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Extremely bitter aftertaste in finished cider

Hi All,

I just got done with my first cider: 5 gal of local cider (cleaned with UV), champagne yeast, brown sugar.
I fermented it bone dry and bulk aged for 2 months. I back-sweetened with one can organic apple conc., 1.5 cups brown sugar, .5 cup sugar. Stabilized with 1/8 tsp sulfate per gallon, 1/4 tsp sorbate per gal.
Has a nice color, nice nose, good initial taste, and then a horrible bitter aftertaste on the middle of the tongue.
Too much sulfate?..what?

What sort of apples were in that cider? If you had yourself a crabapple cider or had used apples with a condition known as bitter pit, it could add a good amount of bitterness. I don’t think it’s a sulfate type issue unless you added a lot of sulfate (doesn’t look like it). Or are you talking about sulfite (a.k.a., K-meta or Campden)? Sulfate and sulfite are two different things. I suppose that’s possible as well to have bitterness from sulfite, but you’d probably need to use quite a bit to get a significant off-flavor from it. One final possibility is that contamination with nasty wild bacteria caused it. Hopefully not, but it’s possible.

So there’s a few ideas, but I can’t really be sure what it is without tasting it myself.

It was K-meta, sorry. There is a chance I used 1/4 tsp instead of 1/8 tsp per gallon, but I really doubt it.

I used a mix of pre-pressed ciders from my farmers market. 2 gal just braeburns and then 3 gallons of a mix of apples (no crab-apples). The cider definitely did not have a bitter taste before fermentation.

I don’t know if I introduced a containment. I guess I assume that this would effect the nose (which is quite nice) and be pretty noticeable, but maybe not.

I’ve got a small jug in the fridge that I have been tasting just to see it it mellows. 3 days in and it is possibly a little less harsh, but still has a distinctly bitter aftertaste like the worst of tannin in red wine. The stuff also goes right to your head resulting in immediate headache.

Should I give it six months in the bottles and taste or just write the stuff off?

I believe that braeburns are a sweet-tart variety. Any idea if any other varieties were tart or astringent varieties? Might just be an out of balance cider.
Either way, I wouldn’t give up on it.

[quote=“jon667”]The stuff also goes right to your head resulting in immediate headache.

Sounds like fusels! Or could you describe there being a character similar to acetone/nail-polish remover or paint thinner? If so, gosh, that sucks. I’ve had this happen to my beers a few times. I believe it’s caused by contamination with acetobacter or other nasty funk-making bacteria. This one might turn out to be a dumper for you. So sorry if it is. It’s happened to me more times than it should, mostly due to my laziness with leaving things in plastic fermenters for too many months, which allows time for oxygen and bacteria to really take their toll. It can happen in a shorter time, but it often happens after several months in plastic, at least for me. Was yours fermenting in plastic? Glass would be better. Plastic “breathes” too easily, as I am finally coming to learn after 13 years of brewing in plastic but the problem is getting worse as I become more and more lazy (or you could say “patient”) with my fermentation times, i.e., 5 months before botting instead of 3 weeks or whatever when it was really done fermenting. That’s what I call lazy.

It could be acetification underway. Which isn’t good.

Just trying to think of another possibility, but if you added enough brown sugar in your recipe you may have made it into wine range. You might just have a really young apple wine on your hands instead of a cider. Young fruit wines can be quite harsh.

That was my first thought as well. If that is the case, you may just need to give more time.

Thanks all for your replies…
This cider should settle out at just over 7% ABV, so I don’t know if it is a lack of aging at this point (even though I am aware that cider ages like wine).
I don’t know if it is fusels, but it does not appear to be a varnish type of taste. Just bitter on the tongue which gets worse with each sip.
I will say this, just a few tiny sips and I get an immediate headache every time! Maybe it is those damn fusels of a kind.

I do brew in plastic but only let it sit there for about 10 days before it was just about done fermenting and switched to glass.

There is one more thing it could be I forgot about. I lost a plastic stopper for the airlock in the full carboy and could not fish it out, so it sat there for 1.5 months. However, it is not a plastic taste either.

I guess i’ll just let it sit for 6 months and see if it improves at all. I don’t know if fusels dissipate over time though…

Thanks again gang.

Fusels do mellow a bit with age. Not completely, but it can’t hurt to try. Good luck.

The headaches are not a good sign. What temps did it ferment at?

Fermentation and bulk aging all in the 60-65 range.

Well, that seems reasonable. I doubt that was an issue then.


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