Hanso's Simple Sour Cider

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Hanso

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This recipe for tart cider is as simple as can be. It's very forgiving to process and timing alterations, goes down frighteningly easy, and carries with it a tartness that marries perfectly with the apple, reminiscent of cool and refreshing Granny Smith apples in the summer time.

Before we begin, I just want to get it out of the way that I am decidedly not a cider connoisseur and this recipe is just a simple tart cider that anyone can try at home for cheap with very good results. Yes you can be a scientifically ignorant chump and still make a good tart cider by following (or almost following) this so called recipe. Ultimately, it's on target for what I am looking for in a cider - tart and crisp like an apple. I don't really know what the cider aficionados would think or say about this... And don't care! :mug:


OG: 1.053 (or so, depending on the apple juice you buy)
FG: 1.002 - 1.013 (or so, yea a big range, but this will depend on your yeast selection - see below)
Tartness: Somewhere in the range of "Holy puckering Buddha butt" to "nice and sharp"

Ingredients:
5 gallons of store bought no preservatives pasteurized apple juice.
1/4 tsp yeast nutrient
Some kind of yeast (see below)
Your favorite Lactobacillus culture, I use Wyeast 5335.
1 lb brown sugar

Day 1:
Crack open 4 gallons of the cider or juice and add it to your cleaned and sanitized carboy
Add 1 tsp of yeast nutrient
Shake to aerate, pitch your yeast.
Put on your airlock, set aside in a reasonable ale temperature, and ignore for a while.

Regarding yeast selection, I've used Danstar champagne yeast, wine yeast, Wyeast 3711 French Saison, and Safale US-05. All very good. Next time I plan to try Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale. So far my favorite has been 3711, it leaves the cider very dry but without the harshness I felt came with the champagne and wine yeasts, and seems to match well with the level of sourness I like. US-05 was similar to 3711, just a bit less dry. I'd love to hear anyone's experience in trying these or other yeasts.



After a couple of months:
Boil up a pound of brown sugar with a pint or so of water (just enough to dissolve when heated), and add to your fermentor. This will keep the yeast interested and active, bring up the gravity a little, and round out the cider. I've not had a problem adding it through a funnel when it was still very hot.
One thing I've been meaning to try at this stage but have not in any batches yet is steeping a small amount (maybe 1 lb) of crystal malt and adding the liquid from that rather than the brown sugar, which should result in a sweeter, more caramelly finished product.


About a month later:
Crack the fifth gallon of juice, pitch your lacto, put an airlock on (even though lacto doesn't produce nearly the same level of CO2 as yeast) set it aside at room temp for one month. Make sure your juice container has enough room for the lacto before pitching, of course!

After your lacto gallon batch is sufficiently sour, combine it with your primary carboy.

Let it sit a week, and bottle to 3 volumes or rack to a lacto dedicated keg and carb up to 20 PSI.

Enjoy

Customize your own!
If you couldn't tell by now there's a lot of room for variability in this process.

If you want more tartness, reserve more of the apple juice for the lacto addition, and/or let the lacto portion age longer prior to combining. You can let your lacto portion go anywhere between a few days and a month depending on how much sour you want. Longer means more sour of course, up to a point. A month might be way past the maximum lactic acid you can get out of a single gallon - I'll let the science work itself out by the scientists. If you choose to want even more sour, reserve a second gallon initially and only use 3 gallons with the yeast on day one. Try your best guess initially and adjust in future batches - you'll find your own personal preference for tartness level as time goes on. I specifically have found 1 gallon for a week or two works well for me.

If you want more dryness, try Saison yeast. If you want more sweetness, use US-05 or Scottish Ale (presumably, I haven't tried Scottish Ale yeast yet but it's reasonable to believe it would leave more residuals sugar based on ale attenuation numbers.

If you are kegging and like a little sweetness along with the sour, you can easily just rack to your keg when you first combine the sour and yeast portions rather than let the sugars in the sour portion get fermented out. Can't do this with bottles though or you'll probably get some bombs!

You can also shorten the "wait times" in nearly any step, I've just found in most ciders that a minimum of 6 months is best for the mature apple flavors to come through.
 

MatchstickBrewingCo.

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Hey Hanso, really want to try this within the next couple of days. Had a sour cider the other day for the first time and the sour/tartness basically fried my tongue, and I loved it! Quick question though, how long would you say is the least amount of time for each step to get a decent sour cider? I'm not sure I can wait 6 months but I also don't want to drink something that's unfinished.

Thanks again for the idea!
 
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Hanso

Hanso

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Hey Hanso, really want to try this within the next couple of days. Had a sour cider the other day for the first time and the sour/tartness basically fried my tongue, and I loved it! Quick question though, how long would you say is the least amount of time for each step to get a decent sour cider? I'm not sure I can wait 6 months but I also don't want to drink something that's unfinished.

Thanks again for the idea!

I've found that ciders in general, sour or not, get better the longer you wait provided you have taken pains to avoid oxidation.

That said, there are plenty of ways to speed along this procedure and still end up with a very sour end result.

Specifically you can start by souring the entire batch before ever adding a single cell of sacc. If you pitch your lactobacillus first, let it sit a week in a warm place, up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (warmer temps will sour faster), and finish it off with the sugar and sacc, you can arrive at a very sour cider in a matter of a few weeks. Will it be a great award winning mature tasting cider? I doubt it... Will it be both sour and fully fermented? Yes very much so.

If you do the lacto first method, you may consider harvesting the remaining lacto for future use. That way you aren't starting from such a low cell count the next time and can sour a batch even quicker.

For sour beers like Berliner Weisse Wyeast recommends a pitch rate of at least 5 (but ideally10) million cells per ml. If there's no sacc to chew through the sugars it's important to drop the pH quickly so that it is harder for foreign microbes to metabolize them and funk up your batch. 5-10 million cells per ml means ~190 billion cells on a 5 gallon batch, but the cell count per single pack of 5335 is only 20 billion at best (freshest). I've done some very scientific googling and some back of napkin mathematics and determined at a 40% daily growth rate (at 70 degree Fahrenheit) lactobacillus will take about 7 days to reach 190 B cells. At 90 degrees it takes about 5 days. However by the time you've reached that cell count they've already done a fair amount of acid production... so it may very well be sour enough even though you've only just reached "optimal pitch rate." Long story short it's probably best to save your culture and pitch at a higher rate next time, but the first batch is unlikely to have problems unless you are not careful with sanitation. Saving a culture perhaps in one of the juice jugs will help cut down on lactobacillus lag as well as sour it faster. First time around just sample periodically with a sanitized spoon. ;)
 

MatchstickBrewingCo.

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So do you pitch the lacto directly into the last gallon of juice in the container that it came in and throw an airlock on? What kind of visual proof (if any) do you get that it's doing anything? I pitched mine 5 days ago and I'm not seeing any bubbling or pellicle or really anything. Think I could've done something wrong?
 
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Hanso

Hanso

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Honestly I simply take a small sample with a wine thief after a week or so. It will be sweet but should also be sour. I also see small wisps of white-ish sediment. If you move the jug you will see the sediment float up. This bacteria is much less floculant than even the haziest of yeast strains. Expect very little to no airlock activity, I mainly give it an airlock out of habit. I've also done a simple pH test strip once for fun but haven't gotten too scientific. I believe it was roughly 4.
 

MatchstickBrewingCo.

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ok good, I see the little wisps of sediment at the bottom. I'd never used Lacto before so I didn't know if I just got a bad batch of it that was all dead. I'll take a small sample to test in a couple days.

Another quick question though... does lacto eat the sugars and ferment them like Sacch yeast? Or is that the reason for mixing them a week before bottling/kegging?
 
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Hanso

Hanso

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ok good, I see the little wisps of sediment at the bottom. I'd never used Lacto before so I didn't know if I just got a bad batch of it that was all dead. I'll take a small sample to test in a couple days.

Another quick question though... does lacto eat the sugars and ferment them like Sacch yeast? Or is that the reason for mixing them a week before bottling/kegging?

Sorry I missed this question, probably too late but in case it comes up again...

Lactobacillus does not consume sugars in a similar way to sacch. It makes pretty much exclusively lactic acid. The idea with blending them is to give you better control over how much sourness the final product will have as well as give the sacch from the main batch some extra sugars, keeping them lively, a week or so prior to bottling. The lacto doesn't use all of the sugars that the unfermented cider or juice has to offer, leaving a lot left for the sacch. You definitely should not combine the batches and bottle immediately!! It would result in far too much unfermented sugar and likely bottle bombs.
 

stanjohnj

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Hey Hanso, really want to try this within the next couple of days. Had a sour cider the other day for the first time and the sour/tartness basically fried my tongue, and I loved it! Quick question though, how long would you say is the least amount of time for each step to get a decent sour cider? I'm not sure I can wait 6 months but I also don't want to drink something that's unfinished.

Thanks again for the idea!
I perfected the best sour cider, 2 weeks total time
 
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