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Frist Time Cider Questions

Hello Everyone,

I’ve been making wine for a long time but some friends want me to try and make a hard cider. My wines are usually reds that are dry, and the hard cider they want me to make is a sweet and with a fizz like Original Sin. When I make my wines I kill the yeast so I don’t have to worry about exploding bottles. I have read how to get the fizz in the cider and I would like to try adding a small amount of sweetener at bottling without killing the yeast. Can anyone tell me if and what kind of sweetener I can use that will make it taste sweeter and not cause too much CO2. I will use a small amount of sugar or AJC to get the CO2 but need to know if there is a sweetener that can be used to make the taste sweeter.

Thanks for your help,
TLY

I have tried using Splenda but the result tasted like… Splenda. Not tasty if you ask me. It works, it makes the cider sweet, but it tastes like chemicals.

You might try lactose, that might be better. It’s not fermentable, but it’s also not very sweet. Add about 1 to 1.5 lbs per 5 gallons and see what it does for you. I have yet to try this in earnest. I’ve made an apple ale many times with lactose and I like the results, but I haven’t tried it yet with a straight cider. I think it would work.

Other than perhaps the lactose idea, honestly I really haven’t had a ton of success getting a naturally carbonated sweet cider. It either ends up sweet and uncarbonated, or more often, dry and overcarbonated (dang it!). You can try backsweetening along with sorbate and sulfite, but your results might turn out like mine – likely to continue fermenting to dryness. The yeast just doesn’t want to die!!

One thing that’s also helped keep my ciders with a little extra sweetness is to rack very often. Rack to secondary, tertiary, quaternary (is that even a word?!), every week or two, to get rid of as much yeast as possible during active fermentation. This helps the yeast to grow sluggish and prevent fermentation all the way down to 0.992. Because if you leave all the yeast in there, odds are it will hit 0.992 every time. I can keep gravity above 1.000 just by racking very often. But beware the bottle bomb, which is always a possibility if there’s any residual sugars in there. Sulfite and sorbate are your friends as well.

Another option might be to prime and carbonate (i.e., let the bottles sit for a month or so to carbonate naturally), then to kill the yeast with heat. Maybe run the bottles through the dishwasher heated cycle, that should kill 'em, yes? I haven’t tried this yet, but in theory, it should work.

Overall, I guess my primary suggestion would be to try the lactose along with the priming sugar, I think it might have the best shot at turning out well. Of course, if any of your friends are lactose intolerant, they might not appreciate this!

FYI – standard priming sugar for cider would be about 2/3 cup cane sugar per 5 gallons, somewhere around there. Or maybe 3/4 cup would turn out even better in a cider. I wouldn’t use that much for beer, but for cider it should work nicely, since cider should have no head on it. Add the priming sugar and lactose at the same time on bottling day. Dissolve and boil for a few minutes, cool, and add to the bottling bucket/carboy in bulk. Don’t try to add sugar to each individual bottle – do it in bulk. It’s a lot easier.

If you figure out something that works well, please let us know! After several years, I’m still trying to perfect cider carbonation. This year I got lazy and I drank all my hard cider flat/uncarbonated. It’s still good that way, and very traditional. Next year I’ll probably play around with lactose or something as stated above to try to get carbonation AND sweetness. Maybe it will work better than my past attempts, which have usually ended up being either flat or gushers.

You can try a beer yeast to make your cider instead of wine yeast. They won’t be as aggressive towards the sugar and might leave some residual sweetness.

Sweet/still is no problem. But sweet/sparkling can be a real challenge with cider if you can’t force carbonate. If you can borrow a friend’s kegging system & beer gun, then stabilize like you do with your wine, backsweeten with AJC, and force carbonate & bottle. That will give you the control you’re probably accustomed to having with your winemaking.

You could give something like this a whirl:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLFvw4CVKgY

Otherwise, you’re stuck with splenda (sucralose) and/or lactose as already suggested. The splenda can give you that weird aftertaste. The lactose isn’t very sweet and adds body that you may not find appropriate.

The other alternative is pasteurizing in the (sealed) bottle … which I personally consider to be inherently unsafe.

As should be obvious from the posts above, making non-dry sparkling cider is very challenging. I personally wouldn’t go with the non-fermentable sweeteners, because it will not taste right. Here are a few additional ways that will work.

  1. Ferment to dryness, stabilize with sulfite and sorbate, then back-sweeten with table sugar, artificially carbonate in a keg and bottle from the keg. I’ve actually found this to be the easiest, most reliable and safest method. But you need a keg set up to make it work.

  2. Champagne method. There is a steep learning curve to get over for this one, and it will require you leave it in the bottle for at lease a year before disgorging and sweetening, but it will give very good results.

  3. Ferment to dryness, add enough sugar to both sweeten and carbonate it, then carefully monitor the bottles to determine when they are fully carbed. Once carbed, keep the bottles refrigerated until drunk. The refrigeration will prevent the yeast from consuming all the sugar, but they will wake up and create bottle bombs if the fridge is turned off for a week or two in the middle.

Oh yeah, I forgot all about the Zymurgy yeast experiments. Try WLP002 that should leave the cider sweeter and tasty. viewtopic.php?f=9&t=120502&p=1053100&hilit=cider+yeast+Zymurgy#p1053100

Thanks everyone, it looks like I still have a lot of research to do! I probably will be back with more question if that is ok, and I hope they won’t be to bothersome.

I have read where you can use XYLOSWEET (xylitol) to sweeten the cider. Here again I’m not familiar with it so I don’t know what it is. Is it another sweetener that will give a chemical taste to the cider.

Stevia is another one I would like to know about. My wife uses it in tea & coffee and it seems ok but I don’t know about cider.

Thanks.
tly

I am not familiar with xylitol. Might be a possibility.

Stevia is horrible, wretched, ugh, no way.

In general, I would avoid any and all artificial sweeteners. They just taste too fake, at least to my own palate.

Xylitol is better than most artificial sweeteners - the chemical aftertaste isn’t so horrible. Still wouldn’t use it in cider.

The use of a low attenuating yeast won’t get you a sweet cider, but it will keep it from being bone dry. If that is good enough for you, it would be an easy option.

I know I’m a late getting to this, but I’ve been doing a lot of research for making cider, and one of the points I came across was on the yeast being used affecting dryness versus sweetness. I’ve seen it suggested, based on the product reviews, that using a sweet mead yeast will help leave a natural sweetness to cider, like Wyeast 4184.

I don’t know if it will affect fermentation time to cause it to be as long as mead fermentation, but it is an idea.

[quote=“D&D_Brewer”]I know I’m a late getting to this, but I’ve been doing a lot of research for making cider, and one of the points I came across was on the yeast being used affecting dryness versus sweetness. I’ve seen it suggested, based on the product reviews, that using a sweet mead yeast will help leave a natural sweetness to cider, like Wyeast 4184.

I don’t know if it will affect fermentation time to cause it to be as long as mead fermentation, but it is an idea.[/quote]
I tried this years ago, though I used the White Labs sweet mead yeast. I didn’t like the results. There was some weird taste, though I truthfully couldn’t say if that was due to the yeast, the apples or something else.
If you do try this, don’t add a different more attenuating yeast for bottle conditioning.

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