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Cider attempt 2

Life has recently eased up enough where I have had a chance to make a second batch of hard cider. My first batch yielded what I can best describe as a still white wine with a hint of apple. I guess it could have gone worse, but I had hoped for a tad bit sweeter, more “appley” flavor and with some carbonation. I do not want anything like Woodchuck or other commercial ciders. They are fine, just not my thing.

So I have a batch that was in the primary carboy for about 3 weeks and then I let it sit in my garage for about a week for clarity though it is not particularly clear. I am ready to rack it with some fresh cider I had purchased to back sweeten it but what I read on these forums is that it with get the yeast going again. (Sorry for not using the correct terminology). So i am leery of adding the fresh cider at this point.

So I guess my questions are…

Also, I am not sure how long I should rack it prior to bottling.

Is using the fresh cider a bad idea? Will it impact the taste and/or make bottling difficult?

Like some things, the more you read the more you can get confused. Are sulfites required/recommended? How long can bottled cider keep if refrigerated.

Thanks in advance for assistance. These forums have been extremely informative.

It depends on what you want - still or sparkling? Back-sweetening a still cider isn’t difficult. Let us know what you want and someone will be able to walk you through it.

I want something not too dry with some effervescence. Back sweetening will only “reactivate” the yeast, correct?

Also, what about the consensus on sulfites? Would this prevent a sparkling cider? Are most ciders made still? Very new to this all.

Thanks.

Sparkling and not dry is very difficult to do, but it is possible. Most people who do this use artificial sweeteners, which allows you to backsweeten without reactivating the yeast. Of course, that makes your cider taste like diet cider, not my thing. Sulfites combined with Sorbate will stop the yeast from eating any sugar you put in to back sweeten, but will leave your cider dry.

I one time used method traditional (the way they make Champagne) to get sparkling, not dry cider. That worked great, but took a year of bottle aging before disgorging, and was a steep learning curve to get all the steps right.

These days I ferment the cider to dryness, add sulfites and sorbate, then backsweeten and keg carbonate. Once carbonated and sweetened to where I want it, I’ll serve it straight from the keg or use a bottling gun to fill bottles.

One other option you have would be to ferment to dryness, backsweeten (without sulfites or sobate) and then bottle and monitor the progress of the carbonation. As soon as it gets to where you want it, put all the bottles in the fridge and leave them there until you drink them. The downside to this is that if you forget to put them in the fridge, or they are allowed to warm up for long enough afterwards, you could get bottle bombs shooting glass shards in every direction. Be careful.

Rebuilt-thanks for the reply. I apologize for not replying sooner but the holidays never seem to end.

I am very new to this and the sparkling yet sweet seemed difficult and you have confirmed why. I agree with you and am not interested in using artificial sweeteners.

Is the use of sulfites and/or sorbate an acceptable practice with homebrewers? Are they necessary in some cases.

The brown hand grenade method of anticipating carbonation sounds scary for someone just starting out. :wink:

The above is what I had assumed a local cider maker had done once I saw “draft cider” on their bottle. Is this method commonly practiced? Is it really just preference at the end of the day?

I had read about slowing down the fermentation process (is this dangerous as far as the cider being susceptible to bacteria?) and stop the process before it ferments dry and then filter while racking.

Sorry if the questions seem to obvious. I want to get off on the right foot and get a solid recipe together so I can play with flavors and other variables.

Thanks again and hope you have a great holiday season.

Yeah, holidays are busy times. I’ve been running myself ragged also. As you your questions;

Sulfite and sorbate are commonly used by winemakers, but rarely for beer brewers. The higher pH of beer makes them ineffective for that use. Cider though is more like wine than beer, and these chemicals are commonly used for ciders.

I don’t know what “draft cider” means, though it could be kegged and artificially carbonated. I believe that is the only common way of producing sweet carbonated ciders these days. If you have access to a keg system, I highly recommend you use this method. If not, I suggest you produce dry carbonated cider (without the sulfite and sorbate, but adding some priming sugar before bottling), and then add a bit of apple juice concentrate or sugar syrup to the glass when you pour one to get the sweetness you want. Don’t add dry table sugar; the crystals will act as nucleation sites for the bubbles and you will get a foamy overflow.

Is the sorbate/sulfite/kegging method “cheating”? :smiley:

Will sulfites alone kill off the yeast? Why is sorbate used?

[quote=“Sleestak”]Is the sorbate/sulfite/kegging method “cheating”? :smiley:

Will sulfites alone kill off the yeast? Why is sorbate used?[/quote]
Not cheating. The use of chemicals is a long-standing SOP in winemaking, and cider is a variant of that.

Sulfites don’t kill yeast unless used in very high concentrations - above what you should use. Sulfites “stun” yeast and weaken them, which will stop the fermentation process long enough for the sorbates to stop it completely, which it does by preventing the yeast from reproducing. So no, you can’t just use one and not the other and expect it to work properly.

I guess I mean the force carbonating in the keg which really seems like the most sensible option.

I read somewhere that you can stop the fermentation early and then rack while filtering or even bottle pasteurizing. I guess I will look in to a keg set up.

[quote=“Sleestak”]I guess I mean the force carbonating in the keg which really seems like the most sensible option.

I read somewhere that you can stop the fermentation early and then rack while filtering or even bottle pasteurizing. I guess I will look in to a keg set up.[/quote]
Stopping the fermentation early means adding sulfates and sorbate OR sterile filtering OR heat pasteurizing OR chilling the cider and keeping it cold until it is drunk OR adding brandy/vodka to bring the alcohol level above what the yeast can tolerate. All of these methods have significant downsides, can alter the character of the finished product or are impossible for home producers to do, with the exception of the sulfite/sorbate method. But even if you stop the fermentation early, you are still left with the problem of carbonating the cider, which can’t be done without reactivating the yeast (which will then dry it out entirely) or artificially carbing in a tank.

Like stated up front, non-dry carbonated cider is very difficult to do. The easiest method is to let it ferment till dry, stabilize with sulfites and sorbate, sweeten to taste, then carbonate in a keg. Or if a keg set up is too expensive, ferment till dry, do NOT stabilize with sufites & sorbate, prime with sugar, bottle, and then add sweetening in the glass at the time of drinking.

Thanks for your detailed reply and your patience. I think I finally see what you mean and why it is so difficult to achieve sweet/sparkling…safely.

Don’t give up, it can be done. Good luck.

Just noticing this thread.
It is possible to ferment your cider to completion, backsweeten and then pasteurize the bottles when they have reached your desired carbonation. There’s an extensive series of threads on the HBT forum-cider section. I’ve done it twice, here’s the method:
You can backsweeten with the fresh cider but you’ll have to experiment with the amount, knowing that a fair amount of the sugars will be converted to CO2. In fact, if you’re not careful, they’ll ferment completely, setting up the possibility of bottle bombs. Instead, I’ve used 1 can of frozen apple juice at bottling time. The amount works perfectly. I’ve seen threads where people use more than 1 can, but here again, you have to watch the bottles day by day.
So, how do you keep an Eagle eye on the bottles? Here’s a trick- bottle one in a plastic soda bottle. Squeeze the excess air out and cap with the usual screw on cap. When the bottle is hard to squeeze, it’s carbonated, and the rest should be the same. That’s the time for pasteurization.
Now, pasteurization. You can do it in a large kettle on the stove, but here’s an easier method:
Set the bottles in a large cooler and fill with warm tap water to prewarm them. Drain that and fill with water heated to 170*. Leave them there for at least 15 minutes, and longer is OK. Drain, and that’s it. I would still store them in a secure container and keep them cold until you’re sure, but it’s worked for me.

I’ve read a few variations of the pasteurization process you suggest. Would allowing the cider to sit for several months after racking or filtering while racking a second time work as well?

Also, for experimenting purposes does it make sense to rack from a 5 gallon carboy in to 5 individual one gallon carboys? Is there a disadvantage to this?

Thanks

Pasteurization will change the flavor, though like artificial sweeteners, that may be fine for some. Flash pasteurization will give it less of a change, but like sterile filtering is unavailable to home brewers.

Splitting a five gallon batch into 1 gallon test volumes is a good idea. It will let you test different methods for yourself and decide what works for you and what doesn’t.

Since my current batch fermented dry should/can I leave it at room temperature and a place removed from sun light? My garage gets cold but stays above freezing though I am not sure the cold is a positive or a negative. Perhaps for clarification at some point?

I doubt I am going to have a keg set up that soon…that can change quickly :smiley: …so I want to cut the fermentation short and rack much sooner. Still fighting to keep residual sweetness but have carbonation without chemicals but everything I have read agrees with Cellars.

…off to quote a kegging system I guess. Regardless, having a lot of fun looking through the forums and look forward to the feedback I have received. Thanks again!

I’m a little late to the party here, but I back-sweetened with xylitol this year and am really happy with the results. I’m really surprised that it didn’t carry over any artificial sweetener flavors, and will probably continue doing this in the future.

Anyways, what I ended up doing is fermenting dry, storing cool/cold for a year (yes, your garage would be fine and you’ll end up with brilliantly clear cider), sweetening to taste with the xylitol, and priming with dextrose as normal with champagne yeast. The end result - a nice sparking, semi-sweet cider without all the headache of pasteurizing or knocking out the yeast.

I guess I need to keep reading.

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