New guy working on his first batch

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Jason Lopez

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Hey everyone,
I'm a new member, and a new brewer(does that word apply to cider?)

I got a very basic 1Gal kit from my wife as a birthday gift and popped my first batch in on Saturday. It was just simple apple juice (from concentrate, but no other ingredients, not refrigerated) and kit-provided yeast. According to the kit it should be done fermenting and then carbonating by 10 OCT, so I'll be having my first homemade brew then.

For this batch I'm not trying anything fancy, I just want to be able to crack open a bottle and say "Yes, this is absolutely hard cider" before I start trying to make it my own. Will post updates as progress goes, any tips will be appreciated. Thanks!
 

Blacksmith1

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Hey everyone,
I'm a new member, and a new brewer(does that word apply to cider?)
It does here. you will see people here refer to their wines, meads, and ciders as brews.
Welcome, good luck, enjoy, and don't give up if the first one doesn't work out. The second one will probably be better even if it does.
 

madscientist451

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Call it whatever you want. But there's no brewing involved when making cider.
Maybe in your part of NC there are some apple growers? See of they sell any fresh pressed juice. Check and see if they add preservatives, and if they don't, all you need to do is get a few gallons and dump it in your fermenter and add some yeast ( or let it naturally ferment).
Cider wants to make itself, you really don't have to do much of anything if you don't want to.
 
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Jason Lopez

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Thanks Mad, there's a farmer's market right around the corner, but honestly I think it's a bit early for that (It still flirts with 90F here) but I'll be looking for the freshest juice I can find. Goal is to eventually be pressing my own, but that opens up an entirely new can of worms with money, time, health concerns etc. I am trying to focus on this step now, but I also wanted to just get started so it doesn't become some kit I got, then never used. Thanks for the advice!

Also, Day 4 and the first batch is getting a small brown film towards the top. Is that an issue?
 

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blasterooni

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Thanks Mad, there's a farmer's market right around the corner, but honestly I think it's a bit early for that (It still flirts with 90F here) but I'll be looking for the freshest juice I can find. Goal is to eventually be pressing my own, but that opens up an entirely new can of worms with money, time, health concerns etc. I am trying to focus on this step now, but I also wanted to just get started so it doesn't become some kit I got, then never used. Thanks for the advice!

Also, Day 4 and the first batch is getting a small brown film towards the top. Is that an issue?
Thats krausen. Total normal. Happy yeast colony doing their thing making alcohol and CO2. Welcome to HBT btw! Making Cider (like mad said, no real brewing involved, but, "brewing" is s bit of a loose term) is a lot of fun, so many things to learn, and you almost have try to mess it up. Sure, some ciders you'll make will be more drinkable than others you'll make, but, therein lies the fun! Experimenting with different strains of yeast, additions like hops, fruit, oak or sugars makes the whole process enjoyable and interesting. Make sure to write down your recipes and process so if you land on a winner you can do it again, or make it even better! Have fun, which is inevitable, and keep us posted :)
 

Sequoiacider

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The brown film is Krausen and is perfectly normal. With highly active fermentations the small amount of headspace you have in that bottle could cause krausen to push through the airlock. I typically give a little more headspace during primary.

According to the kit it should be done fermenting and then carbonating by 10 OCT, so I'll be having my first homemade brew then.
Yeast can't read a calendar. It is very possible to reach your target date and still have active fermentation going on, or a cloudy cider that needs more time to clarify. If you bottle a cider while it is still cloudy you will end up with bottles that have a very significant amount of sediment at the bottom. Also, if you want a carbonated cider, then you need additional time for bottle conditioning, which can take anywhere from 1 week to as long as 4 weeks depending on numerous factors.

Don't rush things, take your time, monitor the progress. Follow the schedule that your fermentation sets, rather than expecting the fermentation to conform to your schedule.
 
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Jason Lopez

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I bottled my first batch, gonna leave it for another 10 days to carbonate. I wasn't sure just how much headspace to leave in the bottles so I played it safe.

Upon sampling, even after adding priming sugar it honestly tasted a little bland to me. I'm not sure if that's a product of how much sugar was used, the apple juice I used or even just how far along the fermentation was when I bottled. I also only filled 7 1pt bottles because between sampling, spills and other losses it didn't look like I could fill an 8th (Which beer math says 1 gal=8pts), so the other half I added some honey to and drank. The honey added a nice flavor.

Did anybody else have theirs smell more like an apple wine the first time? It almost tasted like a wine without the honey.

I have a question about Hydrometers. I didn't use mine because I didn't have anything quite tall enough to float the hydrometer in, so the ABV is a total mystery to me. Do any of you have preferred methods for this?
 

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Sequoiacider

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A bit bland is not too surprising considering the fact that you were using juice from concentrate. It will improve once carbonated though. I generally find most ciders to be much more pleasing after they are carbonated. There are numerous effects that the CO2 has that affect the taste:
- Dissolved CO2 lowers the pH (increases acidity), affecting flavor perception.
- The bubbles change the mouthfeel, and also interact with your taste buds to affect the flavor perception.
- The effervescence brings more flavors to your nose as you drink, also affecting flavor perception.

When you say "tastes like apple wine", are you referring to the dryness? Don't expect your homebrew cider to taste like the over-sugared, backsweetened commercial ciders. Homebrew cider is typically dry, unless you take specific steps to get a sweet cider. If you liked the taste of the honey addition, I recommend adding a bit to your glass when serving.

For the Hydrmeter question, most homebrew shops sell tall narrow plastic flasks specifically for this. Do a google search for "hydrometer flask" and you will see what I am talking about. My local shop sells them for $5.
 
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Jason Lopez

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I'm sure it was the dryness, I am new to the lingo. The smell threw me off more than the taste. I knew it would be a little different, and it's not bad per se. Just different, and not something that I would sell. The goal of this batch wasn't to make a delicious cider, or even a cider that was mine, just a cider that was technically correct. I'd say that's been accomplished pending any bursting bottles. I'm gonna stick a new batch with a different juice in tonight. In three weeks maybe we'll have a different product.
 

Sequoiacider

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I'm confident that you will find it to be significantly improved once carbonated.

Excellent idea to start a new batch soon. I like to keep a "pipeline" going: when a batch gets bottled I immediately start a new batch. That way I always have some cider brewing, some cider bottle-conditioning, and lots of Cider ready to drink.
 

CKuhns

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Definately use a hydrometer, you can float it in the brew bucket or jug with the bung and airlock off. Along with the carbonation a little acid or even the acetic from lemon juice does wonders to add that little "Bite".
 

GeneDaniels1963

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I've been making my own cider for the past few years, and I love it. But there are a couple of simply things you can do that will really raise the bar:

1) add a cup of strong black tea per gal to give it some tanins.
2) juice some crab apples if you can find them and add that to the store bought juice.
3) try making a Graff, cider/beer hybrid. It is really easy and amps the taste way up. Look for Brandon O's Graff recipe on this forum.

Also, I suggest you get a cheap refractometer to use instead of a hydrometer. You can buy them for about $20 on Amazon. They only need a drop or two of liquid to give you a reading. Yes, you have to calculate adjustments on your final gravity reading because of optical distortion from the presence of alcohol, but there are several online calculators that will do it for you.

Welcome to the wonderful world of making your own "health elixirs." Soon you will be a marvel to your friends. I am by no means a brew master, but my friends cannot believe I make the stuff I share. Really good homebrew and ciders are quite easy to make.
 
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Jason Lopez

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Hey everyone, thanks for all of the input. My first batch was chilled yesterday, and sampled by me today and yesterday. The bland taste was mostly fixed by the carbonation and chilling, but I'd like it a little sweeter with a more obvious apple taste. The dryness was almost completely gone, although I think I may have over carbed by a day or two, popping each bottle was quite loud. No bursts.

Batch #2 (gonna try and bottle it on Sunday) was with the same brand of juice, but not from concentrate. I'm still not going to add anything crazy to the juice except for priming sugar because I'd like to see how the blank slate works.

For batch #3 (hopefully will start fermenting by Tuesday or so) would it be better to change the juice up, or maybe try a different strand of yeast? I only got three packets with the kit and I'm not sure if I want to buy more from the site or branch out a bit.

Does filtering affect flavor? My wife was a bit turned off by the sediment in the cider. A bit was left over from siphoning but I think some may have been priming sugar that un-dissolved (idk if there's a word for that?) when it was chilled.

Overall, I'd say batch #1 was a success. Using pretty generic ingredients and process, at the very worst, my cider was drinkable.
 

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Blacksmith1

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Get a racking cane, or auto siphon, if not use a chopstick or wooden skewer and rubberband to keep your hose above the sediment.
Sometimes multiple rackings with time to settle are needed to get all the sediment out.
 

bracconiere

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not sure if i missed it mentioned, but if you want to back sweeten with FAJC or something like that, look into sorbate for it....
 

Sequoiacider

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With bottle conditioning you will always end up with a little bit of sediment, though you should be able to get less sediment than what you show through the use of an auto-siphon with a clip.

It fairly standard with bottle conditioned ciders to expect to pour it into a glass when serving, and to pour carefully to leave the sediment in the bottle.
 
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