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Airlock Issues in Primary Fermentation

I recently started brewing my first batch of cider. I got some unpasturized, unfiltered apple juice from a local orchard, poured it into a 6.5 gallon plastic brewing bucket, added some potassium metabisulfite, waited 24 hours, then added some hydrated Red Star Champagne yeast. I then closed the lid and installed an airlock in the hole in the top. I put the bucket in a dark, cool room and let it sit for about a week and a half, checking the airlock daily for bubbles, but I saw nothing. Absolutely no movement in the airlock. I then measured the SG with a hydrometer and got a reading of 1.000. The original gravity was about 1.060. I am a bit confused as it seems the cider has completely fermented but shouldn’t I have seen bubbles in the airlock? The only thing I can think of is that there was an air leak somewhere and so I didn’t see any bubbles. Should I proceed to racking it into my glass carboy for secondary fermentation or is it screwed? Am I too late? Thanks so much for the help!

Common issue with buckets. Check to see if there is a rubber seal in the lid. Either way you should be just fine.

Must have had an air leak. No worries. Rack it and you’re good to go. Congrats!

Awesome! thanks

Also, I decided to stir it up a bit. How long should I wait before racking to let the lees and sediment settle? Do lees affect the final flavor or are the just removed for clarity?

Too much lees can impact flavor. A small dusting on the bottom is normal and fine. Rack when the lees is pretty compacted and not changing much anymore, probably a couple days.

Do i have to worry about air contamination now as the bucket is not air sealed?

For a short time like a couple of weeks, it should be just fine. If you leave it in there for a period of many months, the odds increase that it might turn to vinegar. So, bottle it soon.

Awesome! Thanks so much for your help. Another question…

 I want my cider to be carbonated. I understand this can be done by adding an amount of yeast and sugar before bottling. I believe it is called priming? Can you explain how this is done exactly? Thanks again

Oh yeah, you can carbonate your cider without much trouble. There is a potential problem with it though. It can make your cider bone dry and super fizzy like champagne. That being said, if you want to give it a try, here’s all you need to do:

For every 5 gallons of cider, boil about a quart of water with 2/3 cup sugar for 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then add to your cider, mix well, and bottle your cider. About 3-6 weeks later, it is carbonated. You can also add just a sprinkle of yeast (maybe 1/4 of a pack of dry yeast) per 5 gallons to make sure there is some healthy yeast in there, but this is optional.

I’ll be honest… carbonation with cider is a bit of a crapshoot. It will work fine a little more than half the time. The other half of the time, the yeast is just too tired from the high alcohol content to do any natural carbonation.

Of course, if you have a kegging system then you can always force-carbonate if you like. But that’s a whole 'nother story, and one that I am not an expert in as I only bottle my ciders.

Ok perfect! I really appreciate the advice!

Ok so I ran into a problem…I racked the cider into my glass carboy, but when I try to put in the rubber stopper with the airlock, it just pushes out. I can’t get the rubber stopper to stay in the carboy even without the airlock. Any ideas??

It’s a number 8 stopper on a 3 gallon glass carboy

Saran wrap the stopper in place. You may be using Star San to sanitize the stopper (which is good). If you’re using Star San with tap water it turns very slick. I use Star San with distilled water because it lasts forever if sealed and isn’t slicker than snot on a doorknob.

That worked perfectly! I was using star san and tap water! Thank you. I just started using this forum and its awesome and extremely helpful

So I racked into the carboy last night and used saran wrap to hold the plug in and installed the airlock. Everything looks good, but I am getting absolutely no airlock activity. Does this mean fermentation is over and I should just bottle now? Or should I let it sit in the carboy for a while? thanks!

First, I’m not a cider expert and have never brewed a cider. That said, I think general brewing knowledge applies here. “Secondary fermentation” isn’t really a another fermentation unless you are adding more fermentables ie sugars. It is more appropriately called the secondary phase of fermentation. Think of it this way:

  1. Adaptation phase - yeast growth
  2. Primary phase - yeast is consuming sugar creating alcohol
  3. Secondary phase - yeast is doing some minor cleanup of less fermentable sugar, and also some off flavors

Fermentations go through all of these phases regardless of whether you transfer to another “secondary” vessel or not. Many brewers (I’m one of them) just wait until the beer hits the expected gravity, and then wait for it to turn crystal clear all in the primary vessel. Others like to transfer to a secondary vessel for the conditioning phase. There really isn’t a wrong answer here (depending on who you ask). Try them both. Do what works for you.

But to answer your question, measure the gravity of your product, then wait for it to clear. If you are serious about brewing, these forums are great but you really should pick up a copy of How to Brew by John Palmer. I referenced this book many many times in my first year and still go back to it often. There are other great books out there, but this is the best one if you’re only buying one.

^ That’s pretty good information. It’s not the same as beer, but close enough. Cider typically ferments much more slowly than beer, so I treat it more like wine. Rack when fermentation is just about done, according to the hydrometer - anywhere from 4-6 weeks, usually. Let it clear in the secondary, and bottle or bulk age when it stops dropping lees.

What is a good, not too expensive corker for champagne bottles?

I don’t know about not-too-expensive. I have the italian floor model, and it’s fantastic. I don’t know about inexpensive ones, but this one works great. Plus you can get an adapter for crown caps, so it really is a nice machine.

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