Cider questions/first batch

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jbswickedbrew

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Alright couple questions on cider making for dummies I guess... I am doing a first batch of cider, picking up unpasteurized fresh pressed cider later today. This will be a hard cider looking to take it quite high by using a large amount of sugar with plenty of fermentation time. I was thinking of starting with a base 1.5 lbs per gallon pure cane sugar and adding .5 lbs per racking if necessary to taste over the long ferment of roughly 6 months pre-bottling.

With this concentration of sugar will I have to heat some of the cider to allow the sugar to dissolve or should I just put the cider in my primary and slowly stir in the cane sugar? If heating is required what is a good pre-boil temperature to try and maintain while adding the sugar.

Secondly the research I have done as well as speaking with my local shop owner has told me this should yield a ABV of roughly 18 percent if all goes well and I actually make it the 6 months plus bottle conditioning. Does this seem like a fair figure or is it mostly high hopes and steam on a first batch?

Thirdly (appears the more I think the more questions I get...) Since it is apple season here, and cider time is only so long and it takes good time to get a good batch. Is there any way to keep 5 gallons of unpasteurized cider good in the meantime of finding out if this batch is decent or in need of major tweaking come Feb.

Any comments suggestions answer are greatly appreciated. Anything you personally experienced is even better!

Recipe 5 gallons fresh pressed unpasteurized cider
1.5 - 2 lbs cane sugar per gal.

I am open to other sweetening ideas as well as flavoring but I do think that a straight cider is a good start point.
 

Nateo

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I've only made one batch of hard cider. It was just juice and yeast. It turned out really well in about 6 weeks from start to finish. It was pretty dry and tart, but had a good apple flavor. It was around 6%-ish.

Since this will be your first batch, I'd say do what I did. It was quick and easy. To add that much sugar, I'd make a simple syrup first.

18% alcohol is unrealistic using yeast that will give you a good flavor. There is a thing called "turbo yeast" that will get the ABV up there, but unless you're distilling it to make liquor, it will create so many fusel alcohols and other undesirable characteristics, it will be undrinkable. Most likely, it will only partially ferment, and get infected.

Even if you could ferment it up to 18%, it would be so dry I doubt you'd be able to taste any apple.

If you want to make your cider a little bit stronger, do a search for Edwort's Apfelwein. If you want it even stronger, just add vodka.
 

funkbier

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18% cider? If that's even possible w/o distillation it would take a couple of years to smooth out and might still be more akin to paint thinner than apple cider.

Personally, I would ferment out a normal 5-7% batch and freeze distill it later. It won't take nearly as long to smooth out and will have more of the apple flavor you want.
 

Hummer

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Apple cider fermented above 12% is usually called apple wine, not hard cider. You can ferment to 18% and above by gradual feeding of sugar, but as others have said, it will be harsh and require a year or two of ageing to mellow out. After fermenting dry you can bring out some of the apple flavor by stabilizing with sorbate and sweetening with some leftover juice.

I doubt that 1.5 lbs. of added sugar/gal will get to 18% but it really depends on the ripeness and sugar content of the apples used. I suggest testing the cider with a hydrometer, then adjusting the SG by adding sugar and rechecking the SG/potential alchohl. No need to heat the cider, the sugar will dissolve with a little stirring.

Personally, I'd aim for 12-13% alcohol, but if you decide to go high alcohol it's better to make it a sweet or semi-sweet wine.

I've made a lot of apple cider based wines. Most have been fermented with other fruits like cranberry or peach, pressed red wine grape skins, and wine grape concentrates. Right now I'm drinking an apple wine fermented with one can of Alexander's Vino Blanc white grape concentrate which now tastes remarkably like an unoaked Chardonnay.

With one of the Cranberry Apple wines I made last fall (fermenting cider with whole cranberries), I backsweetened with one can of cherry juice concentrate. This Cran-Apple Cherry wine is seriously good!
 

Edcculus

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Unless you are dead set on a higher ABV beverage, I'd quite honestly skip the sugar. What I love about cider is the simplicity and lower ABV compared to other fruit based fermented beverages. A normal apple will usually yield an OG of around 1.055 ish. Fermented dry, or even semi dry, it turns out being in neighborhood of 5-6%.

I really doubt you will ever reach 18% without some serious work. Yeast tend to poop out around 12-13% unless you really know what you are doing. If I wanted to get that high, I'd think about incrementally feeding the fermenter with about 1lb of sugar ever other day after the SG reaches around 1.020. I'd boil the sugar in enough water to dissolve it, and add maybe a 1/4 tsp of DAP as well. I honestly think that much sugar is just going to totally strip away the apple character. If you are dead set on using it, I'd hesitate going over 2 lbs.


Unless you have freezer space, there is no way to keep unpasteurized cider good without fermenting it.
 
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jbswickedbrew

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Alright thanks for all the responses. I have honestly considered everyone's thoughts on this and came up with a little bit of a compromise to all. I did start this batch with 15 cups of sugar however when tasting the cider before adding yeast and closing everything still tasted like apple. I will probably not continually add sugar to avoid some hassle. But I do plan on letting this ferment out until it slows down and probably one visit to the secondary to help clear things up. I am realizing 18 percent was a long shot and who wants to wait a year or more for it to mellow. What kind of abv do you think I will get based on 15 cups of sugar added to 5 gallons of cider? (I understand it is hard to judge because of the sugar content of the apples but roughly) OG was 1.090 am using Lalvin EC1118 yeast, so how will I stop the ferment?
 

Fletch78

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You can stabilize unpasteurized cider with a combination of campden tabs and P sorbate. It won't be "organic" but it will keep them from fermenting on their own without pasteurizing. Do a search for P sorbate and campden, and read to your heart's content. You'll still have to keep them refrigerated.
 

Fletch78

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You can't stop EC-1118 without doing things to your brew that you don't want to do.
 

pimento

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Did you mix well before you took your OG?
15 cups of sugar alone should get you an OG of around 1.102
Even if the ciders gravity was only 1.044 you should have an OG of close to 1.147 or a potential abv of 18.58% and cider can go a lot higher than 1.044

I don't think you'll have to worry about stabilizing or backsweetening, this will probably end up with some residual sweetness, hopefully not to much.
 
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jbswickedbrew

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UPDATE - Switched to secondary today, in order to keep it moving in fermentation terms I mixed in a meaningless 3 cups of sugar and plan on watching it settle and moving it to yet another secondary container shortly. Taste test says that it still has cider taste but it is rather harsh just like you all mentioned. I am not to concerned we will see what happens after full fermentation cycle as well as a while in the bottles.
 
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jbswickedbrew

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Update - Now in another secondary. Airlock seems to be mostly inactive. Which is surprising because of the yeast. When I tasted it like had been mentioned the cider flavor is lacking but that is easy enough to fix. It is not too sweet which is good. Next step is to add a gallon of cider and see what happens. Should be bottling soon. then we play some more waiting game
 
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