Cider fermentation - Make yeast Happy or not

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doublejef

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Hi all,

Since a couple of months, I'm reading (and listening) a lot about all the technical aspect in cider and there is a point where two radical point of view seems to coexist about fermentation.

The old school way
Official method in Normandy and basically the way everybody is doing with natural fermentation.
Can be summarize by making everything possible to keep yeast and bacteria to do their job easily.
- Fermenting at low temperature, always under 15°C and most of the time under 12°C.
- Racking a lot declining cells quantity and so tire out remaining ones, ...
- Working with apples that contain few nutrients (low or no nitrogen fertilizer), using Keeving to create "chapeau brun" to remove particles containing nutrients and, of course never add any nutrient.

Why working like this : because the most slow is fermentation, the less flavor are lost by CO2 release and the most cider have time to create complexity. It is also a way to keep residual sweetness*


The new school way
Method used by all cider makers that want a clean and replicable product and those whose, for any reason, choose to work with sectioned yeast strain.

In 3 words: Make Yeast Happy.
Good amount of nutrient, pitching rate an t° always follow the manufacturer's instructions.


Globally both approaches are different because they apply to different yeast/bacteria but maybe it is not as simple.

Everybody seems to agree on the fact that slow fermentation is better, so low temperature is the norm. Nevertheless, a lot of the cider yeast have a fermentation temperature range that goes not under 15°C.

Does it means that, a cider maker must always prefer a cider yeast that can ferment as low as 10°C or he can use a yeast like 71B (15°C-30°C in data sheet) at 12°C expecting to have a slower fermentation ?

In his book "The new Cide Maker", when C. Jolicoeur (definitely an old school guy) is talking about cidre the glace, he explain that he works with 71B with underpitch, no nutrient added and under 15°C to control fermentation more easily and be able to stop it when he want. What do you guys think about it? This is the exact opposite of what producer tell us to do.

Some of you did noticed that he had better result with yeast able to ferment at low temp or at the opposite, had trouble fermenting lower than yeast train can?

Are you those who think that, for cultured yeast, data sheat is the law or those who think that we can fool the rules sometimes?

*How the heck this Normandy cider can sometimes be at FG 1035 when bottling, make a refermentation carbo and stop before explosion?

Ok if you rack your cider like crazy and maintain a low temp, is like infinite crash cold and filtering, at the end, I can admit that there will be nothing but very few and exhausted yeast. But if they are alive enough to make a very sparkling cider how can be sure they will stop just after it is and never eating all this remaining sugar?
 
Everybody seems to agree on the fact that slow fermentation is better, so low temperature is the norm. Nevertheless, a lot of the cider yeast have a fermentation temperature range that goes not under 15°C.
By my understanding of science and modern methods, cold fermentation is better; it doesn't need to be slow. Slowness is generally a side effect of being cold, but some conditions may also lead to a fast fermentation despite it being cold, and that's fine.
Basic physics: the volatility of the apple aromatics decrease at lower the temperature, and therefore less of them are lost via CO2 evolution. If there's any other reason why slow yeast activity would preserve apple flavor (not including residual sweetness), I don't know what it would be.

A lot of wine strains can go lower than 15°C, especially if you pitch at a higher temperature to let them get started before lowering it.

Some strains (like 71B) produce relatively high levels of esters, which can make up for lost apple flavor and many people prefer that. It's a matter of personal taste.

71B with underpitch, no nutrient added and under 15°C to control fermentation more easily and be able to stop it when he want. What do you guys think about it?
I personally haven't had success with trying to reduce the yeast activity by limiting nitrogen and pitch rate because it leads to fermentation-related off flavors. There's nothing stopping you from trying it yourself with a small batch or two.

How the heck this Normandy cider can sometimes be at FG 1035 when bottling, make a refermentation carbo and stop before explosion?
Well, you described it yourself. With keeving and all that, the nitrogen and other nutrients are removed, making it difficult for the yeast to ferment.

I generally prefer dry cider, so that's not really a technique for me. For something sweet I would make ice cider. There's a wide range of methods because there's a wide range of personal and cultural tastes. :)

Hope this helps.
 
I keep my fermentations around 60 degrees F for cider and beer - mostly cause that what the area I have for it stays at.
I seem to get better results those few degrees cooler than if it was at 65. Both with beer and cider.
The only time I'll kick it up higher is with Hefeweisens and saisons - those yeasts tend to put out more of the esters at higher temps.
For ciders I do add in some nutrients early on, and try to do a starter to get things cooking. I've done ciders a bunch of times, with all sorts of different things, and short of throwing Campden or something in, it doesn't stop fermenting until it's done - this can take a long time to complete and clear, but I've got nothing but time for it.
 
I've found that the faster a cider is fermented, the less apple taste and aroma remains.
There are way too many variables when making cider to make this a hard and fast rule.
But my thinking is this: If you are going to add flavors, spices or hops go for the fast method; If you have special apples or a special blend go low and slow.
 
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