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First time hard cider help wanted

I’m an experienced beer maker who would like to try making a 5 gallon batch of black cherry flavored hard apple cider. I’ve read a little bit about cider making but I’m unsure how incorporate black cherry into the cider. I’ve found a source for pasteurized, preservative-free apple cider and black cherry juice. Do I just mix these juices together and pitch some Wyeast cider yeast? If so, what ratio is recommended to give a nice black cherry flavor? Thanks.


I would think that there will be some sugar content in the black cherry juice, and ,that will ferment out some of the desired traits that is thought to be the flavor. Why don’t you try a 1 gallon batch to test what you may want. Add the two together until you have a desired taste, then pitch yer yeast. When done fermenting you can see if thats what you wanted. Sneezles61

Pasteurize at 160 F for 15 minutes, cool, pitch Cote des Blancs yeast (it’s the best), let it ferment for a week or so, rack to secondary, then begin monitoring specific gravity every few days. Aim for 1.010-1.015. When gravity gets to that point, add gelatin to knock out most of the yeast, then a couple days later, rack again, add sorbate and sulfite to hurt the remaining yeast and keep the cider cold for another month or so, trying to prevent it from refermenting. If it starts up again, add more gelatin, sorbate and sulfite if necessary. Once the cider stabilizes fully, you can bottle or keg it. Then enjoy.

You can mix the apple and cherry juice before fermentation to get the flavor mix you want, but that will likely change by some amount by the fermentation. I haven’t done a mix like this, so I can’t say for sure if the cherry notes will get stronger or weaker, but I suspect the later.
You can also ferment the apple juice first, then after it has reached final gravity, mix in the cherry juice to taste and let the yeast restart themselves to ferment out the sugar from the cherry juice. It will still change some, but I think less than if you do the mixing up front.
Note: black cherries tend to be sweet, and sweet cherries don’t keep their flavor during fermentation as well as sour cherries do. Meaning you may need a lot. But I’d expect the color to keep fine, so your cider will be very dark.

I would probably try a mixture of the 2 methods above. I would completely ferment the apple juice. Then I would use the black cherry to “back sweeten” so to speak as it will restart fermentation. After that sample it daily and stop fermentation by cold crashing, adding gelatin and sorbate/sulfite.

Also do you plan serving it still or sparkling? That’s going to be a major component on your process, unless you have a kegging system.

Thanks everyone for the responses. I wanted to make a sparkling cider and I realize the challenge this presents without kegging. Will the cider turn into something awful if I allow it to bottle condition/carbonate, fermenting away all the sugars? I don’t mind a dry cider but I don’t want vinegar. I suppose I could throw in some sucralose (Splenda) or stevia (Truvia) to cut the dryness for broader appeal. This batch isn’t just for me.

Does one add priming sugar or simply bottle before the specific gravity hits rock bottom? That sounds dicey to catch it at the right moment such that the bottled product will carbonate without over pressuring/exploding.

I like sparkling cider, so mine is dry. I happen to think most commercial cider is sickly sweet, so maybe I’m biased, but I think dry cider is plenty sweet. Timing the bottling sounds impossible, so priming sugar is my m.o. Maybe split the batch, half with fake sugar, and half dry? Try a sample post fermentation and see, is probably the best approach.

Bottling is going to be a problem. It will end super dry which I’m not sure how much black cherry will come through.

Bottling fermenting cider is going to be a crap shoot. You can try back sweetening with Splenda or Stevia but I’ve never tried it and don’t remember hearing positive things about that. I think @dmtaylo2 might have more insight on the unfetmentable back sweetening.

I did some of mine with artificial sweetener, but I would add, then sample till I hit the sweetness I liked. It was more to dry than sweet. Remember, you can also add to yer glass AFTER its been bottled, when serving. I would bet that you watch until yer gravity settles, then use a priming calculator, and add to yer cider then bottle. The key is when the gravity readings are stable over the course of a week. There will still be some yeast to finish gobbling up the sugar and produce CO2. Where is the cider man dmtaylo2? Sneezles61

See my post above for my process, which preserves sweetness naturally and without backsweeteners or even chemicals except for gelatin. Laziness, or I mean patience, is key to my own success. However, you can bottle as soon as about 6 weeks after starting if you want and then prime the normal way same as beer. If you want a fast schedule and sweetness then you probably want to add unfermentable sweeteners. I have used lactose in the past with good success, try 0.75-1 lb per gallon. Of all the artificial sweeteners, I have tried Splenda and it turned out horrible, but xylitol is the best of all and tastes very much like real sugar without the chemical taste. Xylitol is expensive but worth trying. Then prime and add both the real priming sugar and unfermentable sugars at the same time, and you should be successful with bottle carbonation. Or, play around with racking for like 6 months like I do and do it that way. Choice is yours as to how patient you are and how many chemicals you want in your cider. My ciders these days have no chemicals because I have a more fancy process for getting rid of the yeast. But that isn’t the only way to do it either and I have made great ciders with sorbate, sulfite, etc. Lots of different ways to go about it.

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Hey,dmtaylo2, do you notice any volume reduction from yer pasteurization process? Just curious to how to up the gravity without adding any extra fermentables. Sneezles61

Heck no, pasteurization only lasts for a few minutes so it won’t affect the volume by any perceptible amount.

I’d ensure the OG is at least 1.045 and if not then consider adding just a little sugar to bring that up. If you want a more wine-like cider then go ahead and add a lot more sugar. Whatever makes you happy.

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