Bottling for carbed cider - when to bottle?

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Bluechicken

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I've got 5 gallons of cider going right now (first batch ever). It spent 5 days in primary, and then I racked it to a carboy. We're just approaching the 3 week mark in the carboy, and my instructions say I can prime it and bottle at at that point (I'm going for carbed cider here). I'm planning on leaving it in the bottles a few months before drinking.

My question is: the fermentation seems to still be chugging along - I'm getting a bubble in the airlock (the curvy kind) about every 2 seconds. This leads me to think that the cider might need to ferment a bit further before bottling, based on what I've read on the forum. It's not very clear yet, but seems to be less dense than before. Should I let it go a little longer? When will I know to bottle it? I haven't checked the sg yet - probably will in a few days.

Thanks!
 

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I've got 5 gallons of cider going right now (first batch ever). It spent 5 days in primary, and then I racked it to a carboy. We're just approaching the 3 week mark in the carboy, and my instructions say I can prime it and bottle at at that point (I'm going for carbed cider here). I'm planning on leaving it in the bottles a few months before drinking.

My question is: the fermentation seems to still be chugging along - I'm getting a bubble in the airlock (the curvy kind) about every 2 seconds. This leads me to think that the cider might need to ferment a bit further before bottling, based on what I've read on the forum. It's not very clear yet, but seems to be less dense than before. Should I let it go a little longer? When will I know to bottle it? I haven't checked the sg yet - probably will in a few days.

Thanks!
Definitely don't bottle it yet! You'll have bottle bombs for sure. You can bottle when the SG doesn't move over a period of a few days and it seems to have stopped all activity.
 

RobWalker

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Yeah, always wait until fermentation is over. 2 seconds means it's still fermenting quite a lot!
When it stops fermenting visually and the SG is 1000 or under is the safest time to bottle, as there's no leftover sugar, so you can manually add the amount of sugar you want to carbonate it. My last batch was bottled at around 1002, and has enough sugar for half a pint from the barrell. whoops.
 

jrss13

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If you have a way to cool it down (refigerator or large cooler/bucket with ice/snow)... you could cold crash it. This way you can stop the fermentation before it eats all of the sugar. I just cold crashed a 6 gallon batch 2 weeks ago at 1.014 and it stayed there for a week after until I bottled it. You will want to rack it... then crash it... then rack again... and it should be stable. What yeast did you use?
 
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Bluechicken

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I used Nottingham.

My fridge can't fit the carboy, though I could just put it outside (it's pretty cold in Boston right now). But from what I read, cold crashing is great for still cider, but not if I want to carb it naturally in bottles (as opposed to carbing in in a keg, etc.). I'll probably go the keg route down the road, but as a novice, the bottle carbing intrigues me.

Thanks for all the great advice. I'll rack it in a few days, and let it continue to ferment until things slow down, and I'll also figure out where I'm at with the sg.

This cider forum is pretty impressive. So many different techniques, so many options for recipes, ingredients, yeasts, flavors... Doesn't look like I'll get bored making cider. Can't wait to have the finished product in a glass...
 

amherstburgmac

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No harm in leaving for another week or two. I usually don't bottle till bubs are gone.
 

mcmunro

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I'm not an expert, but my first carbed batch turned out all right. The idea is to get most of the yeast out, having just enough left to make bubbles -- I let it ferment all the way out (SG 1.000), cold-crashed it (put in fridge at about 45 degrees F for a day then racked it), added sugar, bottled and kept the bottles in the fridge. I could have racked it another time to make sure there wasn't too much yeast. If you can't fit the carboy in the fridge, you could leave it outside or put it in a sink of ice water.

Some say you should stop it before it ferments all the way out, so I'm going to try that next time.

One thing that's helpful is including a plastic bottle in your filling -- you can keep this with the others and squeeze it to see if it's carbonated. It may take several weeks before it's fizzy, depending on how much yeast is left in.

For some more discussion on bottle carbing, including pasteurizing (to kill the yeast once you've got the right level of carbonation), have a look at this thread: https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f32/cider-v1-0-a-145045/
 
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Bluechicken

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Just racked.

SG is at 1.01, so I'm close, but it's still somewhat active. I'll just sit tight a little longer.

I have to say, the taste didn't blow me away, I'm assuming it will be better after a few months in the bottles. It wasn't bad, though...
 

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Let it rest, be patient. It will clear up more and you will be sure it is done if you let it sit longer. My first batch I bottle early, it was done, but still cloudy. I ended up with a lot of sediment at the bottom of the bottles.
 

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If you have a way to cool it down (refigerator or large cooler/bucket with ice/snow)... you could cold crash it. This way you can stop the fermentation before it eats all of the sugar. I just cold crashed a 6 gallon batch 2 weeks ago at 1.014 and it stayed there for a week after until I bottled it. You will want to rack it... then crash it... then rack again... and it should be stable. What yeast did you use?
I'm guessing you didn't add any sugar, but let the rest of the natural sugar carbonate it, correct?
 
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Bluechicken

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A day after racking, it's gone down to a bubble about every 40 seconds, and has clarified significantly. It's pretty wild to see how it's changed in one day - the color is much darker.

After tasting it and seeing how dry it is, I think I'm going to have to sweeten this somewhat, which brings up that whole carb/sweet/exploding bottles situation. I think I'm going to try the plastic bottle as a carbonation indicator, and bottle in mostly 22oz, with a few 12oz and 6oz bottles - then pasteurize on the stove.

5 gallons... I think I'll refine my technique from here on with one gallon batches, at least until apple season. It's a challenge to learn something with such a timespan from start to finish, but that also makes it more interesting.
 
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Bluechicken

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All bottled. And I backsweetened, thus beginning the adventure of carbing and pasteurizing, hopefully avoiding explosions.

To those who have used a plastic bottle to test carbonation, if I wait until the bottle is tight/hard, is that the right time to pasteurize, or do I wait a little longer?
 

vespa2t

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Pasturize...not only is bottle carbing cider risky, but stopping the carb process by heating is over the top risky. I tried this with one bottle and it blowed up real good in the pot (170deg). I tried this like a year ago, and recently on Basic Brewing podcast they mentioned this and someone else had similar results.

What works best for me is once my cider is carbed where I like it, I put all of them in the fridge. This stops the carbing process. Just keep them in there and enjoy.

Also... heat + tasty product = less tasty product.
 
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Bluechicken

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9 days after bottling, I just opened a 12 ounce bottle and there was a fair amount of carbonation (and a better flavor than last week). Nice to see some progress. For some reason I thought the carbonation would happen faster, but it seems to be a slow build. My plastic bottle testers still have some give - I imagine another week might do it, and then I'll pasteurize.
 

vespa2t

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just doing my due dillegence in pointing out again that I wouldnt recommend pasturization from a safety standpoint...
 
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Bluechicken

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From what I've read here, I think it's my only option given the amount of sugar I put in to backsweeten. If I don't, I'll get bottle bombs. I realize I can just pop all these in the fridge, but that's not practical for me. In any case, it's my first batch, so I'm considering this part of the learning process, and I'll take your advice into consideration and be as careful as possible. It seems many people have pasteurized successfully, so I'll keep my fingers crossed and see what happens.
 

vespa2t

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I dont want to argue or anything, so Im only going to say this and let it go ;)

pasturization takes a pressurized bottle, and makes it way more pressurized. I have some nice thick Belgian bottles that I know I can pressurize to 4 volumes, but I blowed one up in a pasturization experiment. I think it was 180deg.
 

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I assume you're pasteurizing in a closed container, so when they explode they'll be contained?

Adding high temperatures to a carbonated glass vessel sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. Too bad you can't manage to just stick them in the fridge.
 

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If you want to stop your cider becoming bone dry, try adding lactose in. You can do this at the start or at the end.

If you're kegging you can stop fermentation at whatever point you like the flavour but with bottling you should let it ferment right out. Using sugar to backsweeten is basically just priming (which means the sugar gets eaten and produces carbonation not sweetness). I've never heard of trying to stop that by boiling the bottles but it doesn't sound like something you should do. Maybe someone, somewhere has tried it and I definitely haven't but it just sounds wrong to me. Pasteurising before bottling, OK but after?

Have I missed something?
 

Mcduff

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I dont want to argue or anything, so Im only going to say this and let it go ;)

pasturization takes a pressurized bottle, and makes it way more pressurized. I have some nice thick Belgian bottles that I know I can pressurize to 4 volumes, but I blowed one up in a pasturization experiment. I think it was 180deg.
I agree, When your happy with the carb level just stick them in the fridge.
 
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Bluechicken

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Hey vespta2t, I appreciate your advice, so no worries about cautioning me - you clearly have more experience than I do.

Here's the thread I read the info at:
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f32/cider-v1-0-a-145045

Which also links to this: https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f35/pa...stabilize-bottled-fermented-apple-cider-71180

For me, the goal is semi-sweet carbonated cider in a bottle, and doing 5 gallons at a time, storing all that in the fridge for months isn't practical. Plus, I want to give some away without handing out bombs. So... if I can find a way to do this, I'd be happy. As I said, I'm a total novice, so I'm eager to try different approaches. This forum is full of different techniques, recipes, and overall approaches, so I'm going to try out a few and see what works.

I'll do this in a closed container, safety glasses, and a small batch to test this out. Probably next week. I'll follow up with results.
 

manticle

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Interesting read but why wouldn't you just pasteurise before bottling? Heating every individual glass bottle for 10 minutes just seems crazy to me. Put the whole batch in a pot and bring the temp up above 50 deg C for a bit. Yeast dies, no cooked apple, no bottle bombs, no heat stressed glass or distorted PET. 70+ degC (160F) would be needed to kill bacteria etc but yeast should be killed at lower temps than that.

Personally I'd just stick with using lactose or a less attenuative yeast. Anyway let us know how it works out for you.

WOOPS!!!
I just realised why that's not an option and could slap myself in the face.

I'll leave the above there instead of editing because I like to admit when I make stupid mistakes. To pasteurise before bottling would result in still cider unless more yeast was added which would in turn defeat the whole purpose.
I apologise for my stupidity. Read it and laugh.
 

MarmotMead

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Very timely thread for me. Just racked my first batch of cider for the second time. Went from a 6 to a 5 G carboy. The balance went into (1) me and (2) champagne bottles. I carbed them mildly (not to champagne levels) and stuck 'em in a plastic bin in my basement about 1.5 wks ago. No explosions yet.

Not sure how I want to approach bottling the rest. Maybe a minimal carb with grolsch bottles. The whole notion of a "bottle bomb" makes me nervous, though. Perhaps still cider is the better part of valor here.
 
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Bluechicken

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Pasteurized 15 22oz bottles tonight, no explosions during the process. Time will tell if I did it right...

I had opened a bottle over the weekend - it was nicely carbed, and semi-sweet, just how I like it. I pasteurized in 160 degree water on the stove for 15 minutes - it was fairly simple (once I realized they weren't going to blow).
 

corexcore

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I'm glad to hear some positivity about this process. I fully intend to do it for my next batch, and all those folks saying it was a bad idea... well, maybe so, but its also the only way for we who aren't blessed with kegging apparatuses to get sweeter carbed drinks. Glad to hear it went well, if you get any bombs... let us know!
 

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