What happened to my cider?

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Jan 15, 2010
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Hi all, last August i decide to give cider a try. I bought 4 gallons of fresh juice from a local winery and juiced another gallon from some Johna gold and Melrose apples. I also added about 2.5 lbs. of wild flower honey. Fermentation started spontaneously in the juice from the winery just before I mixed everything together, and kept going strong at 56 degrees for 4 days. After fermentation stop i racked it off to a secondary and let sit for the last 3-4 months. My concern is when i went to keg it this afternoon I noticed it had a strange smell almost nutty but nothing I can pin point it to. From fermentation to kegging i never noticed any white ash, greasy film, or any other clear indicator of contamination. The taste was OK but the smell went straight to my head and gave me a little headache.

So my question is what’s causing that smell? is it the honey, the wild yeast, or a contamination? Mainly is there a way i can test the cider for contamination and see if something is wrong or if it’s just really bad cider.

Thanks in advance for your help


Well-Known Member
Sep 26, 2007
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Your cider has wild yeast "contamination", that is what fermented it spontaneously. Making a wine/cider that way is more variable since you aren’t selecting the optimal strain for the job, you are letting whatever yeast/bacteria are in the juice do the job. The only real test is sensory, do you enjoy it?

Luckily cider doesn’t have the residual sugars beer does, so it really won’t sour much with additional time. I just bottled an intentionally funky cider (dregs from sour beers added in primary) that I brewed fall 2009 and it just has a complex farmyard aroma along with the apple.

The added honey boosted the alcohol, did you take any gravity readings? You are probably pushing 9% ABV assuming the FG ended up close to 1.000, so that could certainly be contributing to the aromatics as well. Cider needs lots of time to age, I generally try to give mine a year before I really dig into them (especially when they have extra sugars added).

Hope that helps, good luck.