Wild Yeast Cider

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globell

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New to cider brewing and traditional ciders. Lots to learn.

Just taste tested a 1/2 oz from a batch I started 2-3 weeks ago to see how it is progressing. Still in the primary and I let the batch ferment naturally with no added chemicals or yeast.

It tastes amazingly good - or a LOT better than I thought it would and better than those I've added yeast to at first racking anyways. I adore how it finishes....almost a sprightly camomile tea licorice kinda finish about 20-30 seconds after tossing it tickles the tongue.

Bought a 1L craft cider today for 13.00 and I think this is better.

I think I'll rack it - it's semi dry/semi sweet? and the flavour....will it change? or just mellow and smooth out? sanitizing the hydrometer and it's container currently to find out a SG reading.

I will be saving the lees and innoculating another batch on sunday!

Any suggestions gladly welcomed.

I used king and spartan apples

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madscientist451

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You don't have to do anything, just let it sit until it finishes. Then rack to another container to let it age a while.
 
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globell

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It's aging now. Dry and not as great as I had hoped but I'll give it time...
 

MarkKF

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So here a few questions:
If the apples are washed before pressing is the wild yeast lost?
If you use Camden at the start to knock down bacteria will the wild yeast still start in 24 hrs.
Is it better to allow spontaneous fermentation or wash and repitch wild yeast?
 

Maylar

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Washing doesn't matter. Wild yeast is in the apples too.
It's recommended that you use 1/2 the normal k-meta dose.

Let Mother Nature do it. Lag phase will be much longer than with cultured yeast, so don't get nervous. A recent batch from Beardsley's went wild after 4 days even with sulfite added.
 

MarkKF

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Was that the usual blend or the hard cider blend?
 

Maylar

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The usual sweet stuff. I used 2 gallons for cysers and another gallon for home made concentrate. What was left in the bucket started bubbling and growing stuff after a few days - it became lawn fertilizer :)
 

madscientist451

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So here a few questions:
If the apples are washed before pressing is the wild yeast lost?
If you use Camden at the start to knock down bacteria will the wild yeast still start in 24 hrs.
Is it better to allow spontaneous fermentation or wash and repitch wild yeast?
Washing may remove some of the yeast, but not all
I don't use campden or any chemicals in wild yeast ciders, you really don't need to do that.
Re-pitching the wild yeast is unpredictable, but worth trying. You don't know which yeasts have survived the process and what they are going to provide to your cider.
Not part of your questions, but after a whole lot of trail and error, I've come to the conclusion that the choice of apples used in cider is way more important that what yeast is used. There are some exceptions to that, some yeasts produced too much sulfur for me, but generally if you want decent cider, spend your efforts getting the right apples. Good Luck
 

bernardsmith

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Washing doesn't matter. Wild yeast is in the apples too.
It's recommended that you use 1/2 the normal k-meta dose.

Let Mother Nature do it. Lag phase will be much longer than with cultured yeast, so don't get nervous. A recent batch from Beardsley's went wild after 4 days even with sulfite added.
This is really interesting. Isn't K-meta supposed to knock out wild yeast to enable cultured yeasts to gain a sufficient toe hold to shape the environment to better suit their needs and so out-compete the wild cells? Your experience suggests that some wild yeasts may be too vigorous and in too large a colony to be controlled by normal dosing with K-meta. Was there something special or different about the apples or juice in that batch?
 

Maylar

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This is really interesting. Isn't K-meta supposed to knock out wild yeast to enable cultured yeasts to gain a sufficient toe hold to shape the environment to better suit their needs and so out-compete the wild cells? Your experience suggests that some wild yeasts may be too vigorous and in too large a colony to be controlled by normal dosing with K-meta. Was there something special or different about the apples or juice in that batch?
I was surprised to see that some obvious "activity" was in process after a few days at about 68°F. I had dosed the cider with 75 ppm k-meta, a bit shy of the recommended amount for a pH of 3.50. It was fresh pressed orchard cider, with Macs, Empire, Fuji and Winter Banana apples. Apparently whatever wild yeast lives in that orchard is pretty potent. I bought the juice on Sunday and by Thursday it was bubbling away.

The next batch I made sure I started quickly.
 
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globell

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If you'd like to select for wild yeast, I found the ones that didn't have yeast nutrient lagged behind and ended up spoiling it being too gross to drink. They were the only two one gallon ciders I tossed.
I think you need nutrient and possibility a little warmer to get them started. (If you like to brew cold...just get them going strong start).
It's still aging. Excited to taste it in a couple months!
You never know with commercial presses if the person in front of you has used ground apples contaminated with dirty ground water or worse. This is the main reason I am building my own press. Ensure sanitation straight through
 

Scrumpy!

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All of my apples get a ten minute bath in 30 gals of tap water with a cup of bleach when I bring them in from the orchard. This reduces the proportion that rot due to small injuries like splitting, wasp, rodent, and bird nibbles. Then I sweat my apples for four or more weeks before I turn them into pulp with a garbage disposal. I let the pulp stand for 48-72 hours before pressing. That is plenty of time for the wild yeast to spread throughout the pulp. It is also an opportunity for the must to pick up more flavor from the skins and pulp. At pressing I add half to a full dose of stock sulfite solution based on each press run's pH. Wild fermentation starts within a day or two of pressing

The reason to use a low dose of sulfite in a wild ferment is to kill off any bacteria (Acetobacter) but it also takes a toll on the first yeast to start fermenting (Apiculate yeasts) which delays fermentation. Commercial yeast has been bred to tolerate high sulfite levels giving it an advantage over the stunned wild yeast which it quickly overwhelms if the fresh must is treated with a 100% dose of sulfite.

Wild yeast ferments much slower and can tolerate much lower fermentation temperatures than industrial yeast but does not respond well to added nutrients (can induce H2S and ethyl acetate production). My current wild ferment has only dropped ten points in 15 days at a temp of 53 deg but looks, smells, and tastes very healthy. I expect the fermentation rate to pick up over the next few weeks but it will still take many months to be bottle ready.
 

MarkKF

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I just did a two week experiment. I had some fresh local cider in the fridge that had started to ferment on its own. When it was almost gone I took what was left and the lees and dumped it in a bucket and added a fresh gallon with just pectin enzyme. Two weeks later it’s at 1.006 and tastes fantastic. I racked it into a jug and will let it age & clear.
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MarkKF

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This year I’m gonna try it again and use a barrel for the secondary with the goal to rotate wild in an out of that barrel.
 

MarkKF

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I got 6 gal. Fresh pressed on Tuesday. Wednesday I added yeast nutrients but no Camden and pitched no yeast. Wednesday night a couple of bubbles in the airlock. Thursday afternoon bubbling away! That’s faster than pitching.
 

Scrumpy!

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Mark,

You should add a half dose of sulfite to kill any bacteria in your juice. At a half dose, it will slow down the wild yeast temporarily but not kill them off. If you don't add that half dose, you risk losing it all to bad bugs.

Wild yeast are not adapted to a slug of nutrients so you don't need them. In fact, it could tempt them to start producing sulfur smells during fermentation. It will probably go away long before it is time to bottle unless you overdid the nutrients. Be sure your juice is above 70 deg until the native yeast get a foothold then try to keep it below 60 deg for a long slow ferment. If it is not going strong within a week or so, buy a paint mixing bit for your electric drill (disinfect it) and give it a couple of serious 2-3 min spins to oxygenate the juice. All yeast, wild or store bought start under oxygenated conditions then need to be oxygen free (airlock) forever after. Mine have fermented out just fine at less than 50 deg. It will take all Winter but the results are good.

Be sure to add a half dose of sulfite when you bottle to prevent any bacteria from spoiling your delicious cider or from oxygenation turning it into sherry.

Cheers
Tom
 

MarkKF

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The sulfate at bottling helps with oxidizing. The fact that it’s 6% alcohol takes care of any bacteria.

Temps. I’m stuck with what the cellar is.
 

MarkKF

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P. S. How does nutrients cause sulfur? I thought lack of nutrients causes stress. And how can nutrients not be good for wild yeast? It helps with cell development.
 

Scrumpy!

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Let's start with a useful reference. The New Cidermaker's Handbook, 2013 Jolicoeur, Claude available on Amazon. Anyone who is fermenting apple cider should have this valuable reference book on their shelf.

Next, lets dispense with the idea that 6% alcohol will kill any bacteria. When the fermentation begins, it does not have any alcohol so is entirely unprotected from bacteria in the must, floating around in the air or sticking to your equipment. If you have ever wondered how apple cider vinegar is made, consider that the bacteria that makes it metabolizes alcohol and 6% is a delicious meal for this spoilage bacteria. The bug that does this can tolerate alcohol levels to at least 10% and some strains can tolerate it as high as 15%. This is not the only bad bug you must worry about particularly in the beginning stages of fermentation. A half dose of sulfite should kill any undesirable bacteria but only stunt the native yeast for a few hours or days. This is standard practice for any properly done native ferment. That said, some people successfully pull off a wild ferment without it. It is a calculated risk that I don't take since I would not be happy to lose 50 gal of potential cider.

One of the benefits of wild yeast fermentation is how slow it is and the wide range of temperatures that wild yeast tolerate. Fermenting at low temperatures in nutrient deficient must can also result in a stuck fermentation towards the end. Unless you want to produce a cider that is dry as a bone, this process can preserve some residual sugar. If you are using acidic apples (early season desert apples) you are very likely to have a very sharp finished cider that is best offset with some sweetness.

Most people who are consistently producing good cider by native fermentation are looking for old apple trees that have not received any fertilizer in decades thus the juice is already depleted in nitrogen. Adding nitrogen to their fermentation would defeat that strategy so they do not do it. That said, some people do add vitamins (vit B) to aid in yeast cell wall development. I have never done this and my many native ferments have come out fine without it. Insufficient nutrition is a problem for cultured yeast and some varieties will produce sulfur compounds due to the stress of too little nitrogen. These strains were developed to require nitrogen and higher fermentation temperatures. Wild yeast are happy in low nutrient must and cool to even cold fermentation temperatures.

Temperature control is hard for home cider makers. I just built a fermentation box to control my fermentation temperature but in the past, I was able to keep it cool by waiting until November to press my apples. By moving my carboys in and out of my garage between night and day and wrapping them in blankets during the day, I was able to achieve pretty consistent temperatures in the high 40s to low 50s.
 

MarkKF

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So a half dose of K-Meta (1/8 tsp. for 6 gal.) will kill bacteria at the beginning & the end but will only stop the yeast for a day? Last time I added Camden to a wild ferment it never started.
 

RPh_Guy

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Let's start with a useful reference. The New Cidermaker's Handbook, 2013 Jolicoeur, Claude available on Amazon. Anyone who is fermenting apple cider should have this valuable reference book on their shelf.
Yeah, I read that. However, he doesn't do a lot of wild fermentation, so his book isn't a great reference for what we're talking about here.
Next, lets dispense with the idea that 6% alcohol will kill any bacteria.
Alcohol and acidity of hard cider does in fact kill almost all bacteria. Lactic and acetic acid bacteria are a small sliver of the pie containing all the types of bacteria in existence.

Most importantly these factors in fermented cider kill all pathogenic bacteria.
When the fermentation begins, it does not have any alcohol so is entirely unprotected from bacteria in the must, floating around in the air or sticking to your equipment.
That's kind of the point of a wild fermentation. Let the wild microbes do the work. I've made several natural ciders with zero added sufite and they were ALL delicious. I'm not using any particular apples.
For example my batch from this season has been in primary 6 weeks and it's already finished and it's exquisitely complex and delicious. It probably hasn't yet reached it's peak.

For what it's worth, Claude Jolicoeur says in his book "I only occasionally add sufite to the must".
If you have ever wondered how apple cider vinegar is made, consider that the bacteria that makes it metabolizes alcohol and 6% is a delicious meal for this spoilage bacteria.
Acetic acid bacteria require both ethanol AND oxygen to form vinegar.
What's missing before fermentation? Ethanol.
What's missing during and after fermentation? Oxygen.

It's not difficult making wild cider that is free of acetic acid. Just limit oxygen exposure post-fermentation.
In other words, acetic acid bacteria is completely harmless if you follow basic standard procedures.
It is a calculated risk that I don't take since I would not be happy to lose 50 gal of potential cider.
It's obvious that wild fermentation carries some level of risk. You do whatever makes you comfortable. There's not One Right Way to do things.
If you are using acidic apples (early season desert apples) you are very likely to have a very sharp finished cider that is best offset with some sweetness.
With a fully wild fermentation the lactic acid bacteria perform MLF, consuming all of the malic acid and leave the cider well rounded.
You only experience sharp cider because you add sufite, which inhibits the MLF.
Temperature control is hard for home cider makers.
It's not difficult or expensive. Find a cheap used fridge or chest freezer. Get a $30 temp controller. Done.
You probably buy or make your own crusher and press. Why is temperature control labeled as "hard"?
Wild yeast are not adapted to a slug of nutrients so you don't need them. In fact, it could tempt them to start producing sulfur smells during fermentation.
It's widely known that yeast nutrients reduce the formation of hydrogen sulfide. You're confused on this point.

A lot of your recommendations are conflicting with everything else I've read and with my own experience. How many wild fermentations have you done without sufite? Washing the apples in bleach is probably not the best idea either for a spontaneous fermentation; it reduces the starting yeast count. It could explain why you might have gotten poor results.

Cheers
 

Scrumpy!

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RPh_Guy, I am glad you have successfully made "several" batches of delicious cider without using sulfite. If you are happy with the results, keep up the good work.

As to my own experience, I have been exclusively using wild fermentation for the last few years. I generally do 50 to 75 gallons a year as individual varietal batches then blend them to make several final products. They have been doing well in competition (GLINTCAP and others) so I must be doing something right. However, there is always room for improvement so I never do it exactly the same way twice. I agree that there is more than one way to do this and each will have different results

I think you may be mistaken about Claude J's use of sulfite and how frequently he uses wild fermentation. In fact he has a whole chapter on the use of sulfite and refers specifically to the use of a half dose for wild fermentation. Both in person and on another forum, he has repeatedly emphasised it's use in wild fermentation. He has also spoken widely about wild fermentation particularly in the context of keeving.


Mark, if your must has started to ferment it is too late to add sulfite. I think 1/8 tsp in 6 gals is about 12 ppm which depending the starting pH of your must that might be about a quarter dose. Adding exactly a half dose (~25 ppm) is not that critical.
 

RPh_Guy

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I think you may be mistaken about Claude J's use of sulfite
I don't see how I could be mistaken when that quote was straight from his book. :)
In the sulfite chapter (14), the end of the section labeled "the advantages and inconveniences of adding sulfite to the must".
I can easily quote the whole page if you want; I have a digital copy.

Do you think it's a little strange that he recommends sufite usage but doesn't often use it himself? His recommendations are geared toward very low risk processes for more novice cider makers or commercial producers. Many people (including judges) also just prefer the more clean taste and predictable results from killing the large majority of wild yeast like your bleach wash + sufite method; that's totally fine.

I simply want to point out that using a fully natural fermentation isn't as problematic as you're making it sound, and usually produces excellent results -- I usually get tropical fruit character, sometimes a hint of spice, sometimes a hint of yogurt. I know I'm not the only one getting good results from 100% of the wild microbes, just look at the first post of this thread.

:mug:

One other thing: Brettanomyces. Jolicoeur says it's a "spoilage yeast". That's comical.
I use Brett all the time for cider, beer, and mead. The flavor it gives ranges from good to amazing. It cleans up unwanted flavors from other microbes and it protects against autolysis, greatly extending the shelf life of bottle conditioned beverages.
There's a reason there are so many commercially available Brett cultures; they make great products if you're patient.
I don't sufite wild/Brett fermentations because I want that Brett expression, which takes several months at least. I control oxygen by limiting headspace oxygen and also not disturbing the pellicle if one forms.

If you've ever had chambourcin wine, that's almost the exact flavor from WY5526 Brett lambicus for example. Lots of cherry.
 

Scrumpy!

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Mark,

Sorry, 1/8 tsp in 6 gal would be about 12 ppm but if your must has a pH of 3.5, a full dose would be 100 ppm so a half dose would be 1/2 tsp of potassium metabisulfite powder.

It is actually easier to mix up a stock 5% sulfite solution by mixing 10 g in 100 ml of water. Then you can add 1 ml of this solution per liter of must to get 50 ppm. The solution is pretty corrosive so keep it in a sealed plastic bottle with a plastic cap. Don't breath the fumes.

You should go on the web to determine the dose based on the pH of the must you are treating.
 

MarkKF

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I guess I need to start testing ph then. Never have.
 

Scrumpy!

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Yes, I hadn't noticed that sentence and it is interesting that he says in the book he only uses it on damaged apples. He does mention that he does enough volume that losing a batch would not be catastrophic so he sees the risks and takes them. Maybe one of his batches went south from spoilage and he learned a hard lesson. Perhaps he has changed his mind since he has numerous posts on the subject and has mentioned its use in public. There are people who add sulfite everytime they rack and one might worry that by bottling time the sulfite content is getting too high.

Speaking of damaged apples, I think I lose less fruit to spoilage due to my bleach bath since I tend to work with drops which have wasp, deer, and rodent damage and sweat them for up to a month before pressing. I have yet to have a fermentation delay after pressing so washing the fruit does not seem to be an issue. In fact, some of my must is already fermenting when it comes off the press.

I am getting the same tropical fruit (pineapple) and a hint of spice in a pretty full bodied cider. I think it would be hard to generalize that sulfite or bleach is adversely affecting the outcome without a side by side fermentation. Maybe I will run a test this year to see if I can tell the difference.

I have done several brett tests with commercial yeasts. I don't mind a mild taste of it but it is considered a fault if it passes a threshold (undefined) in the BJCP guidelines. I stopped using it when I found that it is really hard to get rid of. It has a tendency to show up in batches of cider where I don't want it.

Maybe we can agree that we are both satisfied with the results of our respective wild ferments but each process has its benefits and risks.
 

Scrumpy!

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Nice calculator!

Wait, I thought you said you don't use sulfite. If you are aiming for 1 ppm molecular, that is a 50 ppm dose at pH 3.5, exactly what is generally recommended prior to a wild ferment.
 
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RPh_Guy

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I don't only make wild batches (+/- added Brett), but they are generally my favorites. This year I might try out a few different commercial yeasts in small batches again but less than previous years. Like Jolicoeur, I like champagne yeast a lot -- Premier Cuvee is great.

Maybe sweating the apples helps replenish the wild cultures on your apples after the bleach wash. ? That's certainly plausible. I'd be interested to hear your results on a half sulfite vs no sulfite side-by-side if you do one.

I haven't gotten pineapple yet from my wild ferments. Last season most of them were strawberry + kiwi with a hint of yogurt. This season my first batch (6 weeks old now) is super tropical fruity like maybe passionfruit, star fruit, mango, and melon. I don't have good descriptors yet because I just had a tiny taste. It's already very good but it's still a little rough around the edges (though no obvious off flavors). I added some Brett cultures but it's too early for those to show.

From my understanding the presence of Brett flavor is only considered a fault if you place the cider in a clean category. That doesn't mean the flavor is bad (although I know some/many wild Brett strains can be bad).
I also have to wonder whether Brett produces worse flavors in the presence of sulfite.

Cheers
 
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Miraculix

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Just for the record, there are people who only care about if the product matches their taste and don't give anything about somebody's guidelines or their personal definition of off flavour.
 

wasully

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So a half dose of K-Meta (1/8 tsp. for 6 gal.) will kill bacteria at the beginning & the end but will only stop the yeast for a day? Last time I added Camden to a wild ferment it never started.
Everybody is throwing around 'dose' and 'half-dose' and what not, but it's worth noting a 'dose' is dynamic based on pH. Maybe somebody else already mentioned this?

Still wanted to put it out there.

edit: Oh it was definitely brought up, good. I'm hopping back and forth between here and work while reports take for god damn ever to run.
 

MarkKF

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Another wild ferment. No k-meta. Started at 1.062 on Nov. 17. Now at 1.010 on Dec. 3.
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