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Cider questions!

I’ve got some questions regarding apple cider / sparkling apple wine.

Does anyone do a malolactic fermentation to their ciders like winemakers do? What would the results be?

Do I need to raise the pH before fermentation? After? Calcium carbonate?

When back sweetening. Can I ferment to dryness, add calcium sorbate + metabisulfate, then add more juice? Would this introduce bugs? would fermentation start again? If I were to filter through 2 microns, would this eliminate any renewed activity?

White wine yeast? Preferred temperature for white wine yeast?

How much, and what kind of yeast nutrient do you guys use?

Also, if I halt fermentation early, run it through a filter, then add potassium sorbate and metabisulphate, would that be sufficient? preferred?


I’ve been experimenting with cider for many years. I’ve had a few really great ones, and a lot of ones that went bad (rubbery or turpentine flavors), or turned to vinegar… which isn’t all bad… I save the vinegar for all sorts of household uses and salad dressings. Still have a couple gallons of good stuff ready to bottle though from last October.

I believe I have experienced malolactic fermentation before, just by leaving the cider sitting for 6-9 months before bottling. It steadily loses acidity over time, which I can only assume is from malolactic bacteria. Unfortunately for me, I prefer my ciders more on the tart side so I probably should be bottling a little earlier to avoid this.

I have never played with salt additions to control pH, so I can’t help you there.

If you boil some juice, or better, apple concentrate, and add with sorbate and sulfite, you should be safe with backsweetening and might even get carbonation. However, in my own experience, results have varied a lot. Over time, I get one of two things: 1) sweet but flat cider, or 2) an extremely dry cider that gushes like champagne. It seems sulfite and sorbate are only partially effective, not complete, unless added in high amounts to where you can taste the salts, and I do not like the taste of these salts. So, most of the time these days, I’m drinking my ciders flat, and do not backsweeten or prime to carbonate.

I love the Cote des Blancs yeast, it is the best I’ve tasted. My fermentations have been anywhere from 40 to 70 F, with similar results. They say that low and slow is the way to go, so I’ll usually keep mine between 40 and 60 F for several months.

Poo on yeast nutrients. Not necessary. Add some for a little insurance, or don’t. They haven’t made a difference in my experience.

One thing I’d like to try next year is Scottish ale yeast. Last year Zymurgy magazine ran a bunch of experiments with beer yeasts in cider, and found that this yeast left the cider tasting more sweet with the most pleasant flavor. So that might be worth a try, in lieu of wine yeast (Cote des Blancs), which will usually take your cider all the way down to 0.992 unless you rack 3 or 4 times during active fermentation, which I think is key to a great cider – rack early and often. Gelatin additions also help greatly when you want to remove yeast during the first few weeks of fermentation to slow things down. Boil a cup of water in the microwave, add a tablespoon of Knox unflavored gelatin, stir to dissolve, cool, and add to your cider. 48 hours later, your cider is clear as crystal, and 95% of the yeast removed. This helps to slow fermentation better than any sorbate or sulfite additions.


Hi Toad,

You might want to visit Andrew Lea’s site: :oops:

  • I haven’t found that it’s necessary to adjust the pH of the must prior to fermentation … but I do add some acids when using consumer AJ … so definitely not increasing pH. Regardless, Lea recommends a must pH in the range 3.2 - 3.8. Sounds low, doesn’t it?

  • You can ferment to dryness (or not) then stabilize and backsweeten (or not). Dry, medium, etc. is pretty subjective in terms of expectations … I like a low-medium sweetness, but many family members like things dry-low. I’ve given up on trying to find that magic range (IMO it doesn’t exist). Anyway, the sorbate and meta-K have always worked just fine for me without any filtering. I stabilize and use finings at the same time and let everything clear in a refer for several weeks. Then rack and backsweeten and bulk age at cellar temps for a few months prior to bottling.

  • You can add more juice to backsweeten. But I have only used pasteurized AJ or AJC for this. When I use sugars (white, brown, dextrose), I pasteurize the syrup myself prior to application.

  • I like white/Chardonnay wine yeast, but keep in mind that it’s a personal preference. It gives me the more “wine-like” character I’m looking for. My current favorite is D-47. Just get a copy of the spec sheet for whatever yeast you’re using and keep things near the middle of the recommended temp range and you should do fine … or find a yeast that matches up well with the temperature of your fermenting area.

  • I use yeast energizer and some DAP (per mfr’s instructions … give or take). Different yeast strains will have different nutrient/O2 requirements so ymmv.


Does the gelatin have any noticeable affect on flavor/body? I’ve only used sparkolloid and bentonite … and wondering what they might be doing to the finished applewine. I’m usually around 9% - 12% abv, so the mouthfeel is a bit light to begin with. Any residual “thickness” left behind? … I actually think that might be nice.

I haven’t noticed any differences in body/mouthfeel from gelatin. It all falls out within 48 hours. You’ll have a thin layer of lees on the bottom like normal but the cider will still be as thin as ever.

Just a couple of points to add. pH and acidity has traditionally been balanced in cider making by mixing apple varieties. Apples that you buy in the supermarket don’t have enough acid to make good cider. If you visit a cider house, you’ll find that they take great lengths to mix varieties, at different levels based on how the fruit comes out in a given year. This is primarily a taste thing, but I’m sure they monitor and take pH into account as well.

Malolactic fermentation is I believe typically avoided for ciders, as the tartness of the malic acid is desirable. And it is very easy to prevent those bugs from being active with fairly small additions of sulfites, or keeping the pH low. Of course, you can try it yourself and find out if there is something that everyone else has been missing.

I personally do use yeast nutrients for my fruit fermentations (as Dave said, cheap insurance), though it probably is pretty unnecessary with apples - they tend to already have everything the yeast need.

thank you!!!

how much metabisulfate do you add per gallon? how much sorbate?

thanks again :mrgreen:

[quote=“Toad”]thank you!!!

how much metabisulfate do you add per gallon? how much sorbate?

thanks again :mrgreen: [/quote]
How much sulfite depends primarily on the pH. You can use this calculator:

At pH levels above 4.0, sulfite is pretty ineffective, which is why it is not used for beer.

Sorbate is typically recommended at about 1/2 teaspoon per gallon.

And remember, if you stabilize with sulfite and sorbate, you will be enjoying still cider, as the yeast will not be able to make it sparkling after the chemicals are added. And if you add dry chemicals after it is carbonated, you will have a volcano on your hands.

Thanks again!

I was planning on force carbonating in the keg so it won’t be a still cider. That will work right?

Force carb is a great idea with ciders. Dang… I guess I should try that. I’ve always bottled mine, but why??..


[quote=“dmtaylo2”]Force carb is a great idea with ciders. Dang… I guess I should try that. I’ve always bottled mine, but why??..


Last year I stabilized, back sweetened, kegged to carbonate and then put into bottles. Worked out very well.

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