First cider experiment, need input

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HeruRaHa

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So I gathered up a bunch of stuff today to start my first cider. I've got:

*1 gallon organic fresh pressed, not from concentrate, pasteurized apple juice (no preservatives, just pasteurized, pure, unfilterd juice from washed, select, ripe organic Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and Gala apples)

*2 gallon primary fermenter, about to be empty after I rack out my gallon of mead and give it a good cleaning

*pectic enzyme

*light brown sugar

*tartaric acid and citric acid -- LHBS out of malic acid :(

*a couple of different yeast options -- Lalvin EC-1118, Red Star Montrachet, and Cooper's Ale yeast. I've read EC-1118 can make a good cider, and I believe EdWort's Apfelwein calls for Montrachet... I wanted to get Nottingham for this batch, but LHBS was out of stock, so I settled on Cooper's which I've read is similar to Notty, and has had good results with ciders. I'm currently leaning towards the Cooper's but I could be swayed.

---

So I've read a bunch of recipes, and I'll probably just base the amount of brown sugar on my hydrometer readings, shooting for a ~6-7% ABV on this one.

I've also seen recommendations to include a can of frozen apple juice concentrate in lieu of some or all of the brown sugar. Interested to hear opinions on this.

Acid blend -- I didn't know which ones would be best, but I had a feeling since LHBS was out of malic, that's what I would need, some recipes seem to concur (sweet eating/drinking apples like gala, granny smith, golden delicious are lower in malic acid than traditional cider apples). Is there a good source of malic acid I could add from readily available ingredients in my fridge/pantry/local grocery? If malic is best, can I wait to add it after primary fermentation when LHBS is back in stock, or would this have an adverse effect? Would tartaric and/or citric be just as or nearly as good as malic?

Tannins -- LHBS was also out of grape tannin. Bad day to go shopping, I guess. I've read that steeping a black tea bag and tossing the tea into the primary can help here. Bad/good idea? Same question with malic acid -- do I need to add before primary ferment or can it be added later with same result?

In all responses, please bear in mind this is my second attempt at fermentation of anything, and my first cider. I'm not necessarily shooting for an award-winner, just a good learning experience and a drinkable product, but I'd rather start off with the best possibility of success.

Thanks, looking forward to starting this experiment tomorrow, I'll let you know how it goes.
 

nukinfuts29

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I'll address the yeast:

Montrachet is great for wine, not so much for cider. Ed's Apfelwein is not a cider, it is a wine that's why it calls for Montrachet. It will work, but the cider will lack character that it gains from an ale yeast like Notty.

Notty is my personal favorite for cider. I have never used Coopers but have heard it runs similar to Notty, so it gets my vote.
 

dinnerstick

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acids: with granny smiths in the mix i doubt you are going to lack malic acid. i would hold off on any additions. you can check the taste after fermentation and adjust if you feel it needs it, should be obvious then, it will taste bland and flabby rather than sharp. all the sugar in the unfermented juice can mask the presence (or absence) of acidity
 

Pickled_Pepper

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I agree with both of these two posts. With what sounds like a great blend of juice, I'd start with just that first. If the hydro reading is around 1.050 or so you might not even need the extra brown sugar. You'll have a baseline for where to go with the next batch.

My vote is also for the cooper's yeast.
 
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HeruRaHa

HeruRaHa

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I'm going simple for now. Apple juice and yeast. I will add yeast nutrient if it seems like fermentation is lagging, and maybe adjust on the second batch. If anybody thinks I should throw in a little yeast nutrient to this first batch, let me know, but I see a lot of cider recipes without it.

edit: OG was 1.050 at 71F. tasted the hydrometer sample, it was very sweet but there was a nice green-apple tartness in there. I think this may come out very well with very little effort.

Also kinda chickened out at the last minute and tossed in 1/4 teaspoon of Super Ferment yeast nutrient, just to try to help the yeast from being stressed. This is a pretty small amount so I doubt it could have any detrimental effect, but might help the yeast.

Thanks for all the input, guys. We'll see how this goes!
 

outstretched

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I usually always add in nutrient. I figure make the yeast as happy as possible and you get a lot less pissed off yeast that cause off flavors.

Do you happen to know the ratios on your apple selection (percentage wise)? I am just curious.
 
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HeruRaHa

HeruRaHa

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I don't know the ratios. I bought "Central Market HEB Organics apple juice", because it looked like an awesome unfiltered apple juice and it came in a convenient 1 gallon glass jug that will make a good secondary :)

I see very similar apple juice in very similar containers at different stores. This one is distributed by HEB/Central Market, which I believe is a chain exclusive to Texas, but it looks an awful lot like what I've seen at Whole Foods and other stores. I wouldn't be surprised if you could find the exact same thing from other distributors/stores.
 

gratus fermentatio

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If you use the tannin, go easy, a little bit goes a long way & it's a fine line between a nice level of tannin & a ruined cider/wine, I found that out the hard way.
Regards, GF.
 
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HeruRaHa

HeruRaHa

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so apple juice can be used instead of actual cider?
My understanding is this is mostly a semantic issue.

"In the USA and also in Canada, 'cider' is used to describe a cloudy but unfermented (non-alcoholic) apple juice, often from an orchard stand or farmer's market. The term 'hard cider' is used to denote that this cider has been fermented, and now contains alcohol. To differentiate between hard cider and cider, sometimes you will see the terms "sweet cider", or "soft cider" used. In most of the rest of the world, including the UK and Europe, just saying plain 'cider' means alcoholic hard cider." -- http://makinghardcider.com/

What I got was store-bought, and labeled as "apple juice", but the closest thing to non-alcoholic "apple cider" that one can get without going to the mill or farmer's market. I got something that was very nice and unfiltered, not from concentrate, just fresh pressed apples... but the real key when buying "apple juice" from the store is to make sure there's no potassium sorbate or preservatives besides abscorbic acid (vitamin c) that could prevent fermentation.

A bit more of a distinction is apple varieties. Traditional cider for fermenting is a bit more acidic and tangy, whereas most "apple juice" is made from sweeter dessert apples.

I'll let the cider pros correct me if I'm misspeaking, again this is only my first attempt at "hard cider".
 
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HeruRaHa

HeruRaHa

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Update on this. Fermenting really nicely, 4 days in. The smell was slightly sulfurous for the first day of fermentation, but I wouldn't call it a "rhino fart". Now my closet just smells like sweet fermenting apples. Tomorrow I will grab a hydrometer reading and a small taste test, then to decide if I'm going to try to carbonate this or let it go still...
 
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