First try at cider

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

KENfromMI

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 23, 2008
Messages
146
Reaction score
3
I have a few questions regarding my current fermenting batch of cider.

#1 Is it like wine or is it ok to have a small amount of headspace in the secondary?

#2 Is there a difference between aging in the secondary or bottle aging in the flavor profile?

Thanks in advance, Ken
 

dmtaylor

Lord Idiot the Lazy
HBT Supporter
Joined
Nov 8, 2009
Messages
4,844
Reaction score
3,238
Location
Two Rivers, WI
Ken, welcome to the wonderful world of cider! I've been making cider for about 5 years but I'm still learning too. It's so easy, a caveman can do it.... and cavemen probably DID do it!

1) Cider is very much like wine, just half the alcohol unless you added sugars (personally I would NOT add sugar). Personally I don't get bent out of shape with a little headspace over the first month or two. But if it's sitting in a fermenter longer than that, then worry.

2) Bottle conditioning I find works better, for reducing sulfur and acidity, etc.; HOWEVER, you also don't want a lot of junk in the bottoms of all your bottles, either. Better to bulk age for at least a couple months, hit it with gelatin to clear if you need to, get all the lees out of there, and then once you are absolutely positively certain that fermentation has ceased for a at least a week or two, then you can safely bottle at that point.

Patience is required for good cider. Hope you can manage that. Is it safe to assume you're fermenting warm in the mid to upper 60s or low 70s? That's fine, it will get done quicker, and will taste fine if you are doing that. But personally, to preserve the maximum amount of appley aromas, I like to ferment all mine low and slow, about 45-50 F just like a lager, for a long time, sometimes 3 to 5 months before I bottle. Bulk aging also can allow malolactic fermentation to kick in, which reduces sharpness, otherwise homemade hard cider can taste very tart.

But when you're sure it's done (make darn sure), and it tastes good, then you can bottle, whenever that happens for you. Maybe two months, maybe longer.

Hope you love it. I think you will. It's pretty hard to screw up cider.
 
OP
K

KENfromMI

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 23, 2008
Messages
146
Reaction score
3
I'm actually not a huge cider guy but I'm making it for my wife. After 24 years and her not finding a beer she likes I'm giving in. LOL She likes a real dry cider and I like a not so dry cider so I'm trying to find a happy medium since I drink way more than she does. I noticed your comment about making sure its done fermenting. Is cider more finicky than beer as far as length of fermentation? After 2 months in the secondary will there still be enough yeast for bottle carbonation?
 

dmtaylor

Lord Idiot the Lazy
HBT Supporter
Joined
Nov 8, 2009
Messages
4,844
Reaction score
3,238
Location
Two Rivers, WI
Most yeasts will take the cider all the way down to about 0.992-0.994. That's not an exaggeration. That is very dry. But often it takes a couple of weeks to get from 0.999 to 0.992 or whatever. It's those last few points that take forever. There's enough yeast for natural carbonation at that point; HOWEVER.......

If you want a sweeter cider than that, you either need to kill the yeast with sorbate and sulfite, then backsweeten, or you need to stall the fermentation with gelatin, racking, low temperature (that's what I do), or you can try bottling then heating the bottles to pasteurize although this seems dangerous to me and will probably make the cider taste cooked.

In any of these cases, natural carbonation is very difficult. I mean, if you want to carbonate a dry cider at 0.992, no problem, you can prime and bottle just like a beer, and it will ferment out back to dryness around 0.992. Just realize that in this case, it takes a good month or two to carbonate -- it's just a bit slower than it would be for beer, but it will work. But if you are killing your yeast, then obviously they won't do a very good job of natural carbonation anymore.

With my method of gelatin, racking, and chilling to stall the yeast before they're finished, basically waiting several months for them to get really really tired before bottling, I find that I can get carbonation after priming and bottling, but it takes a good 5 or 6 months at least for that to happen. In the meantime, I drink most of the cider while young, without carbonation, and it's only the last handful of bottles that eventually get sparkling, and then I drink those and it's gone. Works for me. But this requires maximum laziness I mean patience. And I am a very very lazy I mean patient guy.

You could of course bottle with forced carbonation if you have the equipment for that. That's the easiest, if you have the equipment (I don't).

So all in all, trying to get a sweet cider that is also carbonated is really a crapshoot, unless you force carb.
 

UndeadFred

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 6, 2015
Messages
571
Reaction score
111
Location
20 mi North of Cedar Rapids
For people who like their ciders sweet, I will back sweeten at serving if bottling. Cider into a glass, some sugar or sweetner, and more cider in the glass. That is the easy way.. it's okay if you can get away with not just handing bottles to people at a party.

I like my ciders dry and flat, so personally I'm good.. ;) You can also keg a cider (3 gallon ones are good for that) and then you can force carb, sorbate and sweeten and serve from there too.. that's fairly easy too...

Fred
 
OP
K

KENfromMI

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 23, 2008
Messages
146
Reaction score
3
I'm going to try some still and some lightly carbonated. My wife likes a local Michigan Cider that is very dry and lightly carbonated. This year is all trial and error for me. Doing it in 1 gallon batches with different yeast strains as well to see what I like best. If I want to sweeten it I understand there is a non fermentable sweetener at the HomeBrew shop to add at bottling.
 

TwistedGray

El Jefe Brewing Company
Joined
Sep 18, 2015
Messages
8,100
Reaction score
14,771
Location
Monterey Bay, California
So all in all, trying to get a sweet cider that is also carbonated is really a crapshoot, unless you force carb.
Nah, I wouldn't call it much of a crapshoot. Hell, if I can do it...anyone can :)

Follow the "quick" recipe in the cider recipe section and tweak it to your liking (for example, I do multiple cold crashings to remove pitched yeast). I skip the pasteurization process, too, and just drink it. Nothing lasts long enough to matter much in the fridge.

Doing it this way I get a fair amount of carbonation, and I can stop fermentation (or at least slow it enough) when I reach the desired taste that I want.
 

Skuee

Active Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2015
Messages
44
Reaction score
6
Hey Ken, this is my 3rd year of trying a cider. Don't forget to add nutrient, the first year I made a cider I didn't add nutrient, yeast stressed, created a ton of sulfur that never dissipated.

Also like many have posted be patient. Last year my cider was done in about a month using Wyeast's mead yeast. This year I tried some ale yeasts and they're taking their sweet time. I need to do a proper hydrometer reading this upcoming weekend. Might be time to bust out a blanket and wrap the 2 buckets.

Good Luck Ken and let us know how your's goes this year.
 
Top