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First Cider Questions

First post and very much a novice, so sorry if this is too much information or if I’m asking really elementary questions…
First time I’ve attempted to make cider and just looking for a few thoughts as to next steps. I’ve been reading the Proulx book as well as this forum and others. I’m attempting a semi-sweet cider – doesn’t have to be sparkling, though my wife would probably like it better that way. I am sensitive about using any additives (i.e., Campden) and the like and would like to hear your thoughts on next steps and if I’ve not destroyed anything yet…

Started on 9/28 with store-bought organic apple juice (sorry, would love to use fresh, but I’m in Texas);
Initial SG reading was 1.052;
Added raw sugar and brought it up to 1.070;
Pitched Red Star Cotes des Blanc;
Fermentation began a few hours later and has been going strong since;
SG reading on 9/30 was 1.040 (seems fairly fast, right?);
SG reading on 10/3 was 1.010. Tasted and was not overly acidic. More of a rough white wine flavor at this point. Getting about six bubbles per minute on the 3-part airlock.

A few things I’m curious about. Will this fast a fermentation cause the issues I’ve read about related to ‘rocket fuel’? How long should I leave it on its lees before racking and allowing to start clarifying or go into a secondary fermentation? Bottling questions remain – as I mentioned above would be fine with still, but could do sparkling if that made sense. Really just like to get feedback on the process thus far. Thanks in advance.

1.070 to 1.040 over 3 days isn’t a big deal, you’ll be fine. I start my ciders at 1.070 and they come out just fine. I would worry more about fermenting temp as it relates to rocket fuel than SG.

I would rack it fairly quickly after its done fermenting to help clear but it appears that it has quite a few more days of fermenting.

How sweet are you looking for? Are you planning on back sweetening? If so you’ll have to add potassium sorbate to prevent re-fermentation. However, back sweetening/sorbate makes you unable to bottle it.

Possibly. What is the fermentation temperature? If it is at 70 F or higher, then yes, rocket fuel. If in the 60s, you might be okay.

If it were me, I would rack the cider right now, today. This will help slow down fermentation because it will remove a lot of the yeast. The cider is already going to be quite dry so it’s somewhat of a moot point, but racking it now also seems appropriate as you wanted to try for something semi-sweet. I’m not going to lie – it’s not going to be semi-sweet. Too late for that. But it won’t hurt to rack now, and it might help.

If you wait until the yeast is finished, you can add a low dose of sorbate and then backsweeten as desired. A little sorbate will prevent the yeast from multiplying, but the ones that are still alive will ferment the priming sugar and produce some carbonation. I have done this several times with good results. The key is to be patient and not bottle too early, otherwise you could have bombs on your hands, quite literally, from excessive carbonation.

Good luck.

Thanks, guys, for the response. You’re definitely correct about the temperature. Should have mentioned that before. We are at 73-74F - tough to do anything lower in Texas… even in the (alleged) Fall. That was my primary concern was the higher fermenting temp. If I forget about semi-sweet and just go for drinkable, will the majority of the fusel issues mellow out over a longer aging period? I don’t mind waiting as I can continue working on technique, etc. for the next rounds.

Thanks again.

I don’t think fusels will age out or mellow. It’s too late. What you might get away with though, assuming it tastes okay, is drink it in small amounts and never over-indulge. If you have 3 or more drinks in one session, you’re likely to get hangover headaches or other ill effects. Not a guarantee but a strong possibility.

+1 fusels don’t age or mellow out. And they do give headaches!

If ferm temps are a problem and you want something cheap google or look here for swamp coolers. Another idea is … on-Chiller

Again, I really appreciate you guys’ thoughts on the topic. I racked a couple of days ago and felt compelled to sample upon racking. The flavor wasn’t hot by any means - although I would say it was sharp and dry. Not terrible though, which surprised me somewhat. In trying to do more research on fusels in cider, I was only able to find notes of the following type, “Higher or fusel alcohols are formed; unlike beer where they are unwanted compounds, in cider they form important components of the flavour profile. The levels formed depend on apple variety, juice treatment, yeast strain, fermentation conditions, and storage conditions. In general, low pH and low nitrogen levels tend to produce ciders with higher fusel alcohol levels. Use of sulphur dioxide, and centrifugation of the apple juice before fermentation both result in the lowering of fusel alcohol levels. The factor most affecting fusel alcohol levels is the strain of yeast. Aeration is also a factor, aeration reduces fusel production markedly.”

When I talked with the guys at my local homebrew/wine making store, they suggested that fusels don’t cause huge issues in cider at the temperature I am (73-74F), but would be more dependent upon the yeast being used. If the yeast had a lower temperature tolerance than where the fermenation takes place, they’d be concerned, but since Cotes des Blanc ferments between the 64-86F range, their advice was to not worry as much about fusels.

I’m certainly not an expert by any means and aren’t trying to call your thoughts into question. Just thought I’d share this information. The Proulx book actually has a recipe fermenting at 75-85F, so that was why I was hoping I’d be safe. Guess time will tell. I’ll write back and let you guys know how it goes.

Lastly, thanks for the link on the homemade cooler. Fusel or not, that’d be a great way to keep the temps in the 60s for the improved flavor you guys get to have by living someplace that isn’t 1,000 degrees. Thanks again!

No prob. Champagne/wine yeast are usually less susceptible to fusels and I wouldn’t worry too much about 73*. HOWEVER, (always one isn’t it) I wouldn’t let it get too much higher. I like to ferm myu yeast at the lowest range as I think those yeasties give a cleaner flavor.

Hope it turns out well for you.
PS: Buy a kegging system and you can add some sorbate and back sweeten to your liking and force carb and have perfectly clear cider. :lol:

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