Let's try that again! Suggestions? (cider)

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Basilisk

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Hi everyone!

So this will be my second attempt at brewing hard cider. The first one didn't go terribly -- It was definitely alcoholic, and tasted decent... But it's still not there yet. We made a big batch and then separated it into smaller batches to ferment and try different things (I'll give details in a sec).

The first time, we only did 1.5 gallons total. We followed a guide that suggested 2 lbs brown sugar for 5 gallons, so we dissolved the analogous 0.6 lbs as we simmered it for a while (to kill the 'wild yeasts'). Then, we let the cider cool to room temp, and added the yeast. It gets very sketchy here: We didn't have brewing yeast, so we used Fleischmann's baking yeast. One guide suggested 10 g for 5 gallons, so we used 4 g total. We then let this ferment for several weeks (~3), then siphoned it to new bottles to get rid of the scum at the bottom, then let that sit for a week, then bottled them, adding about 4g of sugar to each bottle to carbonate them, then let the bottles sit for 10 days or so. Very ghetto, I know.

So, the things I'm going to do differently this time:
  • I got Safale-04 dry ale yeast, suggested to me for cider by the brew shop guy
  • Instead of balloons with pinholes poked in them, I'm making slightly less ghetto airlocks using a simple plastic tube in a loop, with vodka as the liquid in it
  • I got these sugar drops that supposedly have the right amount of sugar to carbonate a single bottle each
  • Gonna try different variants from last time, repeat what was good (like raspberries), not what was bad (like ground cinnamon), and try some new things (how do walnuts sound? Bananas? Spicy peppers? Coffee? Chocolate?)
  • Add some of these "yeast nutrients" the guy at the shop talked me into buying. Is this a good idea? He said that "cider often doesn't have all the vitamins and such that the yeast needs".

I'll start tomorrow, I think. But I had a question... If I don't fill up a large jug I'm fermenting in completely, there will be some air left in at the top. How much will this air ruin the fermentation process? If it's only a few inches of air, will it quickly eat that up and then start anaerobic respiration?

Any other suggestions before I start?

Thanks!!
 

dbsmith

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Hmm..I'm not sure about your kit or your ingredients, but if you want to make some apple cider really easily, just buy a gallon of apple juice (such as tree top), and then pour yourself a glass to drink, then pour a little bit into a pot and mix it with a cup of brown sugar, and then heat and stir just until the sugar dissolves, then take off the heat and pour it back into the original container. Put the lid back on and shake it to even out the temperature and get some oxygen in there, and then add about 1/4th teaspoon of baking yeast and screw the lid on loosely.

Never fails and the friends love it.

If you want some good suggestions then you should tell us what was wrong with your apple cider. Was it undercarbonated? Taste funny? Too dry/sweet? I wouldn't worry about too little airspace. I have no idea about what would be 'too much'.
 
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Basilisk

Basilisk

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Hmm..I'm not sure about your kit or your ingredients, but if you want to make some apple cider really easily, just buy a gallon of apple juice (such as tree top), and then pour yourself a glass to drink, then pour a little bit into a pot and mix it with a cup of brown sugar, and then heat and stir just until the sugar dissolves, then take off the heat and pour it back into the original container. Put the lid back on and shake it to even out the temperature and get some oxygen in there, and then add about 1/4th teaspoon of baking yeast and screw the lid on loosely.

Never fails and the friends love it.

If you want some good suggestions then you should tell us what was wrong with your apple cider. Was it undercarbonated? Taste funny? Too dry/sweet? I wouldn't worry about too little airspace. I have no idea about what would be 'too much'.
Thanks for the response!

Yeah, I guess I should clarify. I'm using Musselman's pasteurized apple cider. The only ingredients are apple cider (seems sneaky to me, putting 'apple cider' in the ingredients for apple cider...) and ascorbic acid (vitamin C, which I've read is harmless). I don't have a kit or anything, just following a guide I found (that matches the cider/yeast/sugar ratio above.

Anyway, the two main complaints I had were that

a) It wasn't very sweet (too dry?), the alcohol content seemed to be too high. I don't use a hydrometer or measure the ABV or OG or whatever...I probably should, but I'm not at that stage yet. But I can say that, compared to the commercial hard ciders I've had, it was pretty alcoholic and less sweet -- down to business. A relatively small amount got us kinda drunk.

and b) Carbonation didn't work very well. After letting it ferment, then clearing it, then letting it sit for another week, I did some sketchy math based on the bag of carbonation drops I had seen in the store: 250g for 60 drops is about 4g a bottle. So we added that much to each bottle before we capped them and let them sit for another 10 days or so. For some reason, only two bottles were carbonated. The rest really weren't at all.

Any more ideas?

Thanks!
 

BOBrob

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You really do not need to boil the cider, the ascorbic acid is there to prevent wild yeast,and the cider has already been pasteurized. All the brown sugar gave you more alcohol, and it will finish dry unless you stop the fermentation process at the desired sweet/dryness; This is done by adding crushed campden tablets & potasium sorbate in the required amounts per gallon. If you stop fermentation you can not carbonate the bottles. carbonation will take longer than a couple weeks with some ciders. I let cider set for 3 -12 months before it starts to get good flavor and the sweetness I Like. Check the cider forum for more detailed information. If I do carb the cider I will stop the degree of carbonation by "stove top pasteurizing" found in the forums. Cheers:tank:
 
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You really do not need to boil the cider, the ascorbic acid is there to prevent wild yeast,and the cider has already been pasteurized. All the brown sugar gave you more alcohol, and it will finish dry unless you stop the fermentation process at the desired sweet/dryness; This is done by adding crushed campden tablets & potasium sorbate in the required amounts per gallon. If you stop fermentation you can not carbonate the bottles. carbonation will take longer than a couple weeks with some ciders. I let cider set for 3 -12 months before it starts to get good flavor and the sweetness I Like. Check the cider forum for more detailed information. If I do carb the cider I will stop the degree of carbonation by "stove top pasteurizing" found in the forums. Cheers:tank:
this^

if you ferment juice, or juice with sugar added, most yeast will ferment that down to 1.000 or even .099. you can always back sweeten this with NON fermentable sugar at bottling. Lactose works and is used a lot, but leaves a creamy taste/feel. artificial sweetener works, with no creaminess, but if you're like me, splenda/nutrasweet/etc. doesn't taste very good, especially in alcoholic drinks. killing the ferment around 1.007 or so with K-sorbate works well, but you're either left with still cider, or the need to keg and force carb.
in my experience, just fermenting juice+sugar produces a high abv, dry, tart beverage that takes many months (or longer) to become drinkable, IMO. do some searching here on the site, especially the cider/mead forum.... or better yet, just brew some beer! :ban:
 

dbsmith

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Next time I would just not add sugar and maybe some lactose. I would carbonate it just like a beer, perhaps slightly less. You should add the sugar to the whole batch and then bottle it rather than per bottle..but you have tablets now. Good luck!
 
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Basilisk

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this^

if you ferment juice, or juice with sugar added, most yeast will ferment that down to 1.000 or even .099. you can always back sweeten this with NON fermentable sugar at bottling. Lactose works and is used a lot, but leaves a creamy taste/feel. artificial sweetener works, with no creaminess, but if you're like me, splenda/nutrasweet/etc. doesn't taste very good, especially in alcoholic drinks. killing the ferment around 1.007 or so with K-sorbate works well, but you're either left with still cider, or the need to keg and force carb.
Thanks so much for the helpful response!

Sorry, just to clarify 'cause I'm new at this, by 'still' you mean non carbonated, right? So I'm kinda confused... it seems like all these options have their downsides. What do well known brands like woodchuck do, do forced carbonation?

in my experience, just fermenting juice+sugar produces a high abv, dry, tart beverage that takes many months (or longer) to become drinkable, IMO. do some searching here on the site, especially the cider/mead forum.
I'm kinda confused by this too... What do the many months do? Wouldn't that make it ferment even more and make it drier?

To be honest there's a huge gap in my knowledge of how this works. I thought most of the fermenting happens in about 3 weeks or so... is that not the case?

Ok, I guess I should probably really get a hydrometer. Can you suggest a cheap but decent one?


... or better yet, just brew some beer! :ban:
NEVARRRRRR! For some reason, I just don't like beer. I've tried a lot, and the taste just doesn't do it for me.
 

BOBrob

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Hello there. Yup non carb = still= dry. Sparckling is carbonated, like woodchuck. Hydrometers are $15, and get the one for beer&wine making, they come with instructions and are easy to use. Search "EdWort's apfelwein" for a good cider recipe, or just look in the cider forum in the recipe section at the bottom of the main page. There you will find all the combined knowledge of the HBT members. Good cider takes time, carb cider takes good bottles and time. Woodchuck recipes can be found in the cider forum. Happy hunting & Cheers:tank:
 
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