Wild Yeast fementation Experience

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jeanzanita

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:mug:Hi,
just wondering if anyone else out there does any wild fermentations (not just apple, anything) and I'm interested in your experience with it!

Just tried my first on Manzanita Cider. For anyone that doesn't know what Manzanita is, it's a shrub/tree that grows prolifically out in the Southwest and Northern California in the mountains - there are many varieties but they all have a small hard berry...looks & tastes like a tiny, bitter apple. In fact, Manzanita means "little apple" in Spanish (pic attached).

Anyway, this year I decided to cultivate some wild yeast from the berries and "grew" the yeast by placing the berries in a jar of sweetened manzanita juice (naturally the juice has very little to no sugar). I used this to innoculate a whole gallon of sweetened manzanita juice (the S.G. was only 1.04; less sweet than normal - this is because higher alcohol can kill off wild yeasts) & added a Campden tablet at half the normally recommended amount. This was to inhibit bacteria & Kloeckra yeast which can give a bad taste, according to the advice given in Andrew Lea's Craft Cider Making book. I also added yeast nutrient to give it a boost.

I found that the wild yeast in this case took quite a bit longer to ferment all the way than commercial yeast. I resisted tasting for at least 3 weeks; as I understand this is the recommended period to wait to taste in case you have something toxic growing in there...time for it to be killed off.
From what I understand, you never know what you're going to get - but I got really lucky. Took my Manzanita cider to a whole new level! I'm only sad that I didn't save some of the yeast so I could re-innoculate another gallon. Next year I'll probably go for much more volume.

No lie, hands-down, even before aging, this is the tastiest cider I've made so far!
Tell me about your experience!
 

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sleepy_doggy

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That sounds awesome! I have had similar experiences with wild fermentation. I’ve begun to lean in the direction of “low/no intervention” recently and I’ve had only great experiences.
I have been purchasing cold pasteurized cider from the local farmers markets (‘tis the season in the northeast) and started experimenting with very short fermentation sparkling ciders. It honestly tastes better than the still cider as is! Just letting it go for a few days in a swing top, burping occasionally and then cold crashing when I reach the desired sweetness. It’s always a baller move when you bring out the natural sparking cider for guests.
I want to start aging these longer, but wonder how they will develop through longer aging- maybe the safer bet is the short fermentation. Would love to hear from anyone who has aged a wild fermented cider!
Spontaneous fermentation is a lot easier than it seems at first, you just need to be ok with leaving the elements to do their thing.
 

madscientist451

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I make a wild yeast ferment batch (cider) every season and haven't had to dump one in 10+ years.
I also make several batches with commercial yeast as well, and some batches I'll let the wild yeast kick off, then toss in the commercial strain.
Wild yeast is going to be a mixture, so I don't see any point in saving it from year to year, the mix after fermentation will be different than when it started.
The wild cider batches vary from year to year, I can't always get the same apples and there are other variables I can't control. The wild batches are just as good as the commercial ones, sometimes a little better, sometimes maybe not as good. It all gets consumed somehow.
This year I'm also making a "natural wine" (white) with wild yeast.
 

doublejef

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Do you love it funky (leather and horse bed like) or do you have some tips to avoid this dark side of the taste ?
 

jseyfert3

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That sounds awesome! I have had similar experiences with wild fermentation. I’ve begun to lean in the direction of “low/no intervention” recently and I’ve had only great experiences.
I have been purchasing cold pasteurized cider from the local farmers markets (‘tis the season in the northeast) and started experimenting with very short fermentation sparkling ciders. It honestly tastes better than the still cider as is! Just letting it go for a few days in a swing top, burping occasionally and then cold crashing when I reach the desired sweetness. It’s always a baller move when you bring out the natural sparking cider for guests.
I want to start aging these longer, but wonder how they will develop through longer aging- maybe the safer bet is the short fermentation. Would love to hear from anyone who has aged a wild fermented cider!
Spontaneous fermentation is a lot easier than it seems at first, you just need to be ok with leaving the elements to do their thing.
Have you ever measured the alcohol concentration of this sparkling cider?
 

sleepy_doggy

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How do you make wild fermentation with pasteurized juice ?
Cold pasteurized doesn’t kill wild yeast - they basically blast the juice with UV light to kill off bacteria and then just keep it cold from press to market to inhibit yeast growth. So if the cider labeling says cold pasteurized and “Keep Refrigerated” just leave it out of the fridge long enough (mine took a day) - pitch in some nutrient - and it’ll start fermenting.
Originally found out by accident- when an unfinished gallon starter fermenting in the fridge 😬
 

sleepy_doggy

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Have you ever measured the alcohol concentration of this sparkling cider?
No I haven’t! My gravity reader broke awhile back and I’m too lazy to get a new one- but my expectation is that it ends up somewhere around .05-1% alc at most. I’ve done a couple natural sodas in the past and the amount of potential alcohol is virtually undetectable - like a kombucha. But back in settler times, when water sources weren’t necessarily safe to drink from, American colonists (and their children!) would regularly drink low alcohol cider like this because the minor alcohol was enough to ensure no bad bacteria would be present.
I never feel buzzed from it - unless I mix it with some Prosecco for a cider Bellini- but I’ll grab a hydrometer and check for my next batch.
 

doublejef

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Cold pasteurized doesn’t kill wild yeast - they basically blast the juice with UV light to kill off bacteria and then just keep it cold from press to market to inhibit yeast growth. So if the cider labeling says cold pasteurized and “Keep Refrigerated” just leave it out of the fridge long enough (mine took a day) - pitch in some nutrient - and it’ll start fermenting.
Originally found out by accident- when an unfinished gallon starter fermenting in the fridge 😬
Wow, didn't know about this trick. Sounds crazy to me.
 
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jeanzanita

jeanzanita

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That sounds awesome! I have had similar experiences with wild fermentation. I’ve begun to lean in the direction of “low/no intervention” recently and I’ve had only great experiences.
I have been purchasing cold pasteurized cider from the local farmers markets (‘tis the season in the northeast) and started experimenting with very short fermentation sparkling ciders. It honestly tastes better than the still cider as is! Just letting it go for a few days in a swing top, burping occasionally and then cold crashing when I reach the desired sweetness. It’s always a baller move when you bring out the natural sparking cider for guests.
I want to start aging these longer, but wonder how they will develop through longer aging- maybe the safer bet is the short fermentation. Would love to hear from anyone who has aged a wild fermented cider!
Spontaneous fermentation is a lot easier than it seems at first, you just need to be ok with leaving the elements to do their thing.
I plan to age a few bottles of my current cider and compare to tasting it fresh - unfortunately, I only tasted a little, then pasteurized the rest - after pasteurizing, it seems like it lost a little of the "freshness" - I like your idea - drink while naturally sparkling ! However, now I'll be able to report back on aging and how it affects the taste. Can't wait !
 
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jeanzanita

jeanzanita

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I make a wild yeast ferment batch (cider) every season and haven't had to dump one in 10+ years.
I also make several batches with commercial yeast as well, and some batches I'll let the wild yeast kick off, then toss in the commercial strain.
Wild yeast is going to be a mixture, so I don't see any point in saving it from year to year, the mix after fermentation will be different than when it started.
The wild cider batches vary from year to year, I can't always get the same apples and there are other variables I can't control. The wild batches are just as good as the commercial ones, sometimes a little better, sometimes maybe not as good. It all gets consumed somehow.
This year I'm also making a "natural wine" (white) with wild yeast.

Do you use any sulfites, like I did ? Just curious
 
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jeanzanita

jeanzanita

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Cold pasteurized doesn’t kill wild yeast - they basically blast the juice with UV light to kill off bacteria and then just keep it cold from press to market to inhibit yeast growth. So if the cider labeling says cold pasteurized and “Keep Refrigerated” just leave it out of the fridge long enough (mine took a day) - pitch in some nutrient - and it’ll start fermenting.
Originally found out by accident- when an unfinished gallon starter fermenting in the fridge 😬

I found out the hard way once that "flash-pasteurizing" juice from a local orchard meant that there were still bad bacteria involved. In that case, I did not add any sulfites, assuming it would be ok, like grocery-store bought cider. In this case, unfortunately, I got something that was too acid to drink. So, proof that it was still "wild"
 
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jeanzanita

jeanzanita

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No I haven’t! My gravity reader broke awhile back and I’m too lazy to get a new one- but my expectation is that it ends up somewhere around .05-1% alc at most. I’ve done a couple natural sodas in the past and the amount of potential alcohol is virtually undetectable - like a kombucha. But back in settler times, when water sources weren’t necessarily safe to drink from, American colonists (and their children!) would regularly drink low alcohol cider like this because the minor alcohol was enough to ensure no bad bacteria would be present.
I never feel buzzed from it - unless I mix it with some Prosecco for a cider Bellini- but I’ll grab a hydrometer and check for my next batch.
I think mine turned out to be @3 %...I read that much higher alcohol will kill off the wild yeast; not as tolerant to alcohol as commercial yeast.
 
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jeanzanita

jeanzanita

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Do you love it funky (leather and horse bed like) or do you have some tips to avoid this dark side of the taste ?
Try adding half the usual recommended amount of sulfites - I got this tip from the Craft Cider book I mentioned - it's supposed to suppress the kind of yeasts/bacteria that cause the bad-tasting stuff
 

sleepy_doggy

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I found out the hard way once that "flash-pasteurizing" juice from a local orchard meant that there were still bad bacteria involved. In that case, I did not add any sulfites, assuming it would be ok, like grocery-store bought cider. In this case, unfortunately, I got something that was too acid to drink. So, proof that it was still "wild"
So it was just some rampant yeast that made it vinegary? I personally like that funky cider, sharp and astringent like you get out of basque sidras. Perhaps the key is to keep it somewhat fresh, although I do know that in the basque they do age their ciders so they develop even more tannins.
 

doublejef

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I really love sidra (Asturian cider) but to me it taste way more acid than tanic. Both (acid AND tanic) would be hard to drink imo.
 
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jeanzanita

jeanzanita

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So it was just some rampant yeast that made it vinegary? I personally like that funky cider, sharp and astringent like you get out of basque sidras. Perhaps the key is to keep it somewhat fresh, although I do know that in the basque they do age their ciders so they develop even more tannins.
...It was okay; but honestly for me not too tasty. I haven't tasted any farmhouse or funky type cider to compare it to. Unfortunately, out here in San Diego, although the craft cider industry is growing a bit, it all tastes commercialized to me with one exception (and they closed :(). I think a large part of the issue was that to begin with, this was juice from dessert apples with no balance.
 

Maylar

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Just to show you guys one of my experiences -

I had 2 gallons of orchard cider in my downstairs fridge waiting to become a cyser. About 2 weeks later I came down and saw this mess under the fridge ...



The bottles had blown the caps off and made a helluva mess...



By the time I got to them there was about a gallon left -



Poured them into a carboy with a bit of pectic enzyme and let Mother Nature take over...



It fermented to 1.000 and I used it for topup when kegging another cider. Tasted great too.
 

MarkKF

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I make a wild yeast ferment batch (cider) every season and haven't had to dump one in 10+ years.
I also make several batches with commercial yeast as well, and some batches I'll let the wild yeast kick off, then toss in the commercial strain.
Wild yeast is going to be a mixture, so I don't see any point in saving it from year to year, the mix after fermentation will be different than when it started.
The wild cider batches vary from year to year, I can't always get the same apples and there are other variables I can't control. The wild batches are just as good as the commercial ones, sometimes a little better, sometimes maybe not as good. It all gets consumed somehow.
This year I'm also making a "natural wine" (white) with wild yeast.
I've done wild ferments each of the past four years. The've been very consistent. I even treat with K-Meta when its cold and by the time it warms up it's fermenting.
Just to show you guys one of my experiences -

I had 2 gallons of orchard cider in my downstairs fridge waiting to become a cyser. About 2 weeks later I came down and saw this mess under the fridge ...



The bottles had blown the caps off and made a helluva mess...



By the time I got to them there was about a gallon left -



Poured them into a carboy with a bit of pectic enzyme and let Mother Nature take over...



It fermented to 1.000 and I used it for topup when kegging another cider. Tasted great too.
Gotta's has one of the most robust yeast around here. My wife had an almost empty gal. in the back of the fridge. When I pulled it out it was going, at 38 deg. F! So I bought another gal. and combined the two in a bucket. It came out great and I was able to bottle condition with a little brown sugar and the wild yeast.
 

sleepy_doggy

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anyone every try keeping a wild yeast “starter”? I poured out some juice from a batch that was fermenting rapidly and keep it in the fridge. I have just been using that to kick start my subsequent batches- pouring out a little into a new brew and replacing with fresh juice, like a sourdough starter.
 
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jeanzanita

jeanzanita

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anyone every try keeping a wild yeast “starter”? I poured out some juice from a batch that was fermenting rapidly and keep it in the fridge. I have just been using that to kick start my subsequent batches- pouring out a little into a new brew and replacing with fresh juice, like a sourdough starter.
I haven't done it yet, but I want to try. I couldn't even keep a sourdough starter going though...so I'm not too hopeful I could faithfully maintain it...
 

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