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Critiques, thoughts, suggestions

I have 4 Santa Cruz 3/4 gallon bottles currently in primary fermentation, and I’ve approached each jug a little differently. I’d appreciate any critiques, thoughts, or suggestions; this is my first try at hard cider.

Jug 1: pitched dry Red Star champagne yeast on Friday the 24th. I plan to leave this one alone. Any suggestions on how long?

Jug 2: pitched rehydrated Red Star champagne yeast on Friday the 24th. On Wednesday the 29th I added a 1/2 cup of simple syrup infused with a 1/2 oz of cascade hops. I plan to leave in primary for at least another week.

Jug 3: pitched dry ale yeast s-04 on the 24th. Like jug 1, I plan to leave this one alone. Any suggestions on how long?

Jug 4: pitched rehydrated s-04 on the 24th. On Wednesday the 29th I added a 1/2 cup of simple syrup infused with a 1/2 oz of cascade hops. I also added a half oz of dry hops to this one. I plan to leave in primary for at least another week.

As this is my first go at hard cider, I have no idea what’s in store. Thanks in advance for any advice or thoughts.

Rack them all after 10 days in primary. Then about every 7 to 10 days after that, until fermentation quits. Generally takes about 4 weeks, plus or minus a week or so. Taste them all after a couple weeks. If they taste too dry, you can rack, add gelatin to get rid of more yeast, chill (in the refrigerator), and add sulfite and sorbate to arrest the fermentation. Then you can bottle after you’re sure it’s stable, after another week or so if it doesn’t resume fermentation.

Good luck. I’ve got 5 batches in primary right now myself. And actually, thanks for the reminder! I’ve got to go taste them all right now.


What to do depends on what you are trying to achieve. The biggest initial decision is if you want the yeast to make these very dry, or to shut down leaving some residual sugar?

If you want to finish dry, rack once the gravity drops to about 1.010, and let the cider run down the inside of the new jug so it gives up some of the CO2 in suspension and gets some gentile oxygen contact. That is a standard wine-making technique (mostly used in white wines) that pushes the yeast to finish more strongly.

Rack it a bit sooner (maybe at gravity of 1.020 or slightly less) without the air contact to prevent the push at the end. Or just leave it until you reach FG before racking. There isn’t really any need to do more than a single racking before fermentation is complete, and you can get away without any.

These techniques will only nudge it one way or the other though. How dry it finishes will depend on all those classic factors like pH, yeast strain, pitch rate, fermentation temperature and addition of nutrients - things that are pretty much already set for you.

Once fermentation is complete, rack to clean jugs and bulk age it for a month or two to let it clear (no need for finings in my experience). After that, there isn’t much more to do, but there is the decision if you want the cider to be still or sparkling. You should be warned that non-dry, sparkling cider is difficult to achieve without a keg setup or use of artificial sweeteners (yuck).

Thanks for the replies. I’ll post updates along the way. I’m also starting some wild yeast from unpolished apple skins and plan to pitch that soon.

Racked the 4 jugs today, and, actually, they’re all pretty darn tasty. The hops jugs are a little bitter, but that’s to be expected. I’m sure they’ll mellow with time, especially now that I’ve racked off the bulk of the sediment.

I didn’t measure the gravity, but the two jugs with cider and yeast only, after 9 days, are very nice. I’m tempted to toss one of them in the fridge now and drink it next weekend.

I think I’ll do a gravity measure on Wednesday. For now, this seems to be a really simple way to make some tasty booze. Cheers!

Jug 1 is in the fridge. OG: 1.05. FG: 1.00. That’s circa 6.5% ABV. It’s highly drinkable right now, too. No depth, but a bright apple taste on top of a clean, slightly carbonated mouthfeel. I can imagine this would age well; the odds of it lasting past Friday, however, are minimal. Cheers!

Jug 3 pulled and fridged last night, 11/6, with an FG of 1.004, ABV around 6%. It’s amazing the difference in taste between Jug 3, pitched with ale yeast, and jug 1, pitched with champagne yeast. There’s quite a bit more apple flavor in jug 3 – there’s also a hint of bread in the nose but not in the flavor. I’m going to try to keep my hands off this one for a few days to let it settle out (jug 1, pulled only a couple days ago, alas, has already been polished off).

One takeaway already from my first experience with hard cider: this stuff is very simple to make and very quickly enjoyable to drink. I see a 5 gallon batch in my near future.

Cider is the easiest thing on earth to make… especially if you can purchase the juice and don’t press the apples yourself. Extremely rewarding. I love it. Sometimes I think I love cider even more than beer. I know… hard to believe. But true. Maybe I really do. I can’t make up my mind. It’s just so easy to make excellent, excellent cider at home… and on your very first try! And very often it’s SO much better than any cider you can buy commercially.

Yeah, my wife looked at me like I’d just molted when I said that I might like this stuff as much or even more than the IPAs I’ve been hooked on for so long.

Not suprising actually. Most people agree (and my n=1 experience of a friend’s experiment corrolates) that using Champagne yeast in a cider will strip some of the flavour and aroma while fermenting. For your next cider experiment, you should try using a proper cider yeast and a wine yeast and see what you think.

Jug 2, champagne yeast and cascade hops … A good way to ruin what should have been a perfectly good jug of cider. I have a feeling you ciders guys aren’t surprised. Oh well, live and learn, right?

I’ve used EC-1118 (a champagne yeast) a couple times on cider, and it came out great. Very dry, but very good flavor. I did ferment cool, so that might be the difference.

I should have been more clear: it wasn’t the champagne yeast that cashed in this jug; it was the hops mixed with the resultant cider. Yuk! Way too bitter. The hops mixed with the ale yeast cider is much better.

How did you infuse the hops with the sugar? Did you boil them, soak in hot water, soak in cold water, put them straight into the cider?

Boiled with the sugar to make a hop simple syrup.

Ah ok, well that is where the bitterness would have come from. Next time don’t add the hops to the sugar boil, just add them straight to (i.e. dry-hop) the cider for about 1 week before bottling.

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