First Time Making Cider & No Bubbles in Airlock

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BeginnerCider

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So I tried making cider for the first time yesterday and I think I made a mistake because I can't see any bubbles in the airlock or in the fermentation vessel. Some background is that I wanted to try making a simple test cider before buying 5 gallons of apple juice and going all in. I got a 7 gallon FerMonster and a bung with an airlock. Here are the ingredients I used:
  • 2.5 ml of C-1118 yeast
  • 2 Gallons of Tropicana 100% Fresh Pressed Apple Juice
  • 3 Packs of Tetley Orange Pekoe
  • Pack of Frozen Blueberries
I did not buy a hydrometer (which looking back I think I should have gotten from the start) as this was just a test and I did not want to go all in so I do not have any gravity readings. I pitched the yeast into the juice after sanitizing everything and put it in a cold basement (around 55 F to 59 F), however I have seen no bubbling in the airlock or in the vessel. Is there anything I can do to fix this or is the whole batch not going to work?
 

CKuhns

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You have a large vessel with a relatively small volume of apple juice etc. Give it time. Sometimes the yeast lag a bit and or you havent gotten enough activity to push through the airlock. Bubbles in an airlock is not the best way to tell how its progressing. Even a very small leak will cause issues.

Yes i would strongly encourage the use of a hydrometer.

Check the apple juice ingredients. If there is anything other than apple juice and vitamin C (aescorbic acid) you could have some preservatives that will inhibit the yeast. I dont think thats a problem with this juice but worth checking.

If after 3 or 4 days still no activity or drop in gravity.
- Warm it 5 Deg F or so
- Swirl it to mix things up a bit.
- Get more yeast and create a starter then repitch.

Good luck, let us know how its going.
 
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You have a large vessel with a relatively small volume of apple juice etc. Give it time. Sometimes the yeast lag a bit and or you havent gotten enough activity to push through the airlock. Bubbles in an airlock is not the best way to tell how its progressing. Even a very small leak will cause issues.

Yes i would strongly encourage the use of a hydrometer.

Check the apple juice ingredients. If there is anything other than apple juice and vitamin C (aescorbic acid) you could have some preservatives that will inhibit the yeast. I dont think thats a problem with this juice but worth checking.

If after 3 or 4 days still no activity or drop in gravity.
- Warm it 5 Deg F or so
- Swirl it to mix things up a bit.
- Get more yeast and create a starter then repitch.

Good luck, let us know how its going.
Thanks for all the tips, I will definetly try them out!
 

bracconiere

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I thought so too, but the yeast manufacturer said it’s fine between 50 F to 86 F so I thought it would be fine.


it probably is, but not for an anxious begginer cider maker! ;)


on a side note, you say you used fresh pressed juice? you made sure it didn't have sorbate or another preservative? if it did have sorbate, definatly going to have to pitch more yeast!
 
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BeginnerCider

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it probably is, but not for an anxious begginer cider maker! ;)


on a side note, you say you used fresh pressed juice? you made sure it didn't have sorbate or another preservative? if it did have sorbate, definatly going to have to pitch more yeast!

It was store bought juice but the ingredients only said “100 % Pure Apple Juice (Not From Concentrate), Vitamin C”. So I think it does not have any preservatives, here is a link to the juice.
 

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I thought so too, but the yeast manufacturer said it’s fine between 50 F to 86 F so I thought it would be fine.

Fine between 50 and 86 doesn't mean equal over that whole range. Cooler temps will likely be a "cleaner" fermentation (less yeast character and off flavors) but also slower. With the amount of headroom you have, you might never get a lot of bubbles. It should start getting visibly cloudy soon however.
 

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In general terms Low (temperature) and Slow (ferment speed) is the way to go. I must say that I find that anything below 10C (50F) pretty much stops any signs of fermentation such as bubbles in the airlock. However, around 15C (59F) usually works O.K.

Moving to something like 18C (65F) should create some airlock action within a day or so since EC1118 is usually a fairly robust fermenter. You should at least get some foam forming on the surface, and if you shine a flashlight through the cider you should see small bubbles rising even if there isn't enough pressure to create bubbles in the airlock.
 
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Your juice has Vitamin C as preservative, so you can rule it out.
It's one of those other things.
It could also be your fermenter. Maybe it doesn't close properly. Most of mine are that type. Not an issue, but you won't see bubbles.
Does your fermenter have a spigot (tap/valve)?
If so, you could drain a little and taste. It should be a bit bubbly on the tongue and less sweet.
 

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I would try a yeast energizer if nothing happens. You use about 1/2 tsp per gallon and it normally works for me when making meads/ciders which causes the airlock to go crazy.
 

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I thought so too, but the yeast manufacturer said it’s fine between 50 F to 86 F so I thought it would be fine.
It might be, but the cooler you go the slower it will go. I use 1118 over the summer to make cider in the 70s with good results.
 
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Fine between 50 and 86 doesn't mean equal over that whole range. Cooler temps will likely be a "cleaner" fermentation (less yeast character and off flavors) but also slower. With the amount of headroom you have, you might never get a lot of bubbles. It should start getting visibly cloudy soon however.

Oh okay, I will take a look today. I thought that could be an issue too but I was not sure.
 
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In general terms Low (temperature) and Slow (ferment speed) is the way to go. I must say that I find that anything below 10C (50F) pretty much stops any signs of fermentation such as bubbles in the airlock. However, around 15C (59F) usually works O.K.

Moving to something like 18C (65F) should create some airlock action within a day or so since EC1118 is usually a fairly robust fermenter. You should at least get some foam forming on the surface, and if you shine a flashlight through the cider you should see small bubbles rising even if there isn't enough pressure to create bubbles in the airlock.
There is some foam in the top of the juice, but the cider also has some blueberries so I was unsure if it was the yeast or the blueberries. I will try the flashlight trick tonight.

Your juice has Vitamin C as preservative, so you can rule it out.
It's one of those other things.
It could also be your fermenter. Maybe it doesn't close properly. Most of mine are that type. Not an issue, but you won't see bubbles.
Does your fermenter have a spigot (tap/valve)?
If so, you could drain a little and taste. It should be a bit bubbly on the tongue and less sweet.
It does have a spigot so I will give it a taste today, hopefully it tastes like you said.

I would try a yeast energizer if nothing happens. You use about 1/2 tsp per gallon and it normally works for me when making meads/ciders which causes the airlock to go crazy.
I have also read that yeast nutrient works, can I add nutrient and energizer together?

It might be, but the cooler you go the slower it will go. I use 1118 over the summer to make cider in the 70s with good results.
If the temperature is an issue I could move it somewhere a little warmer, maybe 62F, but also the weather is getting warmer here so it might occur naturally.


Thanks everyone for all the helpful tips, I will update tonight after I try them all.
 

CKuhns

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Foam is a great sign. Indicates fermentation is taking place.

Wait it out, ypu should be ok.
 
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UPDATE June/22/2022
Just a small update on how everything is going with some picture attached. Tasted the cider as recommended on June 17th and it still tasted like apple juice, but no weird flavors. It had a lot more bubbles than before. Then today June 22nd I tasted it, and it smelled faintly of cider, but a lot more than the first time and it taste dry and has hints of cider with a little bit of sweetness. It has only been a week, so I can only imagine it will taste better as time goes. Here are some pictures with the dates I took them.

June 17th
tempImageGSzQqB.png

June 18th
IMG_8269.jpg

June 20th
tempImageM54qDQ.png











June 22nd
IMG_8308.jpg

Is there a way to know when I should bottle without a hydrometer? Or should I just keep waiting until there is no foam or bubbles left?
 

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The short answer is that you really need a hydrometer to know how much sugar is left.

In general terms, fermenting 2.5 g/L of sugar will change the specific gravity by 0.001 which generates 0.5 volumes of CO2. So if you bottle now and fermentation continues, you need to know how much CO2 will be generated in the sealed bottles.

Most beer bottles are rated to handle a maximum of 4 volumes of CO2 (around 60psi) while champagne bottles are intended for 6 volumes. Anything more than these pressures will have you in "bottle bomb land".

Just plucking some numbers out of the air... your juice plus the blueberries probably started at above SG 1.050 (130g/L of sugar) which is fairly normal. Your pictures suggest that the turbulent primary fermentation foam has behaved normally and has now finished. For me, this usually happens around SG 1.020 or a bit higher. The foam is assorted suspended stuff in the cider lifted up to form surface bubbles because of the robust CO2 generation. This will go away and settle back to the bottom of your fermenter as the rate of CO2 generation drops off.

So you might have 50g/L of sugar left to ferment (and generate over 20 volumes of CO2... BOOM!!!), so at this level it should taste quite sweet. However your description of the taste sounds more like SG 1.010 (or 25g/L of sugar.... still potentially 5 volumes of CO2 to generate in sealed bottles).

I have had EC1118 ferment down to near 1.000 in a couple of weeks, but at that point the cider can be mouth puckering tart, with no sugar and overwhelming acid (rapid fermentation can "blow off" flavour compounds), so I don't think you are there yet.

So, there is no real way to know if it is safe to bottle without knowing how much sugar is left to ferment. Of course you can always wait and make a judgement on when fermentation has finished, but a few bucks on a hydrometer can save a lot of grief.

Good luck!
 
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The short answer is that you really need a hydrometer to know how much sugar is left.

In general terms, fermenting 2.5 g/L of sugar will change the specific gravity by 0.001 which generates 0.5 volumes of CO2. So if you bottle now and fermentation continues, you need to know how much CO2 will be generated in the sealed bottles.

Most beer bottles are rated to handle a maximum of 4 volumes of CO2 (around 60psi) while champagne bottles are intended for 6 volumes. Anything more than these pressures will have you in "bottle bomb land".

Just plucking some numbers out of the air... your juice plus the blueberries probably started at above SG 1.050 (130g/L of sugar) which is fairly normal. Your pictures suggest that the turbulent primary fermentation foam has behaved normally and has now finished. For me, this usually happens around SG 1.020 or a bit higher. The foam is assorted suspended stuff in the cider lifted up to form surface bubbles because of the robust CO2 generation. This will go away and settle back to the bottom of your fermenter as the rate of CO2 generation drops off.

So you might have 50g/L of sugar left to ferment (and generate over 20 volumes of CO2... BOOM!!!), so at this level it should taste quite sweet. However your description of the taste sounds more like SG 1.010 (or 25g/L of sugar.... still potentially 5 volumes of CO2 to generate in sealed bottles).

I have had EC1118 ferment down to near 1.000 in a couple of weeks, but at that point the cider can be mouth puckering tart, with no sugar and overwhelming acid (rapid fermentation can "blow off" flavour compounds), so I don't think you are there yet.

So, there is no real way to know if it is safe to bottle without knowing how much sugar is left to ferment. Of course you can always wait and make a judgement on when fermentation has finished, but a few bucks on a hydrometer can save a lot of grief.

Good luck!
Hey, thanks for the explanation, that makes a lot more sense now. You are right getting the hydrometer will avoid all the hassle of dealing with any bottles blowing open. I was planning on carbonating with priming sugar too so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
 
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