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Apple Season!

Apples are coming in at the orchards. I crushed and pressed about 45lb of Gala, Jonagold and Jonathon, 3gal is fermenting away and the kids got 1/2gal for helping. End of the month will see Rome, Braeburn, Fuji and Winesap. I’ll do another batch then and maybe blend some with this stuff. We got seconds for half price, I think it was $8/bushel. Not a bad price.

I think I may add raisins and some brown sugar to this batch and go for a New England style cider.

Lennie, that sounds like a great plan. Nice price on the apples!

I’ve been paying way too much for mine. I’ve picked up lots of different varieties trying to figure out if they are best for eating, cooking, or cider. The ones I’m not too interested in eating or cooking, or the surplus ones that I don’t need to eat or have gone mushy, I will press into cider in the coming weeks. So far I’ve picked up the following that will most likely contribute to my cider (in no particular order):

1/2 peck Golden Noble – nice tart variety, perfect for cider
1/2 peck Liberty – another tart, low tannin, also good eating
1/2 peck Jonathan – another tart, low tannin, perfect for cider
1 peck Cortland – my all-time favorite apple for all purposes
1/2 peck McIntosh – momma to Cortland; I might use all these for cooking
1/2 peck Zestar – great eating, tart
1/2 peck St. Edmund’s Pippin – soft, nutty, sweet; would be a good cooker but I’m juicing them
1 peck Sweet 16 – mild sweet variety, good aftertaste, all going to be cider
1 peck Honeycrisp – these are half gone already; good eaters, very sweet and juicy
1/2 peck Yarwood Crabs – little tart apples, low tannin
1/2 peck Gingergold – I ate most of these but will juice the rest; sweet and going mushy
1/2 peck tiny crabs – no flavor, just high tannin

I’ll supplement all the homepressed cider with some sweet stuff from a local orchard. I’m making about 8 gallons this year – a couple gallons of this and that in different combinations and trying different yeasts.
I also picked up a 1/2 peck of Empress – Wow… I had never tried that one before, but it is shocking… tastes just like anise candy or black licorice!!! I’ll be eating all those. Maybe I’ll throw a couple into the cider for the heck of it, I don’t know.

Nice score on the apples.

I’ve been drinking on a batch that I fermented last year using wild yeast and it turned out really nice.

Not trying to steal your thread Lennie, but have you guys seen anything about this coming from Crispin soon?

Yum! I’m gonna get me some of that. Sounds great.

Damn Dave you have a nice selection there. Do you have the Cider Making book NB sells? They list a bunch of good cider apple types, I’ll have to see which of yours are mentioned.

Stagger Lee, good song. Covered by a lot of people. I do like rye whiskey so I will have to try it. The wife enjoys Crispin products.

I have the cider books by Proulx & Nichols, and Ben Watson – not sure which book you are referring to. Both of the above are pretty similar, both very good.

I’ve done a metric buttload of research on cider apples, meaning the ones that you wouldn’t want to eat but are tasty when juiced. Not having tasted many yet, I don’t have firsthand knowledge unfortunately, but I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I’ll probably like based on all the taste descriptions. I planted Foxwhelp and Kingston Black out back – the Foxwhelp is barely alive but seems it might be okay, assuming it survives the winter, while the Kingston died unfortunately. But in a few years maybe I should have some Foxwhelp to add into my homegrown cider! Supposedly it’s tart and just a little astringent – also good for pies, they say, and if you’re brave you can maybe even eat one, as it might not be a spitter-outter like most other cider varieties.

Crispin is very good, but Britain, France, and Canada have got everyone in the U.S. beat by a pretty far longshot if you ask me. We’ve got ourselves some big-time catching up to do here.

I just have that first book. I have a few apple trees but no apples yet. One if a Granny thats five years old and has never bloomed. Its a large tree now, if it doesn’t get with it I’m going to replace it.

Well, I juiced all my apples this weekend – it took half the day! I juiced each variety separately so I could judge the deliciousness, usefulness, cost-effectiveness, and specific gravity of each separately. The softer varieties did not juice very well at all – Cortland and St. Edmund’s Pippin were a pain in the butt because they are such squishy buttery apples. Others such as both the crabapples were very easy, with high yield, and the pulp came out bone dry after juicing. The Golden Noble is also a very fine apple for cidermaking, and I had never even heard of it before. The Honeycrisp and SweeTango apples also yielded high juice, but at much higher cost! So anyway… it was very labor intensive to say the least. Started with just over a bushel of apples and ended up with 2.4 gallons after filtering the chunks out. The crabapple cider was most intriguing – bright red juice, very sour and astringent but at the same time much more tasty than expected. Unfortunately I didn’t pick a 1/2 peck as anticipated, but only about 1/8 peck, so I’m not sure if it’s going to have substantial flavor impact in the final cider. In future years I’ll make sure I use more crabs if need be. All those apples, making 2.4 gallons, ran me about $60! Crazy, I know. Then I bought 7 gallons commercial unpasteurized cider for a total of $24.50, and I think it tastes as good as, or even better, than the stuff I made. So was it worth all that time and cost to juice apples myself?? Time will tell.

So, after adding 6 gallons of the commercial unpasteurized cider (which had already begun fermenting in the jugs from natural yeast – bubbly and smelled like butterscotch!), I now have 8.4 gallons total in the fermenters (currently being sulfited 24 hours and no yeast pitched yet), which shall eventually be subdivided 8 different ways:

First off, half of the 8.4 gallons is a blend of 57% homemade cider (all of it) plus 43% commercial, so that I could get the sweetness right for my taste and to hit about half of it or 4.2 gallons. Very roughly, the blend of apple/juice types works out to be roughly 65% sweet apple cider, 25% sharp, and 10% bittersharp. And on the other side, I have 4.2 gallons of just commercial cider without addition of any of my own apple juice. I figure the commercial stuff consists of roughly 70-75% sweet apples and 25-30% sharp, something like that, with no bitters/astringency at all. For that reason, I do plan to add a little tannin to the commercial batch (tannin “extract” can be bought at your LHBS). I will also add just a dash of tannin to the first half as it’s only about 10% bittersharp, but barely any as I want to experience the difference between “real tannin” versus “artificial tannin” for a lack of better words.

From there, tonight I’m going to pitch varying combinations of Nottingham, S-04, and Cote des Blancs yeasts, and, later on in the process, Brettanomyces bruxellensis (sp?), in search of the ultimate yeast blend for making great cider in future years. Fermentation for all will be at right around 63 F (my basement temp) plus or minus 2 degrees.

I plan to rack each of 4 non-Bretted sub-batches when they hit about 1.020 in an attempt to slow down the fermentations and retain a little sweetness if possible, also cold crashing if necessary once they hit about 1.010 or thereabouts, and then split each of those such that half of each batch will ultimately be Brettanized near the tail end of fermentation, thus yielding 8 different sub-batches, with various apples and yeasts and some with Brett and others without. The batch sizes should be small enough such that I can fit most of it in sanitized gallon milk jugs, with any leftovers getting blended into a 9th miscellanous batch if need be (but I think I’ll lose quite a bit of volume in the lees, not to mention CO2, so this will probably not be necessary).

Finally, I do plan to sorbate (just slightly) and prime each with a little sugar in the hopes that it will carbonate. This has worked for me in the past so I don’t see a reason why it wouldn’t now. The ultimate goal is to taste a few of these at a time with friends and get impressions of which combinations are awesome, which ones are just “pretty good”, and which, if any, don’t work at all. Somehow I get the feeling that all batches are going to be downright awesome, so it might just be a matter of gauging the awesomeness.

And that, my friends, is what happens when a serious beer nerd gets bored and decides to play with something else, like cider. It could just as easily happen with mead, or maybe even wine, although I don’t think I’ll ever be a wine guy as it’s too freakin’ expensive, and impossible to drink in massive quantities with redneck people like myself. Mead is great, but I can’t as easily grow honey on a tree, eat it out of hand for a nice snack, make applesauce, pie, or crisp out of it. Apples are so darn versatile, and both sweet and hard cider are SO delicious – I can’t imagine why I didn’t obsess sooner.


I know what you mean about the cost of making your own cider. I spent $45 on two gallons my first time out, that was with apples on sale for $1/lb. This time I got seconds at an orchard and it was half
the price, but I didn’t get any of the fancy high dollar apples like Honeycrisp.

I’ll be especially interested in how your beer yeasts come out. I’m only using the liquid English cider yeast so far. And a friend just told me he has some crabapples on a piece of property he just bought, you should have seen my eyes light up when he mentioned that. I’ll be excited to try some of those, hopefully this season. I think a small amount of those will be plenty for your blend.

Be sure and keep us posted on your observations regarding fermentation and tasting.

12 hours after pitching, the S-04 is just beginning to show signs and smells super farty (but I’m not worried as I’m sure the sulfur will dissipate later), the Cote des Blancs is already bubbling nicely with a very pleasant appley aroma, and the Nottingham ale yeast isn’t showing any visible signs at all while the cider smells slightly nutty and yeasty. I’m kind of baffled on the Nottingham as some people say it’s the best yeast for cider, and the “Best By” date was way out at end of 2012, and pitching rates were all identical, so I don’t know what the holdup might be. I’ll check on it later tonight and pitch some US-05 if I don’t see anything more by then, seeing as how the other two took off right away.

EDIT: I just had a thought… Nottingham ale yeast has suffered from quality issues repeatedly. When it works, it works great… but sometimes it doesn’t take off at all. I’ve read a lot of complaints about this brand. It might be time to ditch the Nottingham for good if fermentation doesn’t take off by tonight. Too unreliable. But I’ll hold my breath for just a few hours longer…

What temp did you pitch the cote de blanc and the S-O4? Are you trying to maintain a certain temp or range. I’m new to cider but I’m about to embark on pressing about 6 bushels this weekend and I’m working feverishly to get up to speed.

Anywhere from 60 to 65 F seems about right for pitching and fermenting. Mine right now is at 63 F. It might warm up a few degrees over the first couple days, but I’m sure it’s alright as some people ferment cider in the 70s and report few if any problems with it, and the yeast manufacturer says it’s alright. Even so, I’m keeping it in 60s just to be on the safe side.

Good luck with yours. It’s so easy to make excellent cider… there’s nothing easier… Well, that is, after the pressing. If you’ve got 6 bushels to press… holy crap, that’s a real project there!

My friend acquired a five gallon press and we have cider apples coming from some North Georgia and North Carolina orchards. I’ve dreamed of doing this for a long time. I’ve been an all-grain brewer for a while so I figured when it comes to apples let’s go all the way. We will be using King Luscious, Mutsu, Winesap, Winter Banana, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Rome Beauty and maybe some store bought varieties. We have plenty of ale yeasts, wine and champagne yeasts to choose from so lots of experimentation can occur. Would a weizen yeast have any of the flavors that it creates in beer? I’m sure I’ll do some with S-04, S-05 and possibly a kolsch yeast. I’m just excited to make a fermented beverage other than beer!

Oh, I hear you! I haven’t tried a weizen yeast, but from what I’ve heard, you’ll get a little of that weizen flavor early on, but it quickly fades to just normal cider flavor after a very brief time (a month or two??).

[continuing hijack]

36 hours, and as I had feared, the Nottingham ale yeast is dead. So, I’ve pitched US-05. If that doesn’t work, I’ll be shocked. The Cote des Blancs batch is starting to smell a little bit sulfury, and the S-04 batch smells downright VILE – it is the most nasty horrible smell ever – smells like DEATH. I don’t think the S-04 batch is going to turn out. But I’ll play along for now, just in case.

We are fortunate to live on a mountainside surrounded by old hill farms–lots of old, gnarled apple trees in dooryards, and tons of wild apples. We have ten gallons fermenting now in two carboys–one pitched with Lalvin D-47, the other with White Labs champagne yeast…the former smells softer, with whiffs of vanilla coming through the lovely apple smell…the carboy fermenting with the champagne yeast smells of apple, but with a clear nose of alcohol. Each batch developed a humongous Krausen at peak activity…they are clearing very slowly…Can’t wait to start tasting!

j, I think you have just described what Heaven might be for me one day, whether in this life or the next… hillsides with gnarly wild apples… that’s just awesome…

I’ve already got 13gals fermenting and should be getting some Kingston Black juice in a few more weeks. Can’t wait!

It is heaven for me, for sure. I pinch myself when I look around to make sure I’m not dreaming…the apples are a treat for humans and wildlife alike. No telling what they are for certain, but I’m thinking the cider I’ve got working now might be Northern Spy and yellow transparent.
Baritone, are Kingston Blacks anything like Arkansas Blacks? Years ago I lived in a place where they were common–I recall dense, hand-heavy fruit that was mild, sweet, and rock hard…

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