.
 
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