Back to Shopping at

First time cider maker panic

So I started a batch of Cider two nights ago…but I think I screwed the pooch on this one.

I noticed that the jugs of cider contain potassium sorbate…and I only noticed this after I boiled in 2 lbs of brown sugar, raisins, etc, and set it all up in a sanitized carboy…

I have a cider yeast sitting in a flask at home stepping up to a bigger starter size, but I am wondering if this will even matter/make a difference. I talked to my lhbs and he said potassium sorbate is used to kill yeast, and he thought I was S.O.L. I figured that I am already in too deep, so I may as well pitch the yeast anyway to see what happens…but has anyone else done this, and has it worked??? Is there anything you can use to counter the effect of potassium sorbate in the cider???

Any help is appreciated.

It might still work if you pitch a big healthy yeast starter. You won’t know until you try! I think it will more than likely still work out for you, although the yeast might crap out earlier than normal and give you a sweeter cider. Maybe. I say go for it – there’s not much to lose.

yeah, I am going to go for it. If it kind of seems to stall out after a while, and the gravity doesn’t get down as low as I would like it, is there any harm in pitching another packet of dry yeast at that point and try to start fermentation again???

I have a similar panic/question. First time campden tablet user here.

I picked up a gallon of unpasteurized cider at a mill over the weekend, and put a gallon of unpasteurized along with 2 other gallons of pasteurized into a carboy, added 3 crushed campden tablets to kill the bugs in the fresh stuff, and then put an airlock on it.

Do the campden tablets need to vent off, or do they break down over the 24 hours? I’ve seen winemaking instructions in a couple of places that seem to mention using cheesecloth or a dishtowel for that first 24 of sterilizing. Last night which was about 23 hours after the campden tabs I pitched in a packet of US-05 and am anxiously waiting for it to kick off.

What do you think? Thanks in advance.

BTW this is my third batch of cider this year but those were with store bought apple juice. First batch used bread yeast and it turned out very crisp after the funky yeast flavors aged out. I think I used D-47 for the second batch and it isn’t as dry or crisp and had a more wine-y flavor to it, which was part of the experiment.

@n8young: There’s no harm at all in pitching extra yeast if you need to. You can also add some yeast energizer at any time, which might give your yeast the boost it needs to get past the sorbate. All theoretical, of course, as I’ve never tried this. I just have a hunch that it might work. But maybe not.

@twdjr1: My understanding is that potassium metabisulfite (a.k.a., Campden or K-meta) releases SO2 (sulfur dioxide) gas into the cider, which is lethal to all sorts of wild yeast and bacteria, basically killing them through a chemical reaction with the cell walls. However, since it is a gas, it also wants to escape out the top of the fermenter. Some of it will stay dissolved in the cider for quite a long time, as gases can and do dissolve somewhat in aqueous liquids; however, a lot of it will either react chemically or bubble out. So what you’re left with, after about 24 hours, is a small dose of potassium metabisulfite that keeps wild critters from taking over, but is non-lethal if you pitch a ton of fresh yeast cells, some of which may die, but some will adapt to their new environment and grow strong and somewhat immune to small doses of K-meta. Make sense??

I, too, tried long ago, back in college days, to make hard cider using bread yeast. It works… but it sure tastes like bread! Good luck with your yeast experiments!

Do the campden tablets need to vent off, or do they break down over the 24 hours? I’ve seen winemaking instructions in a couple of places that seem to mention using cheesecloth or a dishtowel for that first 24 of sterilizing. Last night which was about 23 hours after the campden tabs I pitched in a packet of US-05 and am anxiously waiting for it to kick off.[/quote]

Yep, its usually allowed to vent.
I only cover my cider with a cloth until 1/2 of the sugar has been fermented out and then switch to an airlock.

You can make good cider even if it has some sorbate in it. The sorbate in there does not kill yeast, it just prevents it from multiplying. So, I get around this by creating a starter with some sorbate free juice, usually concentrate, or a half gallon of pure juice. Pitch in your full packet of yeast and let it run for 18-24 hours, getting a good slurry going. When ready, pour your cider and extras into the fermentor, then add the starter batch you created. It may not get through primary as fast since you only have the yeast that you grew in the starter, but that is for the better any ways. Haven’t had a batch go bad on me yet or fail to work with this method. I read somewhere too that the amount of sorbate is based on the sugar content or something like that so when you prop up your cider with extra sugars, the sorbate is much less effective. So, sorbate is not the end of the road for you.

Awesome to hear…starter is getting ramped up one more time this weekend, and then will be added. A co-worker has 2+ gallons of homemade pressed cider that has been sitting in his fridge for about a month, and wishes to donate to the cause…I’m thinking if it still tastes fine, I may empty out part of what I have in my carboy, and replace it with the new cider…and that should make it go even better.

I’m excited again. Yaaaaay for cider.

so I stepped up the smack pack twice…pitched the whole thing into 5 gallons of the cider, and a day later I have visable krausen on the surface…happy to know something is happening.

Thanks again everyone for advice


You asked about the gasses from the Campden tablets being able to vent off. Even if you put on an airlock, wouldn’t the gasses vent? Isn’t that what an airlock does? It shouldn’t trap anything. Sure, maybe gas would vent more easily without any barrier at all, but gas can get through an airlock but nothing can get in. Maybe I’m misunderstanding the question, or misunderstanding airlocks.

I wanted to also think this through since I just brewed a cyser and did the same thing with campden tablets. I will say, after waiting 24 hours with an airlock on, I pitched yeast and did have activity soon after. Not amazing activity, but definite activity nonetheless. Good luck!


@BostonMike: thanks for the info. I think what has happened is that one of the gallons of cider had preservatives in it (Sodium Benzoate, didn’t notice until after I had mixed them together.)

I’ve pitched in 2 packs of US-05 on separate days, with no activity. I then thought that maybe the cider had dissolved gases from the campden tabs and needed to be “aired out”, or aerated to help the yeast so I poured it out of the carboy into a sterilized bottling bucket, then ran it back into the carboy through a funnel with the strainer insert, and THEN made a yeast starter with a half gallon of apple juice and S-04, pitched that in and still nothing.

So this has been a learning experience, if anything. That stuff will keep just about anything from growing. Let this be a lesson to everyone else! Just sad to lose a couple gallons of fairly expensive very fresh cider. I was hoping to find out how US-05 would taste compared to the D-47 batch I did earlier this year. Thanks everyone on the advice!

Potassium Sorbate is what my fresh cider had for preservatives…I stepped the starter up twice, and mine is actively fermenting now, with visible signs of krausen.

I used 5 gallons of cider with Potassium Sorbate in it…don’t fret. I would wait a couple weeks and take a gravity reading. A lot of what I have read on here indicates that ciders often times will ferment without showing any visible signs…quite unlike a beer fermenting.

@twdjr1: I would agree with n8young that you should just wait this out for a while, and maybe even add some more yeast. Cote des Blancs yeast gave me the best start for my yeast experiment, so you might want to try that. I believe the wine and cider yeasts are more resistant to sorbate and Campden than beer yeasts, so I think it might be worth a try. Or, you could just wait and let it sit a while with the US-05 yeast. I think it will start fermenting soon, it just needs a little extra time. Another day or two, and it might be rolling. Patience.


Pitched the super stepped up starter on the 18th of Oct. Yesterday I took a gravity reading. OG was 1.060, yesterday’s reading was 1.033…not quite what I was hoping for. Every time I have gone down to the fermentor to “check on it” the airlock has been bubbling. I tasted my hydrometer sample yesterday, and I am excited, as it tasted amazing, a slight hint of alcohol, but still a lot of sweet and spicy cidery qualities. Thought about it for a while, and though this will probably continue to slowly bubble it’s way down to a finished gravity, it is going to take forever. Took a pack of US-05 and pitched it into the cider to try to bump it into fermenting faster.

Any comments, pointers, critiques welcome…bearing in mind I knew this cider had preservatives when I pitched my yeast at the beginning. I have hope it’ll get there, just doesn’t look like it’ll be on the Thanksgiving table as I had hoped. I guess Christmas will be the next one I shoot for.

checked gravity again two weeks after adding an additional packet of dry yeast…gravity went from 1.033 to 1.030…bottled. Tasted about 2 pints of what was left in my bottling bucket, and it packs a pretty solid wallop considering it didn’t come close to fully fermenting. Also on the plus side, it tastes like drinking straight up cider. So for a botched batch, I am impressed.

Also to note, one cinnamon stick was added into the carboy, and I like the peppery bite it has added to the finished product. Bottled 3 growlers(immediately refrigerated), 24 grolsch bottles, and 3 22 ounce bombers. Can’t wait to share on Turkey Day.

Back to Shopping at