Lasting sulfur taste and smell

Hello everyone, new to the board but have been brewing and making cider for some time.

I realize that sulfur or rhino fart as it’s often called is common with cider fermentation. However, I always seem to have an issue with the flavor and aroma lingering even 6-8 months in to aging.

I have experimented with various wine yeast, cider specific yeast from Wyeast, and various ale yeast with the same result. I make sure to aerate well and pitch yeast energizer at the start of fermentation racking to secondary for bulk aging with FG is achieved. I tasted a batch of plain apple cider made with the Wyeast cider yeast last weekend. This batch had been in secondary for over 6 months and it still had a strong aroma of sulfur. I degassed using my wine whip and plan to let it settle for a few weeks and taste again to see if it helped.

What am I missing? I enjoy making cider, but I am very sensitive to the sulfur aroma and flavor.

Thanks in advance

Here’s something really nice about sulfur: It ALWAYS goes away with age, ALWAYS. If 6 months wasn’t long enough to age it out, then sorry man, but you’ll just need to wait a full 12 months or maybe even more. But EVENTUALLY, the sulfur will be gone. Patience.

Personally I have not had a real long term sulfur problem like that for years, but it has happened in the past. Out of the 4 (or was it 5? I can’t remember) ciders I made last October, two batches were still sulfury by about January, bummer… but now as of March, the sulfur was gone and they’re awesome. It might be the cold conditioning that helps. Both of those were in my refrigerator since about December. If left out at cellar temp or room temp, I think the sulfur would still be gone but I guess I don’t know for certain. Another advantage of cold conditioning – crystal clarity. Love the brightness where you can see through it like nothing. I also use gelatin so that probably helps as well. Get that yeast out of there, yeast has a lot of sulfur in it. Gelatin + racking + cold + time = awesome.

What else causes sulfur? I haven’t really figured it out yet. Yeast strain? Maybe. Contamination? Possibly. Less than adequate nutrients? Probably NOT the problem – I don’t use any.

Give it more time. I think it will improve with enough time. Sorry you have to wait so long but hopefully the wait is worth it!

Thank you for the reply and encouragement.

I am contemplating making cider as a compliment to a small lot winery that we have in the works. I have no trouble waiting a year+ at home, but in a retail environment I would like to find a way to expedite the aging process and keep sulfur at minimum. Any thoughts or suggestions?

I have temp controlled fermentation space. I am going to try cold crashing to see what happens.

Hmm… yeah, seems to me somebody says copper can get rid of sulfur in a jiffy. Find a couple of old pennies from before 1982, sanitize them as best you can, and throw them into your cider!? This might actually work. Worth a shot anyway.

This is new to me, I’ve never gotten sulfur from my ciders. Dave and I have effectively compared notes in the past, and the biggest differences between what I do and he does are I use nutrients and pectinase (he doesn’t), and he uses post-fermentation finings (I don’t).

As sulfur is typically a by-product of yeast metabolism, with more of it being created when the yeast are more stressed, I’m guessing that the use of nutrients is what you need to cut the sulfur. Not too much, apples have almost everything yeast need already, but adding some yeast hulls certainly wouldn’t hurt. So make sure what you use is a complete, complex nutrient mix, not just DAP.

The other possibility that you should consider is the apples. Some pesticides use sulfur compounds, and if they are still on the fruit when you press it, that could be the culprit.

Good advice on the pennies, that is a well established method in wine making.

By the way, where are you setting up your winery?

Thank you! I’ve read about the copper trick but not tried it. I will give that a try as well. I’ve had the issue with both fresh pressed juice from a local farm and store bought (typically Costco -Kirkland premium not from concentrate) juice.

I think I am guilty of not adding the correct nutrient blend. For the last batch I used Brewcraft yeast nutrient. I have used plain DAP in the past but never a blend to create a full nutrient load.

We will be setting up in upstate South Carolina. Focusing on fruit wines from local sources as well as a few standard offerings utilizing higher end kits. No plans or desire for a functional vineyard at this time. I plan to source my cider from a local apple mill but will have a small crusher and press on site to do some blending of various apple varieties into the base juice.

I do tend to fortify my cider with dextrose to reach ~ 1.070SG before pitching. Would this cause a problem?

Don’t know for certain, as I’ve never added dextrose to my ciders, but I wouldn’t think so. You are not yet in apple wine territory, and people make that all the time without problems.

Good luck on the winery.

I don’t fortify my ciders, but there’s nothing wrong in doing it if you want the extra kick. Plain juice on its own without added sugars can make a 6-7% ABV cider so for drinkability, that’s good enough for me.

I wouldn’t use pennies, they have too much zinc, even the older ones. Find a piece of copper tubing and use that. Make sure all oil is off the tubing and be sure to scrub it to get rid of tarnish. A friend of mine mentioned he dipped a length of tube for only a few minutes and obtained immediate relief from the sulfur.

By the way, putting that piece of copper tubing in your boil kettle also infuses some copper and any excess copper is consumed by the yeast so that the beer has none. That approach doesn’t help a cider brewer, but its something to think about if your brewery is all stainless steel. You need some copper!