Dry Still Cider, and every mistake along the way

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Mar 2, 2023
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Chattanooga, TN
I made a 5 gallon batch of cider using store-bought apple cider and champagne yeast. Mistake #1, it had potassium sorbate. However, this didn't seem to affect fermentation. Went to get supplies for secondary fermentation process and got some STAR SAN. Mistake #2, apparently, rubbing alcohol is not a recommended way to sanitize equipment. Mistake #3, additionally, tap water is not ideal for rinsing or use in an airlock. Mistake #4, I didn't add any additional sugar resulting in a very dry, low abv cider. Mistake #5 I didn't use a hydrometer to measure the cider before fermentation.

I have since measured with the hydrometer until it reached 1.000 gravity. The whole process appears to have worked despite these mistakes. Currently, I just transferred from primary to secondary fermentation. I grabbed some samples from the batch to check the progress. And here are my results: Extremely dry with barely any sugar taste, hazy but not cloudy, no signs of mold or contamination. Didn't really get any noticeable effect from the alcohol with a 3oz pour.

My Questions: The only noticeable issue is a very slight vinegar smell. The smell reminds me of a chardonnay. There is no taste of vinegar, again it taste like a dry white wine. Obviously, with the risk of contamination from improper handling, it is totally possible that the cider is progressing to vinegar, but the fermentation process and the transfer to secondary fermentation had very minimal exposure to oxygen. I think it's probably fine, but I realized I have no idea what a dry still cider is supposed to taste and smell like. Should I be worried?
After having a few friends taste and smell the sample, I realized it was fine. @Cider Wraith I definitely want to try a carbonated cider at some point, but I am a little scared of bottles exploding. Also, because I am new to the craft, I just wanted to create the simplest alcohol product possible so that I could isolate mistakes. Sidenote - the half finished cider was a hit! I work at a liquor store and even our resident wine snob thoroughly enjoyed it!
Don't worry about exploding bottles if you only add the correct amount of sugar. If your cider is dry then there should be no sugar left, the only way you could cause a bottle explosion would be if you gave the yeast too much sugar to work with.
As I look towards bottling, I have two more questions: 1. Is the finished cider essentially shelf stable? 2. any guesses on the actual abv? Remember that it is just store bought apple cider with no added sugar. My guess is <5%? I took a reading with the hydrometer after about 2 weeks and it was at about 1.015 and then I let it go for a few more days and it finished at 1.000
If you can contain it in a tightly closed bottle with very little air, it'll be shelf stable. But I would add a dose of potassium metabisulfite to be sure. What juice did you use? Most start around 1.050 SG which will give you 6% or so.
I find most store bought Apple juices give me a starting gravity around 1.042 or so, so you can probably use that for your calculation as an approximate. Better yet, if you get some more of the same juice you can take a gravity reading.

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