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Results from juice, yeast and sugar experiments

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CvilleKevin

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Hi Folks – Last year I decided it was time to come up with some new cider and cyser recipes, so in addition to 20 keg batches, which were mostly made with ole trusty Nottingham ale yeast, I did roughly 80 single gallon batches with different yeasts, juice and sugars. I saved a liter each of the better ones (36 total) and drank them with friends last month to see what was worth replicating for this year. For anyone who is interested, here are the results:



The goal – I try to make ciders and cysers that are semi-dry to semi-sweet – ie from 1.002 to 1.008 when they finish out. That’s a good bit dryer than the commercial ciders I like (woodchuck granny smith, woodpecker, original sin), but not so dry that it tastes like a white wine (or jet fuel).

Juice – I used fresh juice from a couple of local cider presses. One has the option of UV pasteurization, the other just sells unpasteurized.

edit - I've learned a lot about juice since this post many years ago. For some updated info on juice, see this post: https://www.homebrewtalk.com/forum/...-sugar-experiments.83060/page-24#post-6439100


Some people say that unpasteurized juice tastes better. It depends. I did several keg batches where the guy at the press filled a couple of carboys right before the juice went through the UV, and a couple right after the UV. The only difference was the UV. The UV changes the color a little bit, but the taste was exactly the same.

Once the juice ferments, it’s a different story. The pasteurized juice ferments faster, the results are more consistent, and you can drink it in a few weeks. If you cold crash it, it is quite drinkable in about 10 days. Since you don’t have to sulfate it, it doesn’t stink up your brew cellar as much. Finally, if you use Nottingham, S04 or a lager yeast and add sugar, enough of the yeast will stay close to the bottom that you can stop fermentation before the sg bottoms out just by racking a couple of times, which is a lot less hassle than cold crashing.

Using pasteurized juice does have disadvantages. It doesn’t get the nice clear finish of unpasteurized juice. And it often overwhelms the airlock with krausen and makes a mess, because there is no sulfate slowing the initial fermentation. But mainly it doesn’t keep as well. I didn’t realize this before last year, because previously everything I made would be drunk up by February. However after a few months the pasteurized stuff gets vinegary. Without exception, all of the batches that we tasted last month which were made with pasteurized juice had a noticeable vinegar taste, even though they tasted fine back in the early spring. All of the unpasteurized stuff was fine.

The unpasteurized juice tastes really sour during and after fermentation – even when it has a relatively high final sg - and it takes several months to mellow. But it still tastes great almost a year later and in many cases improved. Unlike the pasteurized juice, I havent been able to stop the fermentation by using a bottom fermenting yeast, extra sugar and racking (at least not so far), but cold crashing still works.

The type of apples makes a big difference. You have to start with a good blend or the final result will taste crappy, no matter what yeast and sugar you use. I had the best results with blends that were based around Staymans and Winesaps as the main juice, with Granny Smiths to give it some extra tartness and Golden Delicious, Yorks or Pink Ladys for sweetness. I’m sure there are lots of other combinations that work, but these are what’s readily available in Central Virginia.

Yeast – the best ones so far (for the juices I used)

edit - quite a few years have gone by since this post, and while the list below has largely held up over time, I've made a few additions. For the latest list, see here:
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/forum/...-sugar-experiments.83060/page-21#post-5710045

Nottingham – This has been my favorite yeast for several years. It works well for sweet ciders and cysers with pasteurized juice, although not so well for unpasteurized cyser. It cold crashes well with any juice. With just juice, no sugar, and cold crash around 1.004, it is outstanding. If you use sugar and bump sg up to at least 1.060, then you can stop fermentation with pasteurized juice by racking. You have to do either rack or cold crash to keep it from drying out all the way, as it tends to strip out the flavor if it goes all the way dry.

Safale S-04 – This is becoming my new favorite. It has a little fruitier taste than the Nottingham. It cold crashes well with any juice. If you use sugar and bump sg up to at least 1.060, then you can stop fermentation with pasteurized juice by racking. With unpasteurized juice, if you don’t cold crash and just let it ferment out to dryness, it leaves more of the apple taste than the Nottingham. It also works better for unpasteurized cysers. I haven’t tried a pasteurized cyser with it yet.

Saflager S-23 – This lager yeast has a similar flavor profile to Nottingham. It doesn’t do as well with unsweetened juice, but is good if you add sugar to bump the sg up to about 1.060. This is one that definitely improves with age. It was one of the best that we tasted last month. It cold crashes well.

Safale US-05 – This yeast imparts an interesting taste to the cider which reminds me a little bit of a pale ale. It works better with pasteurized juice – with unpasteurized it tends to knock out some of the body.

Yeasts I’ll probably try again

Wyeast 3068 – So far I’ve just used this with pasteurized juice, with and without extra sugar, cold crashing both batches. It has a nice smooth taste and lots of body, but not much tartness. However, mixed with juice that is fermented with WLP300 (which fermented out a little too tart) it was outstanding. I’m planning to try it with unpasteurized juice this year to see if that imparts a bit more of a bite.

Wyeast 4184 Sweet Mead Yeast – I tried this one with pasteurized and unpasteurized juice, with and without extra sugar, all of them cold crashed. All were good, although the best was unpasteurized with sugar.

Wild yeast – I did several experiments with wild yeasts. Generally, they tasted pretty good until the sg dropped below 1.020 and then they started picking up nasty flavors. Cold crashing keeps them stable for a little while, but not for long. But they do pick up some interesting tastes.

Yeasts I probably wont use again, but still were OK

WLP002 – I’ve just used this with pasteurized juice, with and without extra sugar. It tasted nearly the same as using Nottingham, which is very good, but they were similar enough that I would say its not worth the extra hassle and cost of a liquid yeast

WLP300 – I’ve just used this with pasteurized juice, with and without extra sugar. It was very slow to start fermenting. It had a nice body and flavor but a really sour finish, even though I cold crashed it. Mixed with the Wyeast 3068, it was really good though.

Windsor – So far, I’ve just used this with pasteurized juice. It finishes out really sour, but has a fruity taste. I kinda liked it but none of my friends did. Adding sugar before fermentation makes it taste worse.

Coopers – So far, I’ve just used this with pasteurized juice with no sugar added. It ferments out more tart than Nottingham and has a woody taste which I wasn’t crazy about, but some might like. If you like Blackthorn dry commercial cider, you’ll probably like working with Coopers.

Lalvin 1118 – I used to use this yeast all the time back in the day until a friend turned me on to using Ale yeast. It ferments very fast and very dry. With unpasteurized juice, the only way I could ever get decent results was to let it dry out and then back sweeten with the original juice. I’ve been able to get OK results with pasteurized juice by cold crashing, but you really have to keep an eye on it because it drys out fast.

Yeasts I don’t particularly recommend

Wyeast 4766 Cider Yeast - Tested with pasteurized and unpasteurized juice, sweetened and unsweetened. Of these, only the sweetened unpasteurized juice was drinkable, and just barely

WLP720 Sweet Mead - Tested with pasteurized and unpasteurized juice, sweetened and unsweetened. Of these, only the sweetened pasteurized juice was drinkable, and just barely

Safbrew WB-06 - I’ve just used this with pasteurized juice, with and without extra sugar. They were both really bitter.

Lalvin-1116 – I just tried this with pasteurized, unsweetened juice. It left a real bland, butter taste.

Red Star - Cotes de Blanc – I just tried this with pasteurized, unsweetened juice. It left a real bland, buttery taste.

DV10 - Tested with pasteurized and unpasturized juice, no extra sugar. Both were drinkable but somewhat bland.

Safbrew S-33 – Tested with pasteurized and unpasturized juice, sweetened and unsweetened. All tasted pretty crappy. Basically sucked all the flavor out of the juice.

Sugar

I experimented around with different combinations of cane sugar and dextrose. I found that both leave an aftertaste, with the dextrose a little more of a beery taste and the cane sugar a little more winey. Of the cane sugars, the darker sugars leave more of a butterscotch taste. I got the best results with a mix of 2/3 dominos organic cane (which is a light turbinado) and 1/3 corn sugar and adding whatever is needed to get the sg to 1.060 to 1.065. I found that going above 1.065 causes the finished juice to lose the apple taste.

For cysers, I add 3lbs of honey to 5 gal. I warm the honey jar up a little in a hot water bath so that it mixes easier. For some reason, the honey causes pasteurized cider to finish a lot more clear that with sugar or on its own.

I also tried using agave nectar on a couple batches. The result tasted like diluted and alcoholic agave, which was interesting, but not what I was going for. It tasted like the yeast fermented out all of the apple sugar (and taste) and left the agave sugar behind.

edit - I get asked a bit about process and recipes. Here it is: https://www.homebrewtalk.com/forum/...-sugar-experiments.83060/page-24#post-6452205
 
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jayhuff

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That is a lot of great information! Thanks! One question... after racking you say that you can stop the fermentation. Could I still bottle and add priming sugar to carbonate? Or is too much of the yeast left behind?
 
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CvilleKevin

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jayhuff - You need to leave the yeast behind or you get bottle bombs. The stuff I bottled ranged from 1.002 to 1.010 when I bottled it last year and it was all still when I opened it last month (except for a few bottles that I filled from kegs). One exploded over the summer, so I guess I didnt get all the yeast out of that one. Normally I use the kegs to force carbonate, so these experiments were just for taste.

I was able to stop fermentation on all of these (except the wild yeast) by cold crashing. But the Nottingingham and S04 were the only ones that I could get to stop by racking alone, and that was only with pasteurized juice with added sugar. I think it would work with S23 or another lager yeast but I havent tried yet. I'm also planning to try stopping fermentation with K-meta and see if that affects the taste, but that wont work with bottle carbing either.
 

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Thank you very much! I am curious about using the lager yeast. How do you think lagering the cider would turn out? I know I've read that using a hefeweizen yeast turns out very well. Do you have any experience with this yeast?
 
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CvilleKevin

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I'm not sure how lagering would work for cider. Normally the temp in my basement is 55-60 during the fall and winter and I cold crash by putting the juice in the fridge, which is pretty close to lager temp. Usually that stops fermentation completely, but in the case of the S23, it might have been the racking afterwards that stopped the fermentation. If you've got a lagering setup, I think it would be worthwhile to check it out. Based on my experience with the S23, I ordered some Breferm lager yeast which I'm going to test as soon as I get a new batch of juice later this week (although I'm not sure if the basement is cold enough yet). I'll try some other lager yeasts this fall.

The Wyeast 3068 is a Hefe yeast. I got OK results with pasteurized juice. I'm planning to try it with unpastuerized juice later this fall to see if that gives it a little more of a tart note. I also just got some Danstar Munich wheat beer yeast which I'm planning to try this week.
 

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Thanks for sharing those great ciders with us, Kevin. You're the cider master! I still contend that the wild yeast batch was incredible, but this is coming from a Gueuze fan, so take it with a grain of salt. Let me know when the next juice re-up comes in, I'll probably take 10 gals this time. I'm definitely going to experiment with some brett and lacto on a small portion. Also thinking I'll test out Wyeast forbidden fruit yeast on a batch. :D
 

toularat

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Hi. I am very curious about your comment that cider made from pasteurized juice did not keep well. I just bought pasteurized juice to make cider.
How long after fermentation is done before you drink it, and how long will it keep?
I noticed you do not use anything to stop fermentation. Is there a reason for that? Would stopping the fermentation cause it to keep longer?

Thanks for your help.
 
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CvilleKevin

CvilleKevin

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Toularat - Other than the bottles I saved til last month, the cider I made from pasteurized juice was all gone by the end of March and it tasted fine until then. It was all stored unrefrigerated in my basement over the summer and we had some days when the basement got warm, so that was probably what turned it. But the unpasteurized stuff was stored in the same place and survived just fine.

One thing I was going to mention in my original post but ran out of space - Not every bottle that got vinegary was ruined. Some had just a bit of the taste and a lot of my friends liked it more than some of the stuff that hadnt turned. Others tasted like salad dressing. Even so, there were only a few liters that didnt get finished off. Of the 30 or so people that helped me finish off the last 36 bottles, about half a dozen were beer makers and they liked the most funky tasting stuff. So I guess its somewhat a matter of taste. But the majority of women were leaving it alone and it didnt do much for me either.

As far as how long before you drink it - if its pasteurized you can drink it in a couple of days if you cold crash it. A week or so if you rack it off the lees and just let it sit. The pasteurized stuff doesnt get much better with age, at least not if its sweet.

I didnt use k-meta to stop fermentation because I thought that would give the cider a sulfer smell - like it does at the beginning of fermentation with unpasteurized juice. But I am planning to experiment with that this year. It might help the cider keep longer. One thing I discovered later in the season is that if you have a keg of cider and it has a sulfur smell or other funky smell, you can usually scrub it out by charging the keg with CO2, let it sit for a day, then depresurize the keg and let it sit another day. The C02 comes back out of the cider and takes a lot of smells with it. Purge out the gas that comes out of the cider and then charge it up again. Repeating 2 or 3 times gets rid of most funky smells. So now I am not so wary about introducing funky smells by using K meta. It ought to be a lot easier than cold crashing
 

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If you use an ale yeast in a cider is it recommended to ferment at the suggested temp range for the yeast? or can you ferment it higher temps because it is a cider?
 
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CvilleKevin

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The highest temp I've brewed at was at 70F with Nottingham yeast, which is the top of its recommended range. Many ale yeasts are rated to go to 75F. At 70F, the Nottingham only takes about 8 or 9 days to ferment completely dry. 7 if you want some residual sweetness. So you really have to keep an eye on it or it will get bone dry. I've had better results in the 55-65 range, mostly because its easier to stop fermentation where I want it when the SG isnt dropping so fast.
 

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Wow, I wish you would have posted that a few week back :)

The only "wine yeasts" available at my LHBS are the Lalvin 1116 and 1118. I've used them both in the past, with decent results. Mostly 1 gallon batches. The 1118 ferments out very dry, which isn't how I would prefer it to come out. The 1116 comes out a little sweeter, but I found that I doesn't bottle carb well at all for some reason.

3 weeks ago I started 2x 6 gallon batches using fresh unpasteurrized apple juice from a local farm, using 1116 for one and 1118 for the other.

It never occured to me that I could use Ale yeast! Now I kind of wish I could go back in time and pick up some S-05!
 
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CvilleKevin

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Building on last year’s experiments, here is what I’ve learned so far for this year (10 keg batches and 17 experimental gallon batches):



Juice – Mark from ABS Brew clued me in to why the pasteurized juice did not keep as well as unpasteruized. Two reasons. First, potasium metabisulfite does not just kill the wild yeast. It is also a preservative. Second, UV pasteurization reduces ascorbic acid, which also acts as a preservative. This is also why the unpasteurized juice is much more tart when it finished fermenting.

Based on that info, I tried a few batches of unpasteurized juice, with and without adding the K-meta. They have been going about a week and I checked them yesterday. SGs have dropped from 1.060 to 1.014, so they still have a way to go. At this point, the batches without the K-meta taste much better. They have a natural apple taste and would be quite drinkable right now, although I am planning to let them go another day or two and cold crash around 1.004. The ones with the K-meta have a tart candy apple taste that is very familiar – I expect these will be quite good in a few months, but now, not so much.

I’ll be starting some more keg batches in a couple of weeks and will definitely cut back on the K-meta – maybe use half the recommended dose. I’m also planning to start a new round of single gallon experiments to see if there is an optimal amount of K-meta to add to kill the wild yeast without turning the must sour. I was planning to use k-meta to stop fermentation on the keg batches which are currently in primaries, but now that I know the effect on the taste, I’m going to cold crash instead.

Yeast – I tried several new yeasts. Juice was unpasteurized Stayman, Empire and Golden delicious, with a bit of Granny Smith. All were fermented at a temperature range of 60-65 degrees. All of the new yeasts fermented out much faster than the Nottingham and SO4 ale yeasts, which I used as a control. After 7 days, the Nottingham and S04 batches were all at 1.014. Keep in mind that gallon batches tend to ferment out faster than 5 gallon batches, so add a couple days if you are doing a 5 gallon batch. I added K-meta to the juice 24 hours before pitching the yeast, so its going to be a month or two before any of these are really good, but here are first impressions, in order of potential:

Lallemand Munich wheat – Cold crashed 7 days after pitching yeast. SG was at 1.002. Has a good apple taste, with a bit of clove and k-meta tartness

Brewform Lager – Cold crashed 7 days after pitching yeast. SG was at 1.004. Good apple taste, with some interesting flavors I cant quite put my finger on – still dominated by tartness of k-meta

Enoferm ICV-D47 – Cold crashed 6 days after pitching yeast. SG was at 1.010, but the taste was very dry and smooth. The k-meta taste wasn’t as prominent.

Coopers Ale – Cold crashed 7 days after pitching yeast. SG was at 1.004. Not bad. I tried this yeast before with pasturized juice and was not impressed, but with unpasteurized it is pretty good.

Saflager W34/70 – Cold crashed 7 days after pitching yeast. SG was at 1.000. It was a little too dry for my taste, but may improve after k-meta wears off.

Lalvin 71B – Cold crashed 6 days after pitching yeast. SG was at 1.000. Overly dry, but has a decent finish

Munton Ale yeast – Cold crashed 7 days after pitching yeast. SG was at 0.998. I should have caught this one sooner. I tasted it at 6 days and it was pretty good, but at 7 days it had lost a lot of flavor.
 

russb123

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I have a question. Are those 1 gallon milk jugs you are using?

Is that thin of plastic ok?
 
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CvilleKevin

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Those are the plastic jugs that the cider press uses, which are about the same thickness as milk jugs. They are plenty strong for fermenting and are very handy for making experimental batches because all you need to do is pour off a little juice, add k-meta, sugar and yeast (or whatever else you want to add), slap on a fermentation lock and you are good to go.

BTW - I have now cold crashed all but 4 of the last round of experimental batches. For the juice I got from the cider press, the batches without the k-meta taste much better than those with. They could be consumed right away (and probably will be this weekend). They taste just like the pasteurized juice, (which I didnt sulfite) so I am certain it is the k-meta that makes the juice sour after fermentation.

On the other hand, I have a few gallons that I got from a cider pressing party. That juice was not as tart and for those gallons the ones with k-meta taste better. Having a little bite helps and it seems to have a little more body as well.

Reading some more on the web about k-meta and pH, I believe the recommended dose of 1/4 tsp for 5 gallons before fermentation is meant for wine, which usually has a higher pH than cider. As pH drops, recommended dose of k-meta also drops.

When I get new juice I plan to get another 18 single gallons and experiment around with different k-meta doses before and after fermentation. I'll post results when I get some preliminary results, which should be in about a month.

If any of you are planning on fermenting unpasteurized juice and it is already nice and tart, I would recommend cutting the k-meta back to at least half the recommended dose if you want to drink it sooner. If the raw juice doesnt have much bite then stick with the recommended dose.
 

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OK, a bit new at this. but when you say cut the dose of the K-meta back are you talking about when you first bring the juice home before pitching the yeast. or would this be for guys that k-meta for racking and when primary is finished?

since i don't have much experience with tasting tartness, is there a way to determine the proper does scientifically? I couldn't find a PH Vs. K-Meta table

the cider from the pressing last year had these stats:
Specific gravity of 1.050
Titratable acidity expressed in Tartaric of 7.5 gpl or 0.75 ta
pH was 3.5
 
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CvilleKevin

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When I say cut the dose of k-meta back, I'm referring to before you pitch the yeast.

However if the pH of your juice is 3.5, you may be OK with using the normal dose. If you overdose, it will still be OK - you will just have to wait more months for it to mellow before you drink it.

I always thought that the k-meta just killed the wild yeast and then went inert after 24 hours, but that is not the case. It definitely gives the juice a tart taste. Sometimes that is helpful, but usually not.

I've looked around the web and in my wine and cider making books for a pH to k-meta chart for cider, but havent found one, which is why I'm planning to experiment. As I understand it, K-meta creates free S02 which acts as a preservative. 1/4tsp in 5 gallons provides 45ppm of S02. With fresh juice, some of the S02 gets bound up with the juice, so as a rule of thumb you get 25ppm of free S02 from the first pitching of k-meta.

With wines, targets for free S02 vs pH are:
pH = 3.5 S02 = 25ppm
pH = 3.2 S02 = 13ppm
pH = 3.0 S02 = 8ppm

That's why I think you are probably OK with the recommended k-meta dose. The info I found on k-meta vs free S04 vs pH was developed by research at wineries and there are some differences between apple and grape juice. Apple juice has more ascorbic acid. So the tables that have been worked out for wine might not necessarily be the best ones for cider, although they are probably in the ballpark. Lots of apple varieties have pH of 3.0 or lower. So if the juice is tart, I think its probably a good idea to cut back on k-meta. You will definitely be able to drink it earlier.

Another wrinkle in all of this is that of the yeasts that I experimented with in the last round of batches, the two gallons with wine yeasts (ICV-D47 and Lalvin 71B) were not as sour as the others that got the k-meta. They didnt have the full flavor of the ale yeasts, but still taste acceptable at bottling time. It may be that wine yeasts have been selected to metabolize more of the k-meta, whereas ale and lager yeasts wouldnt normally expect to encounter k-meta.

I'd be really curious if anyone else out there has experimented with not adding k-meta before fermenting, and what the results were.
 

Elfmaze

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If the tart flavors in the juice are partially caused by the asorbic acid in the unpasturized juice. How does Not using the K-meta effect that flavoring?

The K-Meta byproducts also produce a tart taste themselves? And this flavoring diminishes over time?
 

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If the tart flavors in the juice are partially caused by the asorbic acid in the unpasturized juice. How does Not using the K-meta effect that flavoring?

The K-Meta byproducts also produce a tart taste themselves? And this flavoring diminishes over time?
I don't believe that K-meta has anything to do with the flavor or aging. I think that might be some of the experiences the poster is describing, but there is no chemical reason for a taste change, and sulfiltes have a fairly short life before disapating, so there would be no reason for a flavor change. Also, at the rate of 50 ppm, it's below the human taste threshold.

K-meta keeps wines and ciders from oxidizing and spoiling faster. It isn't a flavor additive, and it does not affect fermentation by wine yeast.

If you get a sulfur smell, it's not from the sulfite. It sounds more like H2S, which is quite possible. Also, stressed yeast will smell sulfury. When you add sulfites to an acidic mixture (must), it produces SO2. That distinctive odor quickly disappears, and doesn't cause more odor during fermentation than not using sulfites. I think that many of us have different experiences in making wines and ciders and there is room for all opinions and the sharing of the experiences.
 
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CvilleKevin

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I can tell you with complete certainty that adding k-meta affects the taste of cider. If you dont believe me, take two gallons, add the k-meta to one and not the other. Pitch whatever yeast you like. Taste them after the primary fermentation. The one with the k-meta will be noticeably more sour. After a few months, the sourness wears off and the cider becomes drinkable.

Its possible that the sour taste is not from the k-meta itself, but is produced by the yeast when it ferments in the presence of k-meta. I didnt try to see if I could taste the difference before fermentation, but I will when I get new juice later this week.

BTW - This weekend I sampled a liter each of the test batches with some friends. The 3 batches without the k-meta (2 Nottingham with different juices, 1 S04) were the favorites, followed by the Brewform Lager, a batch fermented with wild yeast, and the Danstar Munich. I'll try them again in a few months to see how they hold up over time.
 
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CvilleKevin

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I picked up another 50 gallons from the cider press this morning. 30 gal for keg batches and 20 singles for test batches. I’m planning to use the 20 singles to experiment with different amounts of k-meta before and after fermentation and stopping fermentation with cold crashing vs. sorbate. Some of the gallons have no k-meta, some have recommended dose (1tsp/5gal), some have ½ dose and some have 1/3 dose.

After adding the k-meta and letting it sit about 15min, I tasted the juice. The k-meta imparts a very noticeable taste to the raw juice. The juice is a mix of Staymans and regular Winesaps (sg 1.050, pH 3.7) and has a nice full flavor – its starts sweet and appley and finishes tart. The recommended dose of k-meta suppresses much of the apple sugar taste in the front of the palate and adds a sour finish. Definitely less apple taste overall, but not unpleasant. With half the recommended k-meta dose, the effect is less pronounced, but still easily discernable. With 1/3 the recommended dose, there is a little suppression of the apple sugar taste in the beginning, but the finish is the same as regular juice

At this point, I think its safe to say that the k-meta does have a fairly substantial impact on the taste and that it is due to the chemical itself, not some byproduct of the yeast from fermenting in the presence of the k-meta (although that may cause some additional taste). Whether that is a good or bad thing is a matter of taste. I do believe that cutting back or eliminating the k-meta will result in a cider that requires less aging to be drinkable, probably at the expense of how well it keeps, but that is TBD.
 

jay415

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Great info, Thanks.
What is the recipe/process you are using for your kegged batches? What is your best recipe so far?
 
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CvilleKevin

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My keg batch process has been evolving since I started reading this forum last year. Before then I just used fresh local UV pasteurized juice and Nottingham ale yeast. No extra sugar, but sometimes 3lbs of honey for cysers. Cold crash when it gets to about 1.002 to 1.008, keep an eye on it for a couple days to make sure fermentation doesn’t start back up again and then put it in a keg and carb at 25psi and a day or two later it is good to go. A few extra days of settling and carb generally improves the taste, but it doesn’t need much aging. Sometimes a pasteurized cider will clear up after an extra week or two in the secondary, but usually not. Cysers usually do.

Since reading this forum last year I’ve started adding sugar to most batches, to pick the sg up to 1.060 or 1.065 max. I’ve found that starting with slightly higher sg gives more control over stopping at a good final sg and still leaves a lot of apple taste. I shifted to using mostly unpasteurized juice because it clears faster with no additives, so can be kegged sooner as long as you don’t mind waiting longer to drink it.

For the most recent 5 keg batches I cut the k-meta dosage in half (1/8 tsp in 6gal). I expect this will make them drinkable sooner. For four of the carboys I added 18 oz turbinado and 9oz corn sugar to bring the sg to 1.060. For the fifth, I added 3lbs of orange blossum honey to take the sg to 1.065.

I usually use dry ale yeast, mostly Nottingham and S04. This year I also did a few with US05 and S23 and in the keg batches I justed started, I’m using two liquid yeasts – Wyeast 3068 and 4184, along with Nottingham and S04. I’m also using S04 for the Cyser. S04 seems to do the best for unpasteurized cysers. The 3068 is producing a lot of foam and I’ve had to clean up that carboy a couple of times. For the dry yeasts I don’t use a starter – just pitch the yeast right on the surface of the ¼ the packet of yeast at a time, floating it on the surface until it sinks. After all 4 pitches of yeast have rehydrated and sunk, shake the carboy to make sure none of the sugar or honey is settling on the bottom.

Fermentation usually starts in less than 12 hours, airlock bubbles after 24 hours and strong fermentation for 6 to 8 days. When the fermentation starts slowing down a week or so later, check the sg and taste periodically to determine when to stop fermentation. I usually cold crash when the sg is between 1.004 and 1.010, depending on overall taste. Rack the carboy into a spare, put it in the fridge at 35 degrees for a day to settle and rack it again back to the original and let it settle.

For pasteurized juice, its pretty much good to go at this point if you don’t mind drinking it a little cloudy. For unpasteurized juice, I let it sit for a few more weeks to clear out a little more, usually until six weeks after I got the juice, because by then I need the carboy to get new juice. I generally let unpasteurized juice sit in the keg for at least a month and sometimes much longer for the tartness to mellow out, however I’m pretty sure that will be changing now that I’m cutting back on the k-meta at the beginning.

I’m hoping to find a good balance of k-meta and sorbate that can stop the fermentation without cold crashing and not effect the taste. That will allow a single racking between primary and secondary, which will save a step. I’d also like to get rid of adding k-meta before fermentation if it doesn’t adversely affect how long it keeps. That would save time as well. Right now I figure it takes me about 15 hours total to make 5 kegs from picking up the juice at the press to putting it in kegs. Most of the time is cleaning and sanitizing the vessels each time I rack. I’d like to get it down to 10 hours for total processing time on 5 kegs and put away 25 - 30 kegs a season, which ought to last until next season.

My best recipe so far depends on who you ask. I personally prefer something in the 1.004 to 1.006 range with a body that is more like an ale than a wine, with a semi-tart apple finish and not a lot of non-fruit flavors. Most of my friends tastes range from something more like a dry white wine at 1.000 to something that tastes more like a Woodchuck at 1.010. I’ve found that when serving cider its nice to have at least two kegs, one on the sweet side and the other on the dry side. Cysers are popular, and usually get finished first at a party, although I’m not crazy about them myself. Last year I did a couple of kegs where I added raspberries to the secondary, which came out really good.

Other than that, its all about matching the juice with the yeast, which is a constantly changing thing because the juice changes throughout the season. Everything made with the above yeasts has come out good. The first seven keg batches this season were with Jonathan juice which is good and tart, and so far the S04 and Nottingham taste the best of those. The five batches in secondary were made with Stayman, Granny smith and Golden delicious, and the US05 and S04 cyser are the most promising so far. Too early to tell with the most recent batch which is Staymans and Winesaps. There are a couple of local orchards that sell “vintage” apples that are supposed to be really good for cider – Albemarle pippens, Northern Spys and Russetts. I’ve thought about buying some and doing a custom pressing, but that would be really expensive, so for now I’m using whatever is readily available at the commercial juice presses.

My favorite batches from last year came from 12 gallons of unpasteurized juice that was a mix of half Granny smith and half Yorks. It had an sg of 1.060, and was insanely tart because of all the Granny smith, so I split it up into 5 kegs with slightly different amounts of juice and filled the rest with pasteurized juice that was mostly Staymans, then added 12oz turbinado and 6 oz corn sugar and Nottingham yeast for all five batches. They were all slightly different and all really good.
 

jay415

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Nice, looking forward to see your future results. I have been experimenting myself based on your technique. so far so good, I will keg and keep them cold so there is no risk of fermentation kicking back up.
 

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WLP720 Sweet Mead - Tested with pasteurized and unpasteurized juice, sweetened and unsweetened. Of these, only the sweetened pasteurized juice was drinkable, and just barely

I have a batch going on now with this yeast with unpasteurized cider and 4lbs of sugar. Exactly what happened/ was the problem?
 
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CvilleKevin

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The WLP720 batches didnt have much flavor. No tartness at all and hardly any apple taste. I let them go 13 days from when I pitched the yeast til when I tasted them, and by then all five batches with WLP720 were between 1.000 and 1.002. They might have tasted better if I had caught them sooner (keep in mind these were gallon batches, carboys will go slower). I used a lot less sugar than you (4oz per gallon to raise sg from 1.059 to 1.066) and the two that I added sugar to were better than the three with no sugar. Since you used a lot more sugar, you may have better results with this yeast. I would advise not letting it ferment all the way out though.
 

flyangler18

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Kevin,

What are your thoughts on WLP775? I seem to recall a posting by Evan! that mentions this strain and he was happy with the results.

I've got a batch going with this yeast (cold-pasteurized cider, no preservatives).
 
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CvilleKevin

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I havent tried WLP775, but its on my list to check out, along with WYeast #1010

My guess on the cider and mead yeasts is that they were probably developed to work well with traditional cider apple varieties which have more flavor than what is available from a typical commercial cider press. I met the cidermaker from Foggy Ridge over the weekend and sampled some of their hard cider which was good. Dry, but nice flavor. They use mostly DV10 yeast, which I tried a couple of times last year and it always came out pretty flavorless. When I asked about the apples they used, she named a bunch that I had never heard of. For the juice apples that are readily available in Central Virginia, the ale yeasts seem to do the best, but this may not be true with other apple types
 

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The WLP720 batches didnt have much flavor. No tartness at all and hardly any apple taste. I let them go 13 days from when I pitched the yeast til when I tasted them, and by then all five batches with WLP720 were between 1.000 and 1.002. They might have tasted better if I had caught them sooner (keep in mind these were gallon batches, carboys will go slower). I used a lot less sugar than you (4oz per gallon to raise sg from 1.059 to 1.066) and the two that I added sugar to were better than the three with no sugar. Since you used a lot more sugar, you may have better results with this yeast. I would advise not letting it ferment all the way out though.
Thanks what are your thoughts on using a combination of brown sugar and molasses?
 
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CvilleKevin

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My experience with sugar is that the darker the sugar, the more it imparts a butterscotch taste when it ferments out. Whether or not that's a good thing is a matter of taste and what you are going for. I've never used molasses, but my guess is it will give you a very caramel taste. I used Nottingham for all of the sugar tests that I did - other yeasts may produce different flavors with dark sugar. To my taste, a mix of 2/3 natural cane sugar (light turbinado) and 1/3 dextrose is the most neutral tasting, although plain white cane sugar is pretty close
 

Firstnten

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My experience with sugar is that the darker the sugar, the more it imparts a butterscotch taste when it ferments out. Whether or not that's a good thing is a matter of taste and what you are going for. I've never used molasses, but my guess is it will give you a very caramel taste. I used Nottingham for all of the sugar tests that I did - other yeasts may produce different flavors with dark sugar. To my taste, a mix of 2/3 natural cane sugar (light turbinado) and 1/3 dextrose is the most neutral tasting, although plain white cane sugar is pretty close
Thanks one more question. There is a big difference between a fluid ounce and a solid ounce. As a fluid is more so volume which I know 90% of the people here understand being they are well versed with Specific Gravity. So when using honey or molasses I still see people here coining it by lb. Are they weighing the aforementioned or just assuming for convenience sake that fluid Oz's are equivalent to solid?
 

Firstnten

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To take it a step further I did a little research and found out that molasses is about 12.5 pounds to the gallon, same weight as honey, almost. Which would make 200 solid Oz's in a gallon of molasses if my math is not off.
 

jay415

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Thanks one more question. There is a big difference between a fluid ounce and a solid ounce. As a fluid is more so volume which I know 90% of the people here understand being they are well versed with Specific Gravity. So when using honey or molasses I still see people here coining it by lb. Are they weighing the aforementioned or just assuming for convenience sake that fluid Oz's are equivalent to solid?
it's by weight. Honey = 1 gal is about 12 lbs. Water = 1 gal is about 8.5 lbs.
 

ColoradoXJ13

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Great thread! I am planning on doing a batch of cider soon (sorry for the Noobish question) and all I can get is pasteurized cider. (at $5/gal it isn't too bad). I prefer a semi-sweet cider, much like you. What would you reccomend for yeast and sugar to make your best (favorite) hard cider with pasteurized juice?
 

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I went to Kevin's for a tasting party and out of the 10 tasted (the agenda called for 15, but they were some pretty big samples of 8+% ciders, despite all the food Kevin had given us), the ones with wild yeast were my favorite. At least a few others concurred. In contrast with the others that had a more or less one-dimensional taste (my biggest qualm with ciders in general,) the ones made with wild yeast were definitely interesting while still having less off-taste than some of the others. Kevin suggested that it was due in part to a higher FG that masked those flavors, but I'm curious to try dryer versions.
 
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CvilleKevin

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The batch with wild yeast that we tasted last night came out really good. Out of 4 attempts with wild yeast, this was the best I’ve managed so far. Usually the brewers (and very few others) like the wild yeast batches the best, but pretty much everyone liked this one. I crashed this one at 1.020, where it was just starting to pick up some off flavors, which the sweetness helped balance out (keep in mind that 1.020 is still on the low end of a commercial cider). My brewer friends probably would have liked it better if I let it go another 5pts, but my experience is that below 1.020 is where the off flavors start developing.

On the other hand, I’ve got 5 single gallon batches with wild yeast in progress and these fermented out a lot faster than I thought – they all got down to 1.002 before I checked them a couple days ago, but they don’t taste too bad. Three I cold crashed and two I sorbated. I havent tasted them since stopping fermentation. I don’t think they will be as good as the one we had last night, but these are the first time that I’ve got a wild batch to go below 1.010 without tasting really nasty.

All of the ciders we tasted last night went over well, as did the brews that Mark brought. I had some rating sheets at the tasting and 13 folks remained coherent enough to fill them out so here are the ones that scored the best in order of average popularity:

1) Blend of Red and Golden delicious, Jonagold, Fuji, Empire. Started 10/11/08. Sg 1.052. No extra sugar. Left to ferment out with natural yeast, cold crashed 9 days later at 1.020 and bottled the next day

2) Mostly staymans, mixed with empire, golden delicious, small amount of granny smith. Started 10/9/08. SG 1.042. Sulfited and added 3lbs basswood honey. S04 yeast. Cold crashed 11 days later at 1.010. Let clear for about three more weeks and kegged at 1.010. The basswood honey gave the cyser a nice smokey taste that was a little forward for my taste, but most folks really liked it. I might do half basswood, half clover next time and let go to 1.008

3) (my favorite of this round) Mostly staymans, mixed with empire, golden delicious, small amount of granny smith. Started 10/9/08. SG 1.042. Sulfited and added 4oz turbinado, 2oz dextrose per gallon. US05 yeast. Cold crashed 10 days later at 1.012. Let clear for about three more weeks and kegged at 1.010. Had a great apple ale taste. Could have maybe gone to 1.008

4) Blend of Golden delicious, Jonagold. Started 10/11/08. Sg 1.052. No extra sugar. Didn’t sulfite. Added Nottingham yeast, cold crashed 9 days later at 1.004 and bottled the next day. Not sulfiting produced more of an apple taste and a hint of the wild yeast.

5) Mostly staymans, mixed with empire, golden delicious, small amount of granny smith. Started 10/9/08. SG 1.042. Sulfited and added 4oz turbinado, 2oz dextrose per gallon. Coopers ale yeast. Cold crashed 8 days later at 1.004. bottled a week later. The Coopers had a crisp tart taste.

6) Mostly staymans, mixed with empire, golden delicious, small amount of granny smith. Started 10/9/08. SG 1.042. Didn’t sulftite. added 4oz turbinado, 2oz dextrose per gallon. S04 yeast. Cold crashed 9 days later at 1.008. bottled a week later. Not sulfiting produced more of an apple taste and a hint of the wild yeast.

ColoradoXJ13 – It kinda depends on the juice. Without tasting it, I would go with 3lbs of orange blossom honey (or any other lightly flavored honey you like) and S04 yeast. Its hard to go wrong with that combo and you’ll get a clear finish. If the juice is nicely balanced and you want more of an ale body, bump the sg to 1.060 with 2/3 turbinado and 1/3 dextrose and use US05. If the juice doesn’t have much tartness, Coopers or S23 will give it a little more bite and if its already pretty tart, nottingham usually comes out a little more mellow. In any case, check the sg after 8 days and cold crash wherever you like it – somewhere in 1.004 to 1.010 seems to be where majority of people like it.
 

felix

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Incredeble topic. Thank you so much for sharing your experiments with us...

I am curious about your use of wild yeasts, i happen to live among dozens of orchards...

what is your technique? Peels?

thanks again :)
 
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