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First time fermenting hard cider

Hello folks, my first 2-1 gallon batches of cider is now in the secondary carboys. Sampling it, it was not very sweet had a low to medium apple flavor but was smooth - kinda watery. I After racking i added 4oz of concentrate and 4oz of water to try and fill it back up to the neck. It wasn’t enough so i added 4oz of simply apple and this brought it up to the neck of the 1 gallon carboy I was hoping to add more apple flavor via the concentrate.

I had originally wanted to carbonate the cider but also wanted to add flavor via brown sugar or make up some caramel but after more reading now know that the yeast will just eat it up. So my thought was to flavor one gallon and carbonate the other.

Since adding the above to bring the volume back to a gallon only one of the carboys is just starting to bubble. Maybe a few tiny bubbles every 5-10 seconds.

I’m sort of at a loss on what to do next. Should i just wait it out in the secondary or go ahead and flavor up the 1 batch that was appeared to stall fermenting?

My house is pretty cold all winter 60-65 degrees.

The original batches were 1 gallon of Musselmans Apple cider, 2oz of Concentrate, 1 tsp of Safale US-05. Took 4 days for fermentation to start. Sat in primary for 27 days and it’s been in the secondary for 6 days as of today.

Thanks in advance for any insight.

~Joshua

A couple of things:

Stepping back from all of this, cider does not always taste particularly ‘apple-y’, just as wine doesn’t always taste grapey. That being said…

The new concentrate you added to the secondaries will probably just ferment out. Even though you racked off the cake, there is still a good bit of yeast suspended in the cider itself that will go to work on the new sugars introduced (hence your bubbling). If you want to backsweeten the cider to give it more sweetness/mouthfeel, then you need to hit it with potassium metabisulfate (campden) and potassium sorbate to knock out the yeast.

To your ‘watery’ problem, commercial concentrates do not contain much other than fructose and water, the former ferments out. What the raw, unpasteurized juice has (mainly from apples that aren’t great to eat) are tannins and malic acid. These compounds give good ciders some of their structure taste-wise. The good news for you is that you can buy both of these from our sponsor or from your LHBS.

Regarding fermentation and conditioning time, some people have their ciders in the primary for a year. You really just have to go by taste. Again, if its missing some of the components above, maybe consider adding them in small doses.

Finally, on carbonation, unless carbonating in a keg after knocking out yeast, you can’t bottle-condition a sweeter cider, because the yeast in the bottles will metabolize whatever you add. If you want to to be sweet and carbonated, I had good results by knocking out the yeast as described above, force-carbonating in a keg, then bottling, and adding some sweetener (in my case, unfermented cider) to some of the bottles based on taste.

Thanks for the quick reply. You have given me more information to consider.

For future endeavors is it worth using the concentrate or should i just use regular sugar?

~JB

If you want to back sweeten your cider you need to add an unfermentable sugar like lactose or sucralose (splenda).

Even if he knocks out the yeast with Potassium Sorbate and Potassium metabisulfate? I’d better start drinking the ones I keg-bottled before they start exploding!

I’m not a yeast expert. Most are probably inhibited by the sorbate and metabisulfate. But from what I understand, they don’t actually kill it.

I was assuming fermentation was complete and the result was a dry cider. Adding an unfermentable sugar at that point would allow you to back-sweeten to taste without any dire results.

@Peitro I purchased everything you mentioned but after much reading on the interwebs i cannot find what would be the appropriate amount of tannin and malic acid to add to a 1 gallon. I presume this is a “to taste” amount but having never attempted this before i didn’t want to just arbitrarily add anything and ruin it. I purchased powdered malic acid and liquid tannin.

Once again thanks for any info.

~Joshua

[quote=“hans caravan”]I’m not a yeast expert. Most are probably inhibited by the sorbate and metabisulfate. But from what I understand, they don’t actually kill it.

I was assuming fermentation was complete and the result was a dry cider. Adding an unfermentable sugar at that point would allow you to back-sweeten to taste without any dire results.[/quote]
Sorbate stops the yeast from budding (reproducing), but doesn’t kill the yeast. Sulfite kills the yeast if there is a high enough concentration of unbound molecules present, the exact amount you need to add is highly dependent on pH. At pH levels above 5, it pretty much doesn’t work effectively, which is why it isn’t used for beer.

[quote=“rebuiltcellars”][quote=“hans caravan”]I’m not a yeast expert. Most are probably inhibited by the sorbate and metabisulfate. But from what I understand, they don’t actually kill it.

I was assuming fermentation was complete and the result was a dry cider. Adding an unfermentable sugar at that point would allow you to back-sweeten to taste without any dire results.[/quote]
Sorbate stops the yeast from budding (reproducing), but doesn’t kill the yeast. Sulfite kills the yeast if there is a high enough concentration of unbound molecules present, the exact amount you need to add is highly dependent on pH. At pH levels above 5, it pretty much doesn’t work effectively, which is why it isn’t used for beer.[/quote]

Good to know, and that’s kinda what I thought. I’d love to read a scientific-ish article on the subject if you happen to know of any.

I read brewing and wine books, but only limited scientific articles, so I can’t help you there.

Sulfite use is fascinating stuff though. With wine, evolved sulfite resistance is one of the characteristics that allows a cultured strain of yeast to operate effectively. Sulfite is often added sprayed on the grapes or added to the must before inoculation with the yeast, so as to inhibit wild yeast strains and bacteria. The initial sulfite addition stuns the wild yeast long enough to allow the cultured strain to get such a head start that it will dominate the fermentation. So it doesn’t need to kill the endemic organisms to be effective.

OK rbc I just happen to be a chemist and was curious of the mechanism involved with the sulfite. Looks like I should read some wine books.

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