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First time fermenting any bev period, Am I on the right track?

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TVarmy

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Hi, I found this recipe on Lifehacker a while back and I'm going to give it a try with some supplies I bought from the homebrew store this past week.

I have champagne yeast, and I'm planning on getting some unpasteurized cider from the next pressing at a local orchard. I'll use campford tablets to ready it for fermentation. I'll try to get roughly two gallons worth, and ferment it in a 6 gallon carboy that I'll probably use for beer in the future. At the end of fermentation, I might try bottling it with some extra sugar in either beer bottles or PET bottles for carbonation. If I find out that it's too hard to pull that off without creating explosions, I'll just stop the fermentation. I'm told that I should expect a dry, crisp apfelwein with this yeast and method.

As I'm completely new to brewing, I'm open to any tips. I know to use the air lock and sanitize everything, but otherwise feel free to say it. I probably don't know it yet.
 

skyzo

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Looks like your on the right track. I've never used fresh apple juice from an orchard, and I'd imagine its much better than the store bought stuff.
One note though, make sure that you scale down the sugar you use for bottling. Most places will tell you around 3/4 cup of dextrose, but cane sugar is a little different, I dont know what to scale it to off the top of my head, but its real close anyways. When I bottled my 2.5 gallon batch awhile back, I just used a 1/3 of a cup, and it carbed up nicley.
 

toman8r

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I'd suggest making 5 gallons if you can afford it. After you drink the last bottle you are going to wish you had over twice as many! I made Edwort's apfelwein 1.5 years ago and it is really awesome now, I'm really glad I saved a few bottles.

I just made two ciders with a buddy of mine. We did about 2.7 gallons with some tasty store bought juice from Mother's Market and 1.5 gallons with juice from apples my friend pressed. With these we adjusted the pH with malic acid to get them to 3.4 or so, something I didn't do with my apfelwein (no idea what the pH was for that). This site has some good info on how to adjust your pH and how many Campden tablets to use depending on the pH, as well as loads of other good information. I just used pH strips to measure the pH.

I prefer it carbonated - just add sugar right before bottling. I'd suggest using a bottling bucket, they really make bottling a lot easier. And just add all the sugar at once to the bottling bucket, as adding sugar to each individual bottle will likely result in uneven carbonation. Or add some carbonation tablets to each bottle - those are a lot more precise that measuring small amounts of sugar. Just use one of the many carbonation calculators you can find online to determine how much priming sugar to add.

So it sounds like you are on the right track. You will end up with a dry, crisp hard cider using these methods and yeast.
 

CandleWineProject

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You can't just stop fermenting to avoid explosions. To stop fermenting (which can be tricky) means that you leave sugar behind, and too much sugar is what causes the explosions. If you let it go dry, then follow the advice of skyzo and toman8r, you should not be having problems with explosions.
 

vespa2t

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GET A HYDROMETER. Otherwise you dont know where it is at in the fermentation. Just because the airlock has stopped bubbling doesnt mean it is done. This is the number one way to prevent bombs.
 
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TVarmy

TVarmy

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Thanks for the advice, everyone! I'll try EdWort's recipe instead, since I'm probably just going to get two gallons or so of cider from the local orchard. If I don't get the call from them soon, I might just use 100% store bought and freeze the raw cider for later. Will it be an issue that I'm using champagne yeast instead of wine yeast?
 

Fletch78

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Don't cook it like that recipe link in your Original Post says. Use the Campden tabs in lieu of cooking it, the apple juice will retain so much more flavor. Better yet, don't even use the campden unless they sent you out the door with cider stored in sheep stomachs.
 

Fletch78

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Yall are about to press apples in New Jersey? We don't even have blossoms yet down 'her' ??
 
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TVarmy

TVarmy

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Fletch, I'm not sure if they get their apples locally or not this time of year. They do operate their own press, though.
 
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TVarmy

TVarmy

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Do I need to use the hydrometer before I start fermentation to get an idea of when it's done? I have the store bought juice for EdWort's recipe, but I don't have a hydrometer and the homebrew store is pretty far away.
 

cimirie

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It's always good to get a hydrometer reading before fermentation so you have a frame of reference for the end result. If the homebrew store is too far to take a field trip, order one online. A great store is austinhomebrew.com. They have a flat $7 shipping, so you may want to think about ordering a few other things to bring down the per capita cost a bit. I can't reinforce enough what some other have said. Make at least 5 gallons. First, it makes discussing things here easier (as 5 gallons is generally accepted as a standard batch size). Secondly, and most importantly, 2 gallon batches have a consistent big problem - they disappear way too quickly. I know it's more of an investment, but you'll be much happier!

Welcome to zymurgy!
 
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TVarmy

TVarmy

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Well, I bought the hydrometer today and started fermentation. It hasn't shown any visible signs yet (it's only been three or four hours).

I added 1 tsp per gallon (5 tsp) yeast nutrient as I misrembered EdWort's recipe. The recipe from instructables said to add it. It was urea based. That shouldn't adversely effect the apfelwein, right?
 

cimirie

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I cant imagine it would be a problem. The sugars are so fermentable, however, the yeasties would have zero problem eating throught them, even without the nutrient. To be honest, I've never used a yeast nutrient and have had great results with apfelwein. You'll love it.
 
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TVarmy

TVarmy

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Well, it's in my 60 degree basement, slowly bubbling away. I read in other threads that bubbles don't really mean anything, and that I should just pay attention to the gravity, so I guess I won't worry.

60's on the low end, but it should be okay, if a little slow, right? I'm not really into the idea of lifting a heavy and fragile glass carboy, nor do I want to explain to my mom why I need to run the space heater in the basement.

Thanks for all your help, everyone. I'm not really worried about anything at this point. Hope I'll have something good when it's done!
 

CandleWineProject

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You will be fine at 60 degrees. Cider actually does better when it is allowed to ferment slowly. It gets more balanced that way. Besides, the craft brewers ferment outside, let it freeze and thaw with the winter, and it starts happily fermenting again in the spring.

A lot of people scream not to trust an airlock. I say let it be a guide, but don't completely trust it. If it is bubbling, it is probably fermenting. If it stops, it could still be fermenting, but maybe not. That's when a hydrometer reading is important. It could be something like fermentation is happening slowly, and there is a leak, so it isn't going though the hydrometer.
 
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