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What's the purpose of secondary fermentation with dry cider?

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thisissami

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To give you some context:

I've just made my first ever batch of cider. I made a little over 3 gallons (that's how much juice the 80 apples I bought produced). It went through the primary fermentation, and all that super sweet apple juice has turned into very dry cider. I used champagne yeast, and it went right through all the sugars.

I've racked said cider into 3 1 gallon carboys. To one of them, I added a whole bunch of cane sugar to boost up the alcohol level significantly, and the other two I've left as is.

Said two dry ciders (with no sugar added to them) don't seem to be fermenting. I'll watch their airlocks for minutes at a time, and there is no bubbles at all. Looking into the carboy, I don't see any bubbles either. With dry cider, what do I gain by doing this secondary racking, instead of going straight into bottles?

There's two things I can think of:

1) There's still fermentation going on, but it's so slow that I'm missing the bubbles.
2) It was literally just to get the cider away from the sediment-full bucket, so that when I *now* rack to bottles from these carboys, I will have much clearer cider than going straight from the bucket.

If it's the latter thing above - why let these carboys sit out beyond the couple hours it takes for everything to settle?

Is there something else going on that I'm not aware of?

I'd love to learn more about the reasoning for all this, and would highly appreciate any insight you veteran fermentors have to share!! :D
 

Cyclman

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No need to secondary, once fermentation is done, bottle. For the sugar added cider (aka apfelwein)you can add the sugar earlier, in primary.
 
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thisissami

thisissami

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Then what is secondary fermentation all about? Is that exclusively for when people add more sugar to their batch (like what I did with the 1 gallon that I added cane sugar to)?
 

Nebraskan

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Once femntation is finished rack to secondary for at least 7 days up to 14. This will allow a settling and final finish. Cool will help to settle it out. To the secondary add SO2 at 40ppm. Also to the secondary add copper (small home wine makers can use an old penny, well cleaned) This copper combines with the Hydrogen Sulfide and will help to settle this out and removed that smelly rotten egg odor often found in fresh fermented ciders.

why add sugar unless you also added K-Sorbate for putting into a keg?
 
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thisissami

thisissami

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@Nebraskan I wanted to experiment / increase the alcohol levels for one of them. :)

Edit: if I add sugar & the K-sorbate, will that essentially sweeten the cider (knowing that it won't ferment more cuz of said k-sorbate)?
 

JuiceyJay

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I used secondary to add fruits to my cider so that I can incorporate those flavors without extra fermenting of the added sugars from said fruits
 
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thisissami

thisissami

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I used secondary to add fruits to my cider so that I can incorporate those flavors without extra fermenting of the added sugars from said fruits
Do you use a campden tablet in that case before you start your secondary?
 

beerlover77

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This is my process:
-Ferment till dry
-rack to secondary and wait till cider is somewhat clear
-add finings
-sweeten and rack to keg

If you add sugar to sweeten and are Kegging you shouldn't need to add sorbate as the cold fridge temps should put the existing yeast into dormancy preventing renewed fermentation.
 

Nebraskan

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@Nebraskan I wanted to experiment / increase the alcohol levels for one of them. :)

Edit: if I add sugar & the K-sorbate, will that essentially sweeten the cider (knowing that it won't ferment more cuz of said k-sorbate)?
Yes, adding sugar will give it a sweetness, and at the winery where I work, we have made over 260,000 gallons of cider in 2017, and end up adding sugar to many that go out in the tanker trucks, as well as our own with a bit of apple juice concentrate from Coloma Frozen Foods. I played around in the lab with our cider and thought it was lacking a bit of apple character, so I made up different amounts of sweetened cider with varying amounts of apple concentrate. We like what we have come up with and so have the customers. We add Malic to the cider if it is below 0.400 acid and boost it up to around 0.650 as Malic before adding the yeast nutrients, and yeast to ferment. It gives it a crispness that is pleasing since often the apple juice we receive may not be the best... (reads crappy apple juice) as it is high in pH and low in acid. Once the Malic is added it brings new life into the apple juice, and takes the gold brown color back down to a very light pale yellow.

One of our orders to Bremer Authentic Ingredients (sugar) this last fall for use in ciders and chapitalization was actually a truck load of 33,000 pound of sugar. That lasted about 3 weeks I recall.

I would still add the potassium sorbate (K-sorbate) at 200 ppm any time adding sugar, regardless of cold. We had a wine a while back that got some unusual yeast in it and started fermenting when cold stailizing and there was ice crystals in the top of the wine. We have also seen fermentation start in our wines we have put into 250 gallon totes and put into the walk in cooler that is held at 34F. Mother nature seems to find a way sometimes.
 

bmd2k1

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Yes, adding sugar will give it a sweetness, and at the winery where I work, we have made over 260,000 gallons of cider in 2017, and end up adding sugar to many that go out in the tanker trucks, as well as our own with a bit of apple juice concentrate from Coloma Frozen Foods. I played around in the lab with our cider and thought it was lacking a bit of apple character, so I made up different amounts of sweetened cider with varying amounts of apple concentrate. We like what we have come up with and so have the customers. We add Malic to the cider if it is below 0.400 acid and boost it up to around 0.650 as Malic before adding the yeast nutrients, and yeast to ferment. It gives it a crispness that is pleasing since often the apple juice we receive may not be the best... (reads crappy apple juice) as it is high in pH and low in acid. Once the Malic is added it brings new life into the apple juice, and takes the gold brown color back down to a very light pale yellow.

One of our orders to Bremer Authentic Ingredients (sugar) this last fall for use in ciders and chapitalization was actually a truck load of 33,000 pound of sugar. That lasted about 3 weeks I recall.

I would still add the potassium sorbate (K-sorbate) at 200 ppm any time adding sugar, regardless of cold. We had a wine a while back that got some unusual yeast in it and started fermenting when cold stailizing and there was ice crystals in the top of the wine. We have also seen fermentation start in our wines we have put into 250 gallon totes and put into the walk in cooler that is held at 34F. Mother nature seems to find a way sometimes.
When you guys are developing new styles/varieties etc...how large of batches do you work with?
 

Nebraskan

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Do you use a campden tablet in that case before you start your secondary?
Adding SO2 to racked cider is ALWAYS a very good idea. Did I mention to add SO2? Wines, especially white wines at very low pH can get by with little SO2 addition. The effect of SO2 is diminished with higher pH, so a wine at 3.15 will require a lot less SO2 than one at 3.70 pH. There are charts and reference to this. Cider is more or less like wine, but a lot less alcohol (EtOH) and is more prone to film yeasts. It is so important to keep up a molecular 0.9ppm regime that I check ciders every 30 days and wines every 90 days for SO2 and pH to see where they are at and we adjust accordingly.
 

Nebraskan

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When you guys are developing new styles/varieties etc...how large of batches do you work with?
We bottle up in cans and kegs up to 300 gallons of cider with added sugar, concentrate and filtered through a 0.45micon filter before the brite tank. At bottling they use the DMDC dosser that injects Velcorin a beverage sterilant, into the stream at around 200ppm on the precautionary side. Velcorin breaks down to alcohol and co2 rather quickly,,, well, 12 hours for nearly undetectable.

However, we make up batches with sugar for the tankers in a stir tank and blend into one of our larger tanks in the amounts of 5600 gallons. Takes lots of 50 lb bags in the stir tank for those outside orders.
Looked at our online software and one customer has a tank of 5569 gallons of clear apple cider waiting for pickup. No sugar has been added as yet, but if he asks we will add what % he wants in our blending tanks along with K-sorbate and filter into another tank ready for his pickup. His other cider in the tank next to the 5569 is 5425 gallons.

When the ferment is finished 0.5% or less R.S. we centrifuge into another tank (secondary) and add SO2 and copper sulfate and let it settle for about a week and rack filter through a cross flow filter that the end product is about as sparking clear as you see filtered apple juice in the store. This is how we store the ciders.

EDIT: just looked it up and that 5569 gallons, if he wants 3.5% sugar added (I don't recall at the moment-home on vacation) that would require 1625 lbs of sugar and increase the volume another 120 gallons from what it is right now. You'd be surprised at the additional gallons in a years time is created just by adding sugar.
 
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thisissami

thisissami

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@Nebraskan ok so for somebody who's just working on a 1 gallon batch of cider and doesn't have access to the equipment you do... let's pretend for a second that I wanted to carbonate my cider when I bottle it (which I actually don't care about, but I am curious about what that process is like):

If I add S02 to my secondary, wouldn't that stop the yeast from being able to process sugar and pump out C02 bubbles? Or am I not understanding how that process works? If I *am* understanding it correctly, is there any easy way to carbonate the bottled drinks as a small scale home-brewer?
 

beerlover77

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You can bottle carbonate Dry cider by adding priming sugar to the batch and bottling in beer or champagne bottles and capping just as you would beer. If doing this I suggest not adding sulfite at bottling time as it would work against you and you must not add sorbate as the bottles wouldn't carbonate.

If you want to sweeten as well as carbonate in the bottle that is a whole other matter. One way is to: Sweeten to taste, add priming sugar and bottle. After it is carb'ed enough you pasturize to prevent bottle bombs.
My old method (before kegging) was to sweeten with Zylital (non-fementable), prime with sugar and bottle as normal... the cider would be off dry and carb'ed in a month.
 

Nebraskan

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@Nebraskan ok so for somebody who's just working on a 1 gallon batch of cider and doesn't have access to the equipment you do... let's pretend for a second that I wanted to carbonate my cider when I bottle it (which I actually don't care about, but I am curious about what that process is like):

If I add S02 to my secondary, wouldn't that stop the yeast from being able to process sugar and pump out C02 bubbles? Or am I not understanding how that process works? If I *am* understanding it correctly, is there any easy way to carbonate the bottled drinks as a small scale home-brewer?
Ok... SO2 won't stop the fermentation AS LONG AS you are using good PDM yeast Pris d Mousse a Champagne yeast. That (as well as several others) have a tolerance for SO2 that wild yeast are missing. You do not want to get too crazy with SO2, so 1 campden tablet per gallon is plenty. Let is set for a day as this will allow it to disinfect as well as preserve over oxidation. Use a fresh packet of PDM yeast (EC-1118) and hydrate with water and Go-Ferm (you can get it on Amazon) 1: 1.25 ratio yeast:Go-Ferm.
Figure out your desired pressure, and add just enough sugar for that pressure. Don't go overboard as this is cider not champagne. Add a "small" bit of yeast nutrient to the cider on day of bottling. Add the sugar the day before you add the yeast. Add a tiny amount of very finely ground bentonite to the gallon of cider on day of bottling and mix well. Adding your yeast, then crown cap and leave alone at 65 deg or so for a couple of weeks and try. Should be nice and clear as the bentonite will help the finished yeast to settle out.

It will be dry,again, when done. There is no way to make it sweet when opened if you ferment in the bottle. If you want sweet hard cider, fine, clear and then add the sugar and/or apple juice concentrate and keg. Don't forget the K-sorbate if you do it the "keg" method. It should basically be pretty clear when you keg it.

Hope that answers questions you might have. It IS nice to have 2.5 HP pumps, filters, big tanks and mixers, that's for sure.

I've often wondered about getting a milk separator which is really just a small centrifuge and trying that for some of the beer wort before boiling. However, with conical fermentor it is easy enough to just allow it to settle for 45+ minutes and drain out the bottom valve until it runs clear.
 

MarkKF

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I put it into a smaller carboy and let it sit in the sub-60 deg. F. cellar for 3-6 months. It clears, off gases and develops more flavor during that time. When I've waited 9 months it has restarted (MLF?) slowly as the cellar temp rises.
 
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