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Backsweetening Questions

So for those of you who add lactose “post-fermentation” do you also add priming sugar at the same time? I just want to make sure, that the lactose is 100% non-fermentable…I am prepping for a first time cider batch, and don’t want to lose it all due to bottle priming issues. I plan on fermenting and then backsweetening with lactose, as I have to bottle. I don’t want an overly sweet cider, but also do not want it to be “wine-like”.

Any pointers are appreciated?

Making a sweet, sparkling cider is tough unless you are kegging. Lactose is non-fermentable, but it isn’t very sweet. You have to add a lot to get a really noticable effect. Two systems I’ve seen work:

  1. Method traditional. This is basically the champagne production method. Ferment till dry, allow to clarify, then prime and bottle. After at least a year in the bottle, riddle, degorge, add sulfite and sugar then recork. A lot of work, but it gets you whatever sweetness you want and sediment free bottles (if you do it right).

  2. Bottle and chill. Make as per normal using an ale or wine yeast (NOT a lager yeast). After it clarifies, add enough sugar to carbonate and still have enough to give the sweetness you want, then bottle. Make sure you use a few plastic soda bottles as well as the beer or champagne bottles. Leave in a warm place, and closely monitor. Once the soda bottles seem to have the right amount of carbonation (squeeze to see how hard they get), open one and confirm. As soon as the carbonation is where you want it, put all the bottles in the fridge and leave them there in the cold until you drink them. Possible downside: prolonged power outage can generate bottle bombs.

Option # 1 is definitely not an option for me…Option 2…ehh, I could go that route, but risking bottle bombs is always a hairy experience. I think I will just use an ale yeast, ferment the hell out of it, and add the lactose after fermentation. I am not looking for a lot of sweetness anyway…I just didn’t want it to be like a wine.

Here’s the recipe I “came up with”

5 gallons cider (from the grocery store)
1/4 lb raisins
2 lbs brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick

I poured about 1/8th gallon cider, and 1/8th gallon water into a large pot, added chopped raisins, 2 lbs brown sugar, and the cinnamon stick. Heated until it just about came to a boil.

I added this mixture into the carboy, and then just topped off with the remainder of the 5 gallons of cider.

Treated the liquid with Campden tablets, to kill any unwanted yeasties/bacteria. Letting it sit like this for tqo days, then will be adding yeast, and letting it ferment.

I took a gravity reading, and much to my dismay(as I thought it would be higher) it was 1.060. Does that seem low for my first gravity reading. I tried my best to swirl the liquids all around within the carboy before taking a sample, im hoping maybe I just didn’t mix it up well enough.

As far as yeast goes…I am leaning towards a champagne yeast to dry it right out, and then will try some backsweetening with lactose, with the understaning that it doesn’t add a lot of sweetness, in comparison to a table sugar.

Your OG sounds exactly right for that much cider and sugar.

Surprised you went for supermarket juice when there are so many good orchards in Maine - you could probably get something better and fresher. I hope you checked to make sure there aren’t any preservatives in the juice, usually there are in supermarket juices. In fact, it is even becoming common in juices pressed right at the orchard, so you always need to check. If they did add preservative, don’t count on the yeast fermenting it dry, or even getting it past half way.

Recipe sound fine otherwise. Champagne yeast works. You might want to consider British ale yeasts also. It won’t ferment as dry, leaving a bit of natural residual sweetness.

So I noticed after the fact that the cider contains potassium sorbate. I actually went to a farm stand yesterday to buy new cider, and even their “fresh pressed” cider from an orchard contains it. I asked the owner about this, and he said it is law, that if you press cider, and bottle it for resale on any premise other than at the orchard the apples were picked from, that potassium sorbate (preservatives) have to be added. So I think I am S.O.L.

I bought a cider yeast to ferment this one. And right now it is at home stepping up to a 1000ML starter. I am thinking I may cold crash, decant, and step it up one more time, just to try to give it a better shot. I figure the potassium sorbate kills yeast, but if I come to battle with 100 times as much yeast, it may have a better chance of finishing the fermentation…I dunno…at this point I am not counting on any of this coming out, so if anything does, it’s all gravy baby.

I’m not sure about Potasium Sorbate, but there are a few preservatives that the yeast take up into themselves, and that’s how it kills them. The good thing about those chemicals is that once it is in the yeast cell, it is trapped there and it can’t kill another yeast cell. So your plan of overwhelming the sorbate with an overpitch of yeast is probably your best shot.

Good luck with it.

good to hear your take on it. I’m thinking I am definitely going to step up the starter and just hit that Sorbate like Shock and Awe…

Now on to stepping up starters…I am doing this all without a stir plate, so I believe the process will take a little longer than with one…if I pitched my yeast into the starter last night, 700 ML boiled water, and 1/2 cup DME, how long do you think until I can cold crash and decant liquid off, rinse and repeat???

Manually sloshing the starter around a few times per day will get you half-way to what you could get with a stir plate. That means more yeast grown in a given volume, not just that it finishes faster (though it does that too). I don’t know how long it will take, probably 1-3 days. You’ll be able to see when the yeast starts to flock out, then it’s time to cold crash and go to the next step up.

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