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Suggestions for primary/secondary process

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Anaximenes

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Hi, I'm about to start my second batch of cider and was hoping to get some suggestions on my plan so I don't waste all this juice. I have a couple specific questions outlined below as well. Thanks in advance!

I will be starting with 6 gallons of fresh pressed cider from a farm, unpasteurized.
  1. Add campden tablets and wait 48 hours.
  2. Transfer juice to 6.5 gallon carboy for primary fermentation. Pitch yeast (Nottingham ale yeast). Add yeast nutrient. Add pectic enzyme clarifier.
    Q1: Is this too little headspace for primary fermentation? My goal is to move to a 6 gallon carboy during secondary and have it filled all the way to the neck. Maybe it's okay as long as I set up a blow-off tube?
  3. After a couple weeks, once bubbling slows, rack to 6 gallon carboy. Fill all the way to neck. Let sit for about 1.5 months.
  4. Rack to a second 6 gallon carboy for tertiary fermentation. Leave for 2 months.
    Q2: I will have some headspace after leaving sediment at the bottom of the secondary fermenter. What is the best way to deal with this at this stage? I was thinking I would add sanitized marbles.
  5. Bottle and prime for carbonation.
 

Chalkyt

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Sounds like a pretty straighforward process, similar to what most of us do. My only comments/suggestions are...

- I do primary in a somewhat open container (bucket with a lid to keep any nasties out... this way you don't get stuff squirting out of the carboy neck/airlock). Both Claude Jolicoeur and Andrew Lea suggest in their books that some initial exposure to air in primary is worthwhile. I rack to secondary once the turbulent fermentation has finished (i.e. the initial foam has settled... by this time most of the major trub has also settled). This is usually after a week or two (depending on the yeast) and around SG 1.030-1.020. Others may have different views.

- I don't bother with tertiary fermentation any more, but stay in secondary under airlock for a couple of months (even after this time there will be up to 1/2" in the bottom that you discard). I found that this was even the case with tertiary fermentation.

- You will be surprised at how many marbles you need to fill up unwanted airspace. Very roughly, a stack of marbles will only occupy about half the volume that their height suggests (if my arithmetic is correct, it takes about 200 marbles to displace a pint of liquid).

- Fermentation temperature seems to be a significant determinant of flavour. Low temperature gives slow fermentation so the flavour volatiles tend not to blow off. "low and slow" is the mantra.

Have fun!
 
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Anaximenes

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Great, thanks for the response. Interesting about the primary. Would you say I could get by with a 6.5 gallon bucket? Or could I even split the primary fermentation between two buckets and then combine them in secondary?
I don't bother with tertiary fermentation any more, but stay in secondary under airlock for a couple of months (even after this time there will be up to 1/2" in the bottom that you discard). I found that this was even the case with tertiary fermentation.
Do you think having the must sit on the sediment for so long has a negative effect on flavour? That's one reason I was worried about letting it sit so long in secondary. Also, do you feel you end up with more sediment in your bottles since you stopped doing a tertiary?
You will be surprised at how many marbles you need to fill up unwanted airspace. Very roughly, a stack of marbles will only occupy about half the volume that their height suggests (if my arithmetic is correct, it takes about 200 marbles to displace a pint of liquid).
Good to know! I suppose that's one more reason to avoid the tertiary if possible... If I do go ahead with it, how do you prefer to deal with too much headspace?
 

Chalkyt

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I use a 10 litre bucket with about 5-1/2 litres of AJ to start. The turbulent foam occupies the space of about another litre or so. It stays well below the rim of the bucket so spillage isn't an issue.

This lets me rack 5 litres into secondary, which usually appears quite clear although there is some suspended matter which eventually settles out and is discarded when I bottle. In theory I should get 15 x 333ml (12 fl oz) bottles from secondary but I really only get 14 and a bit because I leave the small amount of settled matter behind. Because the "and a bit" isn't a full bottle I have to drink it in the interest of quality control. I haven't found that the small amount of settled must affects the taste.

When I bottle it is quite clear but a thin film eventually settles at the bottom of the bottle. Since I usually bottle carbonate, I don't know if this is due to original suspended matter or expired yeast from the carbonation process. The first glass is always clear but the remainder can be a bit cloudy if I don't take care to leave the last bit in the bottle.

If I had too much headspace, I would top up with AJ which would simply ferment, probably contributing to the settled sediment.
 

madscientist451

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I've mostly stopped using my 6.5 gallon carboys, just too much weight to move around and a hassle to clean.
So with cider, wine, mead or long aging beer, I've been using 3 gallon glass carboys for secondary. I start with about 4 gallons in a primary 5 gallon plastic carboy or bucket.
Then when I rack to secondary I'll keep some 1.5 liter wine bottles handy and save the clear "extra" material and maybe a bottle of "dregs" that I'll let settle.
I've been wanting to change most of my fermenting and secondary over to kegs for a while now, but have been too busy lately to pull everything I need together.
 
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