Cider-making 101 for a brewer but first time cider maker?

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ChiknNutz

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I've been making beer for a while now (all-grain BIAB is my preference), have also made a couple batches of wine, but have never made a cider. Would like to venture into this but so far have not found just a basic best-practices HOW-TO for cider. I am just wanting to know how it differs from wine and beer-making. I did search around but didn't find what I was looking for. I'd prefer to not use a kit and go the route of piece-mealing the ingredients.

Some specific questions:
  1. Do you rack to a secondary, or is that "old school" as is the case with beer these days?
  2. Do you boil anything?
  3. Should I make a small batch first, like one-gallon? I typically make 5 or 6 gallon batches of beer and have no problem doing this for cider, but wondering if it's better to start small.
  4. I keg my beer, any reason I cannot also keg the cider?

TIA.
 
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CKuhns

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Take a look at the "sticky" by Yooper. Third one down at the top of the thread. Thats a good place to start and should answer many of your questions.
 

Chalkyt

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Yep, digest Yooper's "sticky", then spend $50 or so on Claude Jolicoeur's book "The New Cider Maker's Handbook".

It will answer all of your questions, and then some, such as...

When and why to rack to secondary
Why boiling will kill everything (including taste)
Batch sizes. I mostly do one gallon batches because I have a multitude of different apples and do several different styles each year, but your batch can be as big as you like (5 gallons is common)
Bottling, storing and drinking. Kegging is very popular if you have the setup.

Have fun!
 

z-bob

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What kind of juice are you planning to use? There's not really a wrong answer, as long as it doesn't have preservatives added, but it does affect the process. Easiest is using filtered and pasteurized apple juice; you don't have to rack that you can bottle straight from the fermenter. If you use cloudy apple juice you might want to rack that to a second fermenter after it clears. If you are pressing your own apples, I think that's the same as starting with cloudy supermarket juice except you'll probably want to add sulfites unless you're going for a wild fermentation.

Apple juice straight from an orchard in gallon jugs usually has sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate preservatives added; check the label very carefully for that. You don't want sorbate or benzoate, it will kill the yeast or prevent it from multiplying.

Don't add a lot of sugar, it ruins the flavor. I usually do add a *little* sugar but not much. I use white wine yeast (but not champagne), and add yeast nutrients but not much. I need to try a batch using champagne yeast without adding nutrients just to see how that works.
 

mashpaddled

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At its core cider is apple wine so cidermaking is a lot like winemaking but with different fruit. You need to press apples for juice up front rather than some of the winemaking techniques of fermenting and then pressing.
 

brewSJ

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Everyone else has said good things, but to answer your questions directly:
  • Do you rack to a secondary, or is that "old school" as is the case with beer these days?
I do rack. I ferment in a plastic bucket, then rack to glass for conditioning. Note that, compared to beer, cider can take a long time for the yeast to clear (3--4 months is typical for me). Yes, finings and cold crashing can speed it up, but I just let it drop naturally. I don't do multiple rounds of racking, though, as some would do for wine.
  • Do you boil anything?
No, I don't. My orchard sells it's juice UV-pasteurized so there's no need. Grocery store sweet cider is pasteurized too. Even if you do choose to heat-pasteurize, bringing to 155 F and then immediately cooling is the USDA recommendation, so there's still no need to boil. Heat can cause the apple pectin to set, clouding the cider, so I would personally choose Campden tablets instead of heat pasteurizing in any case.
  • Should I make a small batch first, like one-gallon? I typically make 5 or 6 gallon batches of beer and have no problem doing this for cider, but wondering if it's better to start small.
That's a personal choice. I do one 5-gallon batch a year because that's what I'll drink in a year. Do what works for you. The time commitment is the same either way.
  • I keg my beer, any reason I cannot also keg the cider?
Nope, no reason not to.

Jonathan
 
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ChiknNutz

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Thanks for the replies. The book should be here today. I asked about boiling as I was initially considering one of the Mangrove Jack's kits, and they have you boil water and add to the fermenter. Other recipes I've found of course don't say anything about boiling so was a bit confused. I also read many poor reviews of the Mangrove Jack's kits due to "chemical" flavors, which I certainly don't want. Extract from instructions below

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z-bob

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Try a one-gallon simple recipe first just to get your feet wet. Then you can scale it up, or use better juice. Eventually if you really get into it you might get an apple grinder and a cider press and make your own juice.

Get 2 half-gallon jugs of filtered apple juice. (Aldi's works well) Pour one and a little over half of the other into a 1 gallon fermenter. (put the leftover juice in the fridge, you will use it in a few days) Add half a teaspoon of yeast nutrients and half a packet of Cote des Blancs wine yeast. Shake it up, and attach an airlock. It should start actively fermenting in a day or so. You didn't put all the juice in at first so there's room for it to foam up without making a huge mess. When the activity dies down, or at least you can see that it's not going to foam, you can add the rest of the juice. Leave it alone for about a month.

It has been awhile since I've made this, so I don't remember how long it takes to clear. But when it is clear, bottle it like beer. I put 1/2 tsp of sugar in each 12oz bottle. This makes a dry sparkling cider that I think tastes a lot like brut champagne but has only half the alcohol.
 

brewSJ

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I looks like the kit says "boil" just to help the sugar dissolve. According to the directions, you're adding the yeast and fruit concentrate after it adding the cold water, so you never actually boil the juice.
 
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