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Hard Cider Tastes Like...?

Hello everyone. I recently started my first batch of hard cider using champagne yeast with 3 gals of motts natural juice (very pulpy) 24oz of apple concentrate and about 12oz of light brown sugar.

It started out at 1.6gravity and fermented quick in 2.5 days. Bubbling is minimal and the gravity is now .997±.

Considering I have no idea what this SHOULD taste like, Id love your experience for what I assume is a very basic mix of hard cider.

I transferred it to the secondary tonight (day 3) because of the low gravity and minimal bubbles. I also snuck a sip of my hooch… From the smell and taste this obviously has a pretty high ABV% (only 8-9% was predicted) but has lots of cider/apple flavor with just a smidge of sweetness.

I added a little sugar for taste and I can only describe it like a good cider juice mixed with a good smooth vodka… BUT I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THIS SHOULD TASTE LIKE, lol.

Anyone mind sharing their thoughts on if this is normal taste for a high ABV% or how it will be in 2 weeks - 2 months? Will this mild out from here?

Any info is appreciated, as Im a NOOB!! BUT THIS IS FUN SO FAR!! :lol:

2.5 days fermentation time is very unusual. It must have fermented hot and will have nasty headache-causing alcohols.

Basic hard cider made with champagne yeast tastes a lot like a dry white wine. You can backsweeten if you add gelatin, sorbate and sulfite to settle out and kill off the yeast. If the yeast isn’t put to bed then they’ll eat your sweetening sugar.

Personally I follow a completely different process from what most other people do. I ferment cold in the 40s or 50s and rack the cider often to keep the yeast slow and sleepy. Then after a few weeks when the gravity hits 1.010, I hit with gelatin and chill the cider further into the 30s or low 40s and wait a few months to see what happens. This year most of my ciders (I made 5) finished between 1.008-1.010 so I didn’t need to backsweeten. 1.010 seems to be the good balancing point between sweet and tart. So I am very pleased with my ciders this year. One of the dry ones that is closer to 0.994 is very tart but it has the best flavor of them all, so I am still trying to figure out what to do with that one… maybe add malolactic culture to bring down the tartness a tad. But it sure is tasty.

Good luck to you and to all in your cider endeavors.

Thanks DM and I love the picture :slight_smile:

Yeah I fermented in my FL garage so temps between 70-82 probably lol. I see now that it had an effect although there are so many different opinions, some say high temps are fine but I see that it sped this strand of yeast up way too quick!

I think after reading another post, I will let it sit in secondary for at least 2 weeks tasting once or twice more. If it milds like I hope, Ill backsweeten with some concentrate, rack and bottle, tasting weekly for sweetness and carbonation then run the bottles through dishwasher to kill the yeast. What do you think? Am I livin in a dream world? Lol.


Dave, do you hit it with only gelatin at 1.10? Is the product still at the end. Fermenting cold is ideal in NY so this is interesting.

Anytime I want to slow the fermentation way down, I hit with gelatin to knock out most of the yeast, and rack it. For example, if I start at 1.050 and after 7 days the cider has already fallen down to like 1.015, that’s way too fast in my opinion, so then I hit it with gelatin and cold to slow things way down. But if after a week it’s still in the 1.030s, that’s about normal and I just let it go, although I do still rack it about once every 7-10 days to remove some but not all of the yeast. When the cider hits very close to 1.010, then I hit with gelatin and get it cold – under 32 F if possible. Then let it sit for a month or three. Then after that… I can drink it still, or hit it with a little sugar and hope that it carbonates a tad. Sometimes it does, sometimes not. Natural carbonation of cider is always a crapshoot. Even if you hit with sorbate and sulfite, sometimes it will carbonate and even go to dryness… and sometimes not. It’s like 50/50 odds in my experience. I’m still learning. If I wanted to guarantee perfect carbonation, then I’d keg it. But I don’t care. If it carbs, great. If not, just as well, I love it either way. I have never tried dishwasher pasteurization. I might have to give that a try if any of my current batches starts to overcarb. It should work, in theory, although I have a feeling that it might cause haze and possible cooked apple flavors, which may or may not be a detriment, I dunno.

Carbonating without the risk of bottles blowing up is what I worry about as someone new to cider making. Multiple racks seems like a great idea.

Rebuilt Cellars also has a wealth of info on cider making. Lots of very knowledgable folks here…it’s great.

I haven’t done multiple rackings but I assume if we leave a good inch for the lees at the bottom everytime you rack you have more and more air. If you compensate with more juice aren’t you shooting yourself in the foot and restarting fermentation? OR increasing risk of Vinegar?

Yes there are some risks. It hasn’t been a real big issue for my small batches but with bigger batches I can see where less intrusive action might be desirable. On the other hand the cider will have more tendency of dryness if you don’ t rack often. So it might be a tough decision.

Ok so day 8!

I decided to sample it yesterday after 5 days of sitting in secondary. Sure enough after adding the extra apple juice it has started fermenting again but slower thankfylly since Ive lowered the storage temperature.

The alcohol smell has dissipated a bit but so has the apple flavor a little. To be honest, it smells like piss, lol, which was freaking me out until my wife smelled it and said it smelled like wine!! Then I totally smelled wine. How normal is this type of smell?

I know that a high ABV cider is technically applewine, correct?

I also bottled 3 bottles so I can more easily sample in the coming weeks. With the carbonation still building I put them in a safe place to explode safely!! If they do.

I guess at this point I just want it to mild more, then Ill xylitol sweeten, bottle and pasteurize in the dishwasher. But Id love yalls thoughts on the taste.

How does homebrew taste compared to say, angry orchard?

I can’t say I’d describe the aroma of wine as pee. But wine? Yeah, it does share a lot of similarities with wine. It is essentially wine made from apples instead of grapes, and ferments about the same way. So a winy aroma makes perfect sense.

Applewine is defined as more than 9% ABV. I don’t believe your cider is that hard but I’m also not sure of everything you’ve added to it. Adding more juice just gets you more volume. Adding a little apple juice concentrate is fine. Adding a ton of concentrate and sugars might get you up into applewine territory. It’s very normal and natural to have a standard cider of 6-7% ABV. That’s just plain cider. 8% would be pushing the limits, and might be better described as a “New England” or “New World” cider. Those can still be 9% or greater. But if it turns out very thin and wine-like with the high alcohol, then yeah, you can call it applewine.

Careful with those 3 bottles – they will indeed explode on you, and it’s just a matter of days. Taste one after 2 days. If it’s a gusher then you need to pasteurizer or drink the others immediately. If not then you should still test every few days or pasteurize. Bottling anything that is still in process of fermenting is always a very bad idea. Dangerous. I mean, the bottle could blow up in your hands when you try to open it, and cut you up bad. Nasty.

I’ve successfully made cider close to Angry Orchard, but it requires a lot of racking and gelatin as I’ve mentioned previously, and also requires a yeast that won’t ferment down too far. You can’t really get there with champagne yeast in my opinion. Low and slow is the way to go. Otherwise, you’re most likely to end up with a very dry, wine-like beverage as you are experiencing, which is really more like wine and not much at all like Angry Orchard cider. And besides… we don’t really want to make Angry Orchard at home anyways since they make theirs from concentrate instead of real juice, and blast it full of sulfites to preserve it. At least that’s my opinion. You can hit it with sulfites but it takes a lot to stun the yeast. It really doesn’t kill yeast, it just prevents the yeast and any new wild beasts from taking over and causing bombs after it’s bottled.

So, I dishwashed 2 bottles on Friday and tried one Saturday. They didn’t explode so woo hoo! Carbonation was good, I immediately noticed a difference in taste. Everything was sharper apart from the smell which was milder. The alcohol, the bitter flavor, and even the apples were more identifyable. I gulped it for the first time and REALLY noticed the apple flavor. I can see it being good down the road. XD

My guess is the bitter taste is the yeast. Is that possible? There is still a LOT floating around even though I bottled from the top of the 3gal on day 8. The cider is super cloudy in this bottle and in the 3 gal. But the 2nd bottle I dishwashed is now HALF CLEAR!

Additionally, I know this cider is at least 9%. I had approximately 10oz in the bottle today and got a really clean buzz from it. No headache, which I was worried about because of possible fusel alcohols from the fast fermentation, and I did not get sleepy after the buzz wore off which is common with my commercial cider! (all the sugar possibly?)

Overall im stoked and gonna start a second five gal batch using Nottingham! Gonna really let it ferment slow this time hoping for an even better result.

I would try to keep the ferment temp down in the low 60’s if possible, at least for the first 3-4 days. This will limit fusel (headachey alcohol flavor) production by the yeast, and it will be much smoother tasting much sooner.

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