Cider's Just turning out too Dry...

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Aug 1, 2009
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Triangle, NC
Hi All,

I've now made 17 gallons of cider.

Two 5 gallon batches, and seven 1 gallon test/fun batches. The two five gallon batches have been made using Trader Joes Apple Juice, either honey or corn sugar as a sweetener, and either Wyeast Sweat Mead or White Labs English Cider yeast.

The seven one gallon batches have been made using different fresh apples, Mutsu, Winesap, Pink Lady, Jonagold, Macintosh, etc, all of which have been fresh pressed and prepared using campden. For sweetners I've been using corn sugar, honey, blue agave, etc. At no point have I attempted to over sweeten, usually onliy using 1/2 - 1 cup of corn sugar, 1 cup of honey, or 1/2 cup blue agave. For yeast, Wyeast Cider, Lavilin EC-1118, Whitestar Premier Cuvee, etc.

I've made the batches following very basic recipes, have excercised extreme caution in sanitation, and have kept a good eye on fermentation. Each batch has been racked atleast once after fermentation completed, for a minimu of atleast 1 month, generally 2+.

Each of these ciders has cleared as expected based on the defined flocculation. I'm getting the appropriate alch % based on the defined attenuation (sp?). And for the ones I've bottled (74 bottles so far), I've only had one bottle bomb and the carbonation in each bottle is light and similar to what you might find in a Samuel Smith's Organic cider (one of my favorites.

Here's where my question comes in. Though each cider has conditioned to an almost ideal standard based on the notes above, every single one of the damn things are just as dry as can be. They have excellent apple notes, there just seems to be no sweetness. I know this is mainly caused by the fact that the yeast is fermenting out all of the fermentable sugars. However, I'm confused as to what to do to preserve that cidery sweetness. I really enjoy ciders like Aspall, Samuel Smiths, & Blackthorn (Woodchuck 802 too), but my brews are just way to dry. Is there something I'm just blatently missing? This is probably the most enjoyable hoppy I've ever had. I just can't seem to get the ideal sweetness I'm looking for. I know I can backsweeten using a non-fermentable sweetner and continue to bottle carb, I've just read several statements regarding unwanted tastes appearing. As of yet, I'm not quite at that point where I've been ready to start kegging, especially considering I really enjoy creating 1 gallon "special" batches. Any comments or suggestions would be appreciated.

On a side note. I was wondering just how long you can leave a cider in a glass carboy before it has to be bottled?. Idenfinitely?


LTJ :confused:
It may not be what you want but as the cider ages in the bottle you will get a kind of appley sweetness returning. It's not the same as the sweetness in commercial cider but very nice to my tastes (I prefer dry cider). Now that you have bottled it you can't add any sweetness but you may find you enjoy the bottles more as time goes by, both because you get more used to dry cider, and the cider improves.
I know the feeling, I've been trying to replicate Farnum Hill's Summer Cider with little success yet. Try reading civillekevin's sticky: I think you'll find the results of his experiments quite informative. You might also try using an ale yeast, they tend to ferment less dry. I've had some success adding frozen (thawed 1st) apple juice concentrate to juice instead of sugar. It increases the fermentables as well as apple flavour to a point, but it seems to take longer to clear, even with pectic enzyme added. You could also try the graff recipe, it finishes up a bit sweeter and it's tasty; you can find it in the recipes section. Regards, GF.
When you say "sweetener" what steps are you taking to prevent the honey/sugar/corn sugar etc from fermenting out?

You mentioned that you're bottling, so the yeast must still be active and chewing on these near 100% fermentable sugars. Won't that actively dry out your cider?
I think the biggest problem is WE ARE ALL use to drinking the "big" brewers ciders and they are loaded with artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, etc etc.......When we try to make one ourselves that "tastes" like the big guys...we are disappointed. If you are brewing ciders that you like the taste of, but are too dry, you'll have to backsweeten them to your liking. Because any yeast will take these down to dryness consuming pretty much all sugars. I usually ferment all of my hard ciders out to dryness (1.000 - .996) and then I'll cold crash to make sure yeast is dormant, and then backsweeten with honey to about 1.010-1.012..then I'll carbonate. the addition of some sweetness and bubbles, they taste much better to me, than a dry apple wine. If you are looking for more body, try brewing with some DME OR LME.

Hope that helps.
Just putting some ideas out there I don't know if they will work or not.

How about using Lactose to sweeten as it is not fermentable?

Post botteling why not add some sugar as you serve? That is done by some people with homemade wine. The only problem I see is with the carbonation being knocked out as you stir.

If you are going to backsweaten and you don't care about it being carbonated, I would suggest using some metabisulfate to kill any yeast left after a cold crash and some potasium sorbate to stop any yeast left after than from reproducing.
One option would be to make a simple syrup and sweeten each glass. The syrup would minimize the loss of carbonation when added. Or you could keep some apple juice around for the same purpose.

At least one of the cider manufacturers uses a feeble yeast that has a low alcohol tolerance, but I haven't seen that yeast on the market.
I've had this issue as well, albeit for a different reason. I was trying to make a cider with a little less "kick" in the alcohol level. I've always added sugars to my cider before fermenting, and that always seemed to get me into the 6-7% alcohol range with a little residual sugar... 0.5-1.0% usually. Trying to drop the alcohol level by adding less sugar just had the yeast burn through everything and I ended up with a very dry cider.

I went the other way lately and have been producing a "healthy kick" cider in the ~8% alcohol range by adding a bit more sugar to the original batch. The White Labs English Cider Yeast I've been using tend to give up once they get to that alcohol level and I wind up with ~2% residual sugar.

I realize this is kind of a trade off... getting a sweet, hard cider by upping the alcohol content. But I find it preferable to stopping fermentation early or adding sugars post-fermentation to get a sweet cider.
I just have to be sure not to have too much at any one particular sitting! :)
I've been making cider for a little over a year now and I've had the same problem. The best thing I've found to help cut down the dry flavor is adding DME to my cider recipes. The apple flavor still comes out as the dominant flavor but there is more body to the cider and it comes out less dry-wine-like. After almost a year and a half of making cider, I'm finally re-making the same recipe. And here it is....
currently making around 9 gallons
6 gallons organic apple juice
3 lbs amber DME
1 lb ligt DME
1 lb orange blossom honey
Water to bring up to 9 gallons separated in two carboys
White Labs London Ale Yeast
~5% alc
Not an understatement but I've been pretty damn happy with this recipe.:mug:
Man..sounds like a good recipe to me...I'll have to give it a try. I am down in LaCrosse, you wanna send me a bottle of yours to try??? :)
The only way you are really going to be happy is to backsweeten. The non-fermentables aren't going to cut it. No yeast is going to leave enough sweetness to make you happy. So, really 3 options:

-- Stabilize, backsweeten, and serve uncarbed.
-- Stabilize, backsweeten, get a keg setup and serve carb.
-- Backsweeten at serving with simple syrup (I did this for a while and it actually works nicely. Just got tired of it so i started kegging.
-- (OK, 4 I guess.) Sweeten and bottle carb, then try to cold crash at precisely the right moment. Way too iffy and cumbersome for me, but would work if you want to chance it i guess.

Nothing else is really going to do it. I have similar tastes in cider and I'd highly recommend one of these options.
I cold crash, backsweeten and keg....I keep all of my ciders at about 36F and then carbonate...they are ice cold , sparkly and have a nice sweetness to them...I love em like this, and would reccomend it as THE way to go for a sweeter cider.

I'll second what flyweed and jaginger said. Once you get a keg system you'll wonder what you were doing before. I like both still and carbed ciders and kegging is the way to go if you want it to carb. If you are patient and watch ebay, craigslist etc you can get some pretty good deals.
If you cold crash and keg you dont even need to backsweeten. You can crash with the residual apple sugar, which tastes a lot better.

Most ale yeasts I have used are easy to crash up to about 1.015. Right now I am drinking a batch that I fermented with Notty and crashed at 1.010. It is damn good. Stayman, York and Empire apples. With some wheat yeasts, you can crash up to 1.020 and it will stay stable.

I cant say how it will come out with store juice, but if you are starting with decent cider apples, keeping the residual apple sugar gives you a cider that is a lot like an Aspalls, Samual Smith, 802, etc. I like those too and drink them in the summer when I run out of the fresh stuff.
I use potasium sorbate for 3 days, backsweeten with 1 can of frozen apple juice concentrate over night, and bottle into wine bottles.

Lots of sweetness and apple flavour, but with a nice bite. I would love to have it carbed, but I don't enjoy the dry taste either.

+1 to keg carbination. I really want to get into this but I have a 1 bedroom apt and barely have the room for carboys and empty bottles. One day though.
I use potasium sorbate for 3 days, backsweeten with 1 can of frozen apple juice concentrate over night, and bottle into wine bottles...

Potassium Sorbate will do nothing to the yeast currently living, it will only make them unable to reproduce. So if you do this realize the yeast that is still there can and will continue to live and ferment.

If you want to kill yeast you need to use Potassium Meta-Bisulfate, then Potassium Sorbate. This will first kill most of the yeast, then inhibit reproduction for the ones that are left.
k-meta and sorbate work, but I dont like the taste that they leave on the cider. Most of my friends can notice the difference, especially with the sorbate.

Last Fall, I made 16 one gallon test batches with different amounts of k-meta and sorbate vs cold crashing. Using the chemicals is reliable for stopping the fermentation and also the cider clears more quickly than with cold crashing. The taste is noticeable though. After 6 months, the k-meta is not as noticeable, but the sorbate taste is still strong. I still have a liter of each left and will probably check these out with some friends in a month or two, so they would be over a year old. I'm expecting the k-meta to be hardly noticiable by then and hopefully the sorbate taste will be wearing off as well. Time will tell.

Cold crashing takes a little extra time, but IMHO its worth it not to add any chemicals
I will preface this by saying I have no experience with cider and I have not used either chemical in beer.

But I am guessing you are using a higher dose than needed, I have used both in wine quite a few times. No noticeable change in taste, but I also use low concentrations of them, not much is needed. The lack of flavor change may also be due to the fact that wines get aged for a while before drinking.

Like I said I am not saying you are wrong, my experience is different and has different results.
I made a batch of hard cider last Feb. Everything went well EXCEPT... It is too dry... In my next batch I'm thinking about using extra sugar at fermentation in the hope of having residual sugars left over. Does anyone disagree? Will this make my cider sweeter?
re-read this very OLD thread. Sugar will do nothing to sweeten your will just ferment out. To sweeten you'll need to "stop" active fermentation, either by cold crashing, which is the way I prefer, or you can use K-meta and then sorbate..but it will leave a bit of a "taste" to your cider..some don't notice it, others do. I usually STOP my ciders at about 1.012, via cold crashing, and then will back sweeten with fresh cider to my liking. Keg it and carb it up.

re-read this very OLD thread. Sugar will do nothing to sweeten your will just ferment out. To sweeten you'll need to "stop" active fermentation, either by cold crashing, which is the way I prefer, or you can use K-meta and then sorbate..but it will leave a bit of a "taste" to your cider..some don't notice it, others do. I usually STOP my ciders at about 1.012, via cold crashing, and then will back sweeten with fresh cider to my liking. Keg it and carb it up.


You can also filter. I cold crash then filter through a 1 micron filter and back sweeten. I also stop around 1.014. Also back sweeten with apple juice concentrate helps bring back a lot of apple taste.