Sour Frustration…

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Fern0022

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I was going to start yet another batch of cider today, but couldn’t find the motivation. Every cider I make turns out overly tart. The apple (and other fruits) flavors are there, but theyare hidden under this tart (almost berliner weisse) flavor. I’ve tried sweetening & mixing with apple juice in the glass before serving, but the sourness always lingers.

I follow as many of the rules which I’ve learned in here over the past few months. All of my recipes have included store bought juice (without preservatives), yeast (red star, mangrove jack M02, or Lavin K1V-1116), yeast nutrient, and pectic enzyme. I maintain constant temp (~74*f), practice good sanitization, only rack with a siphon, keep them in the dark, backsweeten with apple juice concentrate (also without preservatives) to bottle carb, bottle (with caps) in dark bottles, and cold crash them when they are ready using the coke bottle technique.

My fermentations are always healthy and the end product tastes a bit different than the others, which is to be expected. But the sourness is a constant. After brewing nearly 50 gallons, I’ve reached my breaking point.

What am I doing wrong?????
 
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Fern0022

Fern0022

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My guess: the store-bought juice is the problem. Can you get juice from an orchard where you live?

I wish. I’m in South Florida, the nearest orchard is just too far for it to be economical.

Why would the store bought juice cause tartness? Could it have something to do with acidity? I’ve never taken the ph before fermentation.
 

madscientist451

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When fruit juice is fermented, the sweet part turns to alcohol and you are left with the more tart aspects. If you use tart apple juice like granny smith or fruit like raspberry or peach, you'll end up with a very tart beverage.
What specific juice are you using?
 
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Fern0022

Fern0022

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When fruit juice is fermented, the sweet part turns to alcohol and you are left with the more tart aspects. If you use tart apple juice like granny smith or fruit like raspberry or peach, you'll end up with a very tart beverage.
What specific juice are you using?

I’ve been using McCustcheon’s apple cider, Market Pantry, Natures Nectar, and Mott’s.
 

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Raptor99

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Sourness is usually a low pH. It is worth investing in a pH meter to find out. Most grocery store apple juice is made from table apples and does not have a low pH. Did you add any acid blend?

Some backsweetening can help to balance the tartness and bring out the apple flavor. You said:
backsweeten with apple juice concentrate (also without preservatives) to bottle carb

Backsweetening and bottle carbonation are two different things. It sounds like you did not stabilize with Kmeta and Ksorbate before adding apple juice concentrate, so the yeast would consume all the sugar, producing carbonation.

If you want a cider that is both sweetened and carbonated you have a few choices at bottling time:
1. Use a non-fermentable sugar such as stevia or erythritol and add some sugar to bottle carbonate.
2. Add enough sugar to both sweeten and bottle carbonate, and then pasteurize the cider in bottles to kill the yeast when the carbonation level is about right.
3. Stabilize and sweeten, then use a keg to carbonate.

I use #1. Others on this forum use #2 or #3. In any case it is good to do some bench testing to find out how much sweetness you need to balance the acid.
 
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Fern0022

Fern0022

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Sourness is usually a low pH. It is worth investing in a pH meter to find out. Most grocery store apple juice is made from table apples and does not have a low pH. Did you add any acid blend?

Some backsweetening can help to balance the tartness and bring out the apple flavor. You said:


Backsweetening and bottle carbonation are two different things. It sounds like you did not stabilize with Kmeta and Ksorbate before adding apple juice concentrate, so the yeast would consume all the sugar, producing carbonation.

If you want a cider that is both sweetened and carbonated you have a few choices at bottling time:
1. Use a non-fermentable sugar such as stevia or erythritol and add some sugar to bottle carbonate.
2. Add enough sugar to both sweeten and bottle carbonate, and then pasteurize the cider in bottles to kill the yeast when the carbonation level is about right.
3. Stabilize and sweeten, then use a keg to carbonate.

I use #1. Others on this forum use #2 or #3. In any case it is good to do some bench testing to find out how much sweetness you need to balance the acid.

I apologize for the confusion. I should have said “prime” and not “backsweeten” in my op.

I prefer dry carbonated cider. I prime with the ajc to add fermentable sugar for bottle carbing along with the additional apple flavor.
 

Chalkyt

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Wot Maylar said!

That is one of the reasons that I like to heat pasteurise (you can use chemical means too) to stop fermentation "on the way down". This is a bit harder to do than fully fermenting then adding sugar or AJC to restore sweetness and carbonation, but it does produce a better result because if fully fermented some of the flavour compounds seem to "blow off".

I will typically bottle at 1.012 or so, let fermentation continue until 2 vols of CO2 has developed in the bottle (around 1.008), then pasteurise (I do lose about 1%ABV doing this compared with fully fermenting, but it is like 5.5% vs 6.5%). I end up with an off-dry, slightly sweet, lightly carbonated cider without the real tart dry result that often comes from using eating apples (most of my trees are this type although a couple of "cider" trees are now starting to produce).

Of course you can't measure SG once you have bottled without sacrificing a bottle, but the soda bottle squeeze test (which you use) or test bottle with a pressure gauge (which I use) does the job. Pressure of about 2 atm, (30 psi or so) reflects about 0.004 SG drop.

Of course you can also stop fermentation at the flavour you like and keg.
 

Pbjls

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I am just in my second year with wine and cider making so have a lot to learn myself.
My first cider was very dry and tart. I bottle conditioned then used a small amount of simple syrup to backsweeten. It was quite a shock how little it took to make the apple flavor jump. The tartness was rounded without actually getting too sweet.
I now have a keezer set up so I can stabilize and sweeten before kegging. It has turned into a fun exercise. I taste from carboy and decide if sugar is needed. If so I stabilize. A couple days later my wife and I will draw out a couple cups and carefully measure and taste until we like it. Then extrapolate how much to add for the whole batch when we keg it. I have also started holding back juice or syrup to sweeten with instead of plain sugar. I have peach, cherry, plum and apple from my orchard in the freezer to sweeten with.
 
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Kees

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Store-bought apples and apple juice contain mainly acid and sugar but lack tannins and aromas. The acid is masked by sugar. After fermentation you are left with acid and alcohol. For a nice cider you need more flavours and tannins. Acidity will be reduced / mellowed by malolactic fermentation which wil start after alcoholic fermentation at slightly higher temperature (20 C).
 
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Fern0022

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What about unfiltered store bought juice? Would it make any difference?
 
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Fern0022

Fern0022

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Alright, I’ve taken all your advice to heart boys. I found a guy at a local farmers market who presses his apples up in North Carolina and hauls about 300gal down to SoFlo to sell while visiting family. It’s damn good, but I have no idea what kind of apples it’s from.

This could possibly be my last cider, or the first of many, many, more.

Recipe:
5 gal fresh cider
1 packet Lalvin K1-1116 Yeast
5 tsp yeast nutrient
2.5 tsp pectic enzyme

Gravity Readings:
OG: 1.047

My plan is to stay simple. Cold crash at ~1.020, rack off lees, bottle carb, heat pasteurize, then age some and drink some. Should end up somewhere between 3-3.2% abv. But honestly, I can finally say that don’t care about the alcohol content. I just want a tasty brew.

Fingers crossed.
 

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Fern0022

Fern0022

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Sounds great. Please keep us posted.


Wow guys! The difference between fermenting fresh juice to a desired flavor, compared with backsweetning fully fermented store bought juice is night and day.

Lalvin K1-1116 will be my choice moving forward. From start to finish, the aromas and taste given off by this yeast are amazing. Within a few hours the entire side of my house smelled of fresh pressed apples. I have yet to achieve this strong of an apple taste/body at any point in my previous runs. The end result is extremely floral, very strong apple taste, almost creamy, with no harsh alcohol or wine flavor whatsoever.

The taste reached perfection at 1.022. So I cold crash at ~42*. Unfortunately, Murphy’s Law had other plans and I lost power for 5 hours. Either the loss of power or the time it took my fridge to cool the 5gal, we lost an additional 0.01 and some flavor (over 24hrs). After noticing the change in flavor, I kinda panicked and went full-on “old timer”, skipped the rack, and went strait into bottles. As expected, they carbed up very fast (<24hrs). Then I began my first attempt at dishwasher pasteurization on the “sanitize” setting. A test run with a meat thermometer stuck into a corked bottle hit 155* internal temp, and held it for 45min. Not perfect results, but good enough for me. I loaded up my bottles and gave it a go. It was effective (temp wise), but I lost 5 bottles due to popped caps and full on explosions. The wife was not amused as I removed the bottles and glass shards draped in full body protective gear. But the kids and I thought it was hilarious.

This farmhouse cider (as I’m calling it) is fantastic!!! The bottle sediment from not racking is quite substantial, including swirls of brown & white (which I’m assuming are yeast and apple pulp). So after reading that some sediments can impart unwanted flavors over time, I don’t think I’ll age this batch.

My confidence has been fully restored thanks to your help Kees, Pbjls, Chalkyt, Madacientist451, Maylar, and Raptor99!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Cheers,
-F

Here is some additional info for you guys and anyone else who experiences a little frustration down the road.

Recipe:
5 gal fresh apple cider
1 packet Lalvin K1-1116 Yeast
5 tsp yeast nutrient
2.5 tsp pectic enzyme

Gravity Readings:
OG: 1.047
FG: 1.012 (~4.6% ABV)

Notes:
Day 1: Oxygenated juice, mixed ingredients, added rehydrated yeast starter, OG: 1.047
Day 3: SG 1.022, cold crashed
Day 4: SG: 1.012, bottled, stored cold
Day 5: Desired carbonation reached, pasteurized, stored cold, Final Yield: 42 x 12oz bottles
 

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