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60 Gallons of Cider!

I just got back from the cider mill where I purchased 60 gallons of unpasteurized cider with the intention of making 5 gallons of Apple Butter Cyser and ~53 gallons of bourbon barrel cider.

In addition to the cider, I have in my possession:

-A Heaven Hill bourbon barrel which was used to ferment Victory Dark Intrigue, I have it rinsed and right now filled with a weak StarSan solution.

-Most of the ingredients (muscovado is in the mail) for the ABC, including Wyeast 4347 Eau De Vie.

Since this is my first cider, I’m looking for a sanity check before I do the following:

-pitch the yeast into a carboy with 4 gallons of cider, no pasteurization. (ambient temp about 65)
-drain the barrel and fill it with cider. (ambient temp about 50F)
-in a week or so, take some yeast from the carboy and inoculate the barrel with it.
-take a gallon of cider and heat it with the dme/sugar/honey/applebutter and add it to the 4 gallons of fermenting cider to continue the primary of the ABC.
-wait several months, top up barrel as necessary.

So maybe I’m overthinking this but these are the reasons I’m doing it this way:

-I am not sure about just letting the unpasteurized cider ferment spontaneously with whatever’s in it since I just dropped $250 on it. I know without pasteurizing it will still have an influence but maybe with a dominant yeast starter I can have some assurance of a drinkable product.
-The ABC recipe calls for adding all of the other fermentables up front, but since I’m kinda using this as a starter I thought maybe giving the yeast a chance to acclimate to just cider first before throwing a bunch of sugars at it.

Any cider gurus have input on this and is there a better way to go?


Adding sugar and dme later will let you get away with pitching less yeast initially and i think that is a good idea.

you can treat the cider with campden tablets to inhibit the growth of wild yeast. that will ensure your yeast runs the show since you probably had to spend a lot on liquid yeast for ~50 gal.

I decided to Campden the barrel cider and ferment with EC1118, do the ABC separately with 4347, and take what leftover cider I have and let it ferment spontaneously.

I waited about 30 hours before pitching 10 packets of rehydrated EC1118, but 48 hours later I see no airlock activity on the barrel.

Repitch or give it more time?

Nothing like starting BIG!

So have you seen any bubbling yet?

Any updates?

Yes this cider fermented nicely and I have siphoned off a bunch of it. At this point I’m afraid it will oxidize so I put a blanket of co2 on it, but I am going to keg it so I can keep it safe for packaging and carbonating some of it.

As far as the flavor, it’s like a dry white wine, and to my palette, no off flavors. It isn’t particularly exciting though, and even after having been in the barrel for 3 months it doesn’t seem to have any oak character. Not surprising I guess as the barrel was used twice previously. I entered some into a competition last month and two of the reviewers described it as “flabby”. One of my friends who swept the same competition with his cider and who was the Cidermaker of the Year at last year’s NHC tasted it and said it was good but maybe he was just being polite. He recommended a yeast that I wasn’t able to find, so I used EC1118 which might be why the character is lacking.

I feel like I will package some of it as is to see how it ages, but since I have so much I will experiment with back sweetening or combining with fruit or honey. It is at least clean and probably a good canvas for some experimentation. Suggestions welcome.

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