I would like some advice on my upcoming cider project

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Catboat

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A couple of years ago I tried making my first cider, no apples last years but this year there is plenty. I used apples from only one tree and made 2 batches, both with champagne yeast. I only added pectine and yeast, to one of the batches I added some amarillo hops, straight after primary fermentation I bottled with about 6g/l for carbonation.

Alcohol content came out to about 7.3% completely dry, it tasted pretty much like a low abv white wine, the batch with hops was miles better than the one without. Unfortunatly it wasn't very good - aging helped but not as much as I would like. It was just to sour.

I suspect my apples just wont make a good cider on their own, they are to sour and the suger content is to high for my tastes, they range from golfball- almost not quite tennisballs in size and ripen very late in the year and remain in the tree well into december. I suspect tannin content is rather low, but I am in no way confident.

Heres my plan for this year:
Add so2 to kill wild yeast, I didn't do this the first time.
Add yeast nutrients and pectine.
Adjust ph to 3.4 or so with calcium carbonate. I believe the must is much lower, like 3 or so.
Use a yeast that doesn't go completely dry, any suggestions?
Add oakchips during primary fermentation.
Add dried bitter orange peel during primary fermentation.
Boil hops in water and add that to the juice, hoping to lower the abv and add bitterness, would love some thoughts or recommendations on what to use.
Possibly dryhopping aswell, I have not decided.

I am planning to ferment in a bucket, should take 2-4 weeks, then cold crash and move to a second bucket with so2, potassium sorbate and a little water, then coldstabalize and maybe use a clearing agent if its needed but I don't think it will be, after that I plan to move it to a keg with sugar and water. I will be adding water 3 times (1, with the boiled hops, 2 with so2, 3 with the sweetening), Ideally bringing down the abv without losing to much flavour. When it has aged at least 6 months I will just carbonate it with co2 in the keg and maybe bottle it from there or just keep it in the keg, depending on how much hassle it is and how much I want the keg for other projects.

I am mainly looking for thoughts on boiling hops for cider, what kind how much how long etc, a good yeast that doesn't make the cider very dry, I want lower abv so I want the opposite. And what do you guys do with apples that gives a must with a gravity of about 1055 and is very sour but not much else. Also I have read somewhere that you want a final abv of higher than 6% to store, is 5% super risky? I kind of want a to end up closer to 5%.
 

Srimmey

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I like to pick a yeast for its flavor profile not it’s possible abv. Let it go dry but use nutrients and lower temps when possible to keep the road long and slow.

If you want a touch of sweetness to mellow it out, back sweeten.
I love mead so I always tend to throw in a bit of honey. It cranks the abv way up and adds some more complexity. Don’t go over board though, other wise you end up with a cyser instead of a cider.

Oak is great, so are vanilla beans. Don’t be afraid to add other kinds of apples. From what I’ve read, there is no perfect cider apples. The best ciders are made of blends from several kinds.

The very best cider I’ve ever found store bought was called “the bad apple”. It has some meadow foam honey in primary and is aged in oak barrels. Carbonated at 11.5% and it drinks like a light beer but with way more complex flavor.
 

madscientist451

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I suspect my apples just wont make a good cider on their own, they are to sour and the suger content is to high for my tastes, they range from golfball- almost not quite tennisballs in size and ripen very late in the year and remain in the tree well into december. I suspect tannin content is rather low, but I am in no way confident.
If your apples aren't very good, your cider will be the same. Hunt around your area for other apple trees. Unused apples are a hassle to clean up and many people will let you have them for free. If there are any commercial growers around, ask about "juice apples" or "seconds". So use what apples you have, but use them in a blend. Or buy apple juice at local farms or the supermarket and blend that in.
Oak chips, orange peel, hops and similar things won't make a bad cider good, it will just taste different. As the cider maker, you'll still be able to pick out the flavor you don't like, and every sip will be annoying.
After fermenting, rack the cider to another carboy and add oak chips, orange peel or whatever, but hold back some un-oaked cider in case you get too much oak character, you can blend the plain cider back in.
Try using an ale yeast for better flavor.
If the cider still isn't all that great on its own, buy the absolute cheapest light lager you can find (or brew our own) and "blend in the glass" 30-50% cider with the beer.
 
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Catboat

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I ran some apples through a juicer today. Ended up with 20 liters of must, gravity reads at 1060 and ph 2.8. It tastes very sweet and sour, its the apples I got in my backyard and I doubt I can find any others at this time of year.


So far I have only added so2. I have decided on holding off on adding anything else (aside from yeast nutrition and pectin) before the fermentation is complete, I will pitch Lalvin 71B in a day or so. I am hoping that if I can keep the temperature low I might be able to stop it from going completly dry by putting it outside in the cold before its to late and then try to keep it at 10-14 degrees for a few weeks and pray for malolactic fermentation.
After that I will probably try boiling some hops and experiment with flavours - I can't fit it all in a keg anyway.
 
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