Beginner, looking for suggestions

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Dec 27, 2022
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I have six apple trees, and have been making pressed apple juice every autumn. This year I decided to try to make cider and the results were okay, I guess. I’m wondering what I should do next year.

The batch was made from 80% antonovka, 20% winter apple, which are both tart, sour apples. 1040 on the Oecshle scale. I used Safcider TF-6, and for carbonation I added 0.5dl huvitus apple juice (1050) when bottling, which is a mealy, sweet apple with no tartness at all. Frankly disgustingly sweet as juice. All juices were pasteurized, and stored for weeks in airtight, sanitized containers prior to fermentation.

The fermentation took two weeks at 16 C, in my basement. The filled bottles were left to sit in the basement for two months.

The result was 120 liters of bone-dry, acidic and somewhat thin-tasting cider with light carbonation, with 6.5% alcohol by weight. Exactly the average of what I feared and hoped for it to taste like. Goes nice paired with something sweet to eat though.

Any suggestions on what I could try next year?
Are you planning to bottle condition (carbonate)? If so you should read the thread here about stovetop pasteurizing.
Sweet and still (flat) is easy.
Tart and bubbly is easy.
Sweet and bubbly is not easy.
Your numbers all seem somewhat normal. I am not familiar with the Antonovka apple but google suggests that it is "highly acidic". If this is the case some residual sugar might help. Do you know what the pH or Total acidity is?

Some thoughts...

The 0.5 dl priming with SG 1.050 juice would represent about 5.5 grams or a teaspoon of sugar per litre. This is about half the amount sometimes suggested for cider and may be why you have light carbonation (which I prefer). FYI, I prime for carbonation by adding sugar or juice to increase the final gravity on the basis that two gravity points should ferment into one volume of CO2. I like to aim for about 2 vols of CO2 so an increase of 5 points gets me somewhere close to that.

I have recently fermented two identical batches, using AS-2 in one and TF-6 in the other. Although Fermentis indicate that TF-6 can stop at around 1.010, I gather from their technical description that this happens in the presence of a high ABV. My TF-6 batch had an ABV of 6.5% and finished almost dry at 1.001. Having said that, both the AS-2 and TF-6 when fermented "dry" finished with a touch of sweetness such that no further sweetening was needed.

The acidic and thin taste suggests to me that some residual sweetness might overcome the acidic taste and improve the flavour. Perhaps try adding some sugar to see what difference it makes. I will sometimes make a sweeter cider by priming to 1.010 or above, fermenting down by 5 gravity points (or 2 volumes of CO2) to leave around 10g/L of sugar, then hot water-bath pasteurise. Of course, you can tailor it to whatever sweetness you want.

As suggested by Maylar, have a look at Pappers post above. This works by putting cool bottles in a high temperature water-bath and letting the temperature stabilise (i.e the bottles heat up and the water cools down to an equilibrium of hopefully around 65C or 70C) which pasteurises and stops further fermentation.

If you go down this path, it is worth monitoring the bottle temperature since the CO2 released from the cider (and hence bottle pressure) will increase with temperature potentially leading to bottle bombs (google Andrew Lea's carbonation table). I use a slightly different approach by using a constant temperature bath (65C). By keeping to this maximum temperature and carbonation to two volumes, the bottle pressure doesn't get above around 6 bar or 90 psi. There is more information about this in an attachment to my post of 1 Feb 2021.

I guess another option to consider is adding hops, fruit or juice to the cider secondary to give you a different taste.

This has been from my experience over the past five years or so. Hope some of it helps.
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Sounds like bottling time to me. Back sweeten to taste with with Splenda in the bottling bucket, usually 3/4 cup corn sugar per 5 gallons to carbonate. If yours is partially carbonated, roll that back to maybe 3/8 cup. Bottle and let condition. I usually age for 90 days after bottling in a cool place. If you are unsure on the conditioning sugar, place one in a plastic soda bottle to periodically check carbonation pressure with your thumb, or put the bottles in a plastic tub to protect against bottle bombs. Enjoy!