Need a little help with cider flaws

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RIptidedylan

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Hi all,
So I just got my score sheets back from a TON of ciders I entered at GLINTCAP this spring--I did really well overall, but there were a few common flaws.

1. First, "V/A" or " Volatile" or "solventy" --I read that this can be caused from too warm of a fermentation or from insufficient yeast, almost all of my wild yeast fermentations got this comment, any thoughts on how it can be avoided?


2. Phenolic (same as nail polish??) Is this part of the V/A spectrum, and again, is there anything specific that causes it ?


3. Acetaldehyde --Can someone describe how this is different than VA , and again how this could be prevented.

In general many of these "flawed" wild ciders were my favorite (by far) ciders, and sometimes they judges would write "should be in Natural/Spanish cider" --even though it was made with modern apples...are these off flavors common with wild yeast fermentations, and do you think that's where some of the VA comes from?


Basically the "VA" is my biggest issue, in terms of production techniques I sterilized all equip first in dishwasher on rinse + extra heat then used starsan, I fermented at 65-67 degrees F , and then after primary I aged them 3-6 months in a secondary. Is it possible that some of these off flavors are coming from sitting on the lees too long?

I'm also wondering if my mixes were too basic, several of the more flawed ciders were Ph around 3.7.

I appreciate anyone with experience dealing with and preventing these off flavors!

Thanks!
 

Maylar

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Hi all,
So I just got my score sheets back from a TON of ciders I entered at GLINTCAP this spring--I did really well overall, but there were a few common flaws.

1. First, "V/A" or " Volatile" or "solventy" --I read that this can be caused from too warm of a fermentation or from insufficient yeast, almost all of my wild yeast fermentations got this comment, any thoughts on how it can be avoided?


2. Phenolic (same as nail polish??) Is this part of the V/A spectrum, and again, is there anything specific that causes it ?


3. Acetaldehyde --Can someone describe how this is different than VA , and again how this could be prevented.

In general many of these "flawed" wild ciders were my favorite (by far) ciders, and sometimes they judges would write "should be in Natural/Spanish cider" --even though it was made with modern apples...are these off flavors common with wild yeast fermentations, and do you think that's where some of the VA comes from?


Basically the "VA" is my biggest issue, in terms of production techniques I sterilized all equip first in dishwasher on rinse + extra heat then used starsan, I fermented at 65-67 degrees F , and then after primary I aged them 3-6 months in a secondary. Is it possible that some of these off flavors are coming from sitting on the lees too long?

I'm also wondering if my mixes were too basic, several of the more flawed ciders were Ph around 3.7.

I appreciate anyone with experience dealing with and preventing these off flavors!

Thanks!
  1. Acetic – A smell and sharp taste like vinegar, solvent, or acetone/nail polish remover; a distinct fault in cider, caused by acetic or lactic acid bacteria. Ethyl acetate is produced by yeast during fermentation. At high concentrations it imparts a solvent-like estery character to cider. At low levels it contributes to flavour balance. In combination with acetic acid, ethyl acetate contributes to 'volatile acidity.
  2. Phenolic – A plastic taste and smell caused by some wild yeasts and bacteria. Also described as smoky, pitchy, medicinal, barny, or leathery.
  3. Acetaldehyde is produced by yeast during fermentation. It imparts an apple-like flavour to cider, perceived as somewhat like emulsion paint as the concentration is increased. High levels can be indicative of process problems.
I dunno how useful that is, but these are my sources:

https://candlewineproject.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/cider-tasting-vocabulary/

https://www.aroxa.com/cider/cider-flavour-standard/where/p/1
 

FunkyMunk

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What style did you enter them into? The judges were probably just judging to style, and something that might be desirable in a wild/"natural" cider might be considered a flaw in something like a new world cider. Not sure if the apple varieties would necessarily come into play here, but I could be wrong. I do know this happens all the time in beer comps, where a brew can be technically very well made, but get dinged for not confirming to the style in which it was entered.
 

RPh_Guy

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To avoid acetic acid ( = volatile acidity = VA) you need to eliminate oxygen exposure and maintain adequate sulfite levels post-fermentation. Acetobacter, Brett, and other yeast and bacteria produce it, but only in the presence of oxygen.
FYI it's called volatile acidity because acetic acid is volatile and can be boiled off, not that this is helpful for our purposes, unless you want to measure the level.
Acetic acid tastes like vinegar because it is vinegar. It tastes tangy/sour... Not solventy.
If you left the cider open to air, the acetic acid would continue to increase (and ethanol would decrease) until it's just apple cider vinegar.

Ethyl acetate presence gives nail polish remover/ solvent flavor/aroma. This is not related to volatile acidity. It's known to be produced by Pichia (and probably other microbes) in the presence of oxygen. Reduce or eliminate oxygen exposure.

Phenolic flavors are also produced by wild yeast and bacteria, and can taste like solvent (among other things). You can't really prevent these flavors besides pasteurizing the juice, sulfite pre- and post-fermentation, or maybe cold fermentation .... all of which reduce wild microbe expression.

Acetalydehyde is another product of fermentation, but it's produced by all yeast. Furthermore, it's a naturally occurring compound in apple juice ... It has a sharp green apple taste. It can be a sign of unhealthy fermentation, cider that was removed from the yeast cake too early, or simply that the cider is too young ... Acetalydehyde ages out.
Try leaving it longer on the yeast cake before racking, or increase pitch rate, or add yeast nutrient, or age longer.

sometimes they judges would write "should be in Natural/Spanish cider" --even though it was made with modern apples
It sounds like you just entered them in the wrong category. Modern apples or not, the dominant flavors, strength, and appearance should determine the category.
https://glintcap.org/styles/natural-cider/

These types of flavors don't come from typical commercial yeast cultures. You didn't say anything about the microbes you use...
Are you using unpasteurized juice or pitching some kind of "wild" culture? If not, you definitely need to step up your cleaning and sanitation, because you have a contamination issue. A pellicle should be a giveaway.
If you are using wild microbes, enter it under the right category next time. Sanitation is a non-issue.

PH 3.7 should be fine. Adjust your sulfite level accordingly, if applicable.

If you like the results, don't change your process! Who cares about medals if it's delicious?

Cheers
 
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madscientist451

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What variety of apples were in the cider? Were the apples picked before they were ripe? Did you let them "sweat" for a month or more before pressing?
The original post mentions "modern apples"? The judges at Glintcap are tasting all kinds of cider made with specific cider apples, sometimes carefully tree ripened.
Did you add any sugar?
How long did the cider age?
What yeast did you use? (Just wild yeast?)
What was the fermentation temperature?
Did you add yeast nutrient?
I guess what I'm saying is that before you pick apart your cider making methods, you should look at the big picture.
The flavor of your cider begins with the apples you can get.
Also, if you made a cider that you enjoy, don't worry about what the judges are saying. Everyone has different tastes, if you like it the way it is, keep making it and drinking it.
:mug:
 

Maylar

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To avoid acetic acid ( = volatile acidity = VA) you need to eliminate oxygen exposure and maintain adequate sulfite levels post-fermentation. Acetobacter, Brett, and other yeast and bacteria produce it, but only in the presence of oxygen.
FYI it's called volatile acidity because acetic acid is volatile and can be boiled off, not that this is helpful for our purposes, unless you want to measure the level.
Acetic acid tastes like vinegar because it is vinegar. It tastes tangy/sour... Not solventy.
If you left the cider open to air, the acetic acid would continue to increase (and ethanol would decrease) until it's just apple cider vinegar.

Ethyl acetate presence gives nail polish remover/ solvent flavor/aroma. This is not related to volatile acidity. It's known to be produced by Pichia (and probably other microbes) in the presence of oxygen. Reduce or eliminate oxygen exposure.

Phenolic flavors are also produced by wild yeast and bacteria, and can taste like solvent (among other things). You can't really prevent these flavors besides pasteurizing the juice, sulfite pre- and post-fermentation, or maybe cold fermentation .... all of which reduce wild microbe expression.

Acetalydehyde is another product of fermentation, but it's produced by all yeast. Furthermore, it's a naturally occurring compound in apple juice ... It has a sharp green apple taste. It can be a sign of unhealthy fermentation, cider that was removed from the yeast cake too early, or simply that the cider is too young ... Acetalydehyde ages out.
Try leaving it longer on the yeast cake before racking, or increase pitch rate, or add yeast nutrient, or age longer.

Thanks very much for this. Many times I've tried Googling for cider flaws and the best I've come up with is the 2 links that I posted above. I can get the causes of different aromas/flavors but I never seem to find info on the underlying issues that create them. Thanks for being here.

If you like the results, don't change your process! Who cares about medals if it's delicious?

Cheers

Yeah, well.. I figure that if judges can identify flaws, someone else probably could too. It's a matter of pride (or maybe vanity).

A couple of examples that I've run into - "Green apple". Acetalydehyde. My ciders are usually close to a year old by the time I enter them in comps, so it's not a young cider thing. I always use nutrients and ferment as cool as I can, and my ferments always go as expected in terms of time and FG. I have no idea how to prevent this in the future.

I made a cider that was so good that friends offered to buy some from me. But a comp judge wrote "baby vomit". Riiiight. Butyric acid. From the flavor standards web site, "The origin of butyric acid in cider-making is unclear but it is most likely associated with use of poor quality applies which have suffered from bacterial rot." Highly unlikely with the source of juice that I have.

But ultimately, you're right - if it tastes good to the people who will drink it, who cares what some judge thinks.
 

RPh_Guy

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Acetalydehyde. [...] I have no idea how to prevent this in the future.
Could you be racking too soon? This is one of the flavors that contact with the yeast cake helps remove. I only experience this flavor in ciders that I rack/bottle quickly. Try leaving it on the cake for a few days to a few weeks after fermentation completes.
It could also be elevated if there are granny smith or underripe apples in your juice blend.
If you bottle carbonate, try adding fresh healthy yeast at bottling to ensure healthy fermentation in the bottle.
Certain yeast strains produce more of it than others; if all else fails you could try switching yeast to see if that helps.

Butyric acid is formed by wild microbes (hence the comment about rotting apples).
http://www.milkthefunk.com/wiki/Butyric_Acid
Perhaps just that one bottle was contaminated or the whole batch was and the judge was particularly sensitive to the taste in the cider and you and your circle weren't. ... Or any number of other random possibilities I guess.
That's one reason I'm not too keen on entering competitions.

Yeah, well.. I figure that if judges can identify flaws, someone else probably could too. It's a matter of pride (or maybe vanity).
If the judges' comments can help improve your process, I think it's good.
In the case of the OP, it sounds like certain flavors were judged as "flaws" simply because they were out of place for the category. The same cider in the natural category perhaps wouldn't have had flaws (OK, "solvent" still isn't good, but other phenolics might be fine like clove, peppery, spicy, or smoky).

With wild fermenting there's always some unpredictability. If the OP is using unpasteurized juice, he may consider splitting the batch as close to pressing as possible and fermenting in separate vessels to allow different microbe expression, and then creating a final blend based on the characters of each portion. Adding some Brett can really help smooth out the rough edges too.
These techniques are used by professionals that embrace wild fermentation (small batch blending and house Brett cultures) and it works great at home too if you have space for multiple fermenters.

Thanks very much for this.
Glad I could help! You could also search for beer off-flavors, because there seems to be more info. All the fermentation-related and contamination/wild-related flaws are the same (e.g. beers can have acetalydehyde and butyric acid too, and for the same reasons, more or less).

Cheers
 
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Maylar

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Could you be racking too soon? This is one of the flavors that contact with the yeast cake helps remove. I only experience this flavor in ciders that I rack/bottle quickly. Try leaving it on the cake for a few days to a few weeks after fermentation completes.

With that particular batch I was trying to emulate Claude Jolicoeur's method of racking often to reduce yeast biomass and slow down the ferment. So, yes, it was racked off the yeast earlier than I normally would.

It could also be elevated if there are granny smith or underripe apples in your juice blend.

Yes, there were Granny Smith's in the batch. Late season pressing (November), from a local orchard. But other cider makers took gold medals with the same juice.

If the judges' comments can help improve your process, I think it's good.

That's why I do it. But as I said, finding the corrections to my process isn't all that easy if you don't know what made the flaws.

So, thanks again.
 

RPh_Guy

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It seems clear that the early racking is the source of the acetaldehyde in this case.

I haven't had good results from trying to starve the yeast either. Happy yeast always give me the best products.
 
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