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Looking for Resource for Cider 1stTimer

I’ve been homebrewing and frequenting the beer portion of this forum for years now. I’d like to try my hand at a cider. Aside from just browsing this forum, is there any single resource (preferably online), that covers cidermaking extensively? I know what I’d like my end product to be - now I need to learn how to craft a recipe to get me there.

I am not aware of any simple equivalent to howtobrew.com for cider making, if that is what you are asking. There are a few good books on the topic, namely “Cider Hard and Sweet”, that one is probably the best of them all, but you’re going to have to pay the $10 or whatever for it.

A basic set of rules that have worked awesomely for me:

  • Don’t worry too much about the specific varieties of apples or juice, at least not at first. Until your palate is refined, they all just taste like “cider”. So use whatever juice or apples you can get your hands on. You can worry about the tartness and sweetness and all that much later on, if you stay with the hobby.

  • Use fresh pressed juice from an orchard if possible. I buy mine every year in October. You can freeze it if you need to. You don’t have to use fresh juice, but it sure tastes awesome if you do.

  • Don’t worry about additions such as sulfites and sorbate and pectic enzyme and tannin and backsweetening and carbonation. None of these things have worked all that well for me, and they also really don’t matter that much, at least not in the early batches.

  • Personally I get the best results by heat treating the juice at about 160 F for about 15 minutes, then cool, then always use Cote des Blancs yeast. This process and this yeast produce results better than anything else I have tried, and I have tried lots.

  • Ferment to dryness and plan on drinking it flat. Simple and effective. Sorry if you wanted it to be carbonated or to taste like Angry Orchard or Crispin or Woodchuck. Sorry, it’s just not going to taste like that. The best ciders don’t taste anything like the commercial garbage – they’re better. Nothing artificial. Not from concentrate. No preservatives required.

  • If you do want to retain a small amount of sweetness at the end, then I find it best to rack the cider about once per week, and continue this for about a month. This removes a lot of the yeast. Also you can add gelatin for clearing and to remove even more yeast if the fermentation is going too fast. If you stick with the hobby, you can worry about getting more fancy later.

I know that a lot of what I just said goes against the grain, but it works well for me. I guess I should give one more piece of advice before I finish:

  • Don’t accept any one person’s book or process as the right way to do things (not even mine). Accept all suggestions with grains of salt. Do it your own way, experiment, find out what works and what does not work, and what makes you happy. If you can create something that puts smiles on the faces of you and your friends and family, then you’re doing it right.

    :cheers:

Thanks for all the suggestions.

There is a cider mill a few counties east of here. They pasteurize but do not treat or filter any other way. Their stuff should begin showing up in the local grocery stores in the next month. I know apple varieties can be important, but for my first attempt, I planned to use their product as is.

So would you recommend I trust their pasteurization and pitch the yeast without any Campden tablets or home pasteurization?

I’m not really trying to replicate any commercial ciders or apple beers that I’ve tried. They’ve all been substantially too sweet for my tastes. To be honest, I really don’t know how much I’ll enjoy a drier, homebrewed cider. I guess I’ll find out in a few months.

I had just assumed I’d keg this and serve it lightly carbonated like one of my beers. However, if this is a bad idea, I can always pull my old cases of bottles out of the basement.

I don’t see myself wanting to kill off yeast and backsweeten, but I did have another brainstorm. This is probably blasphemous, so forgive me, but could some malt extract be added to the must to boost the FG by several points?

I’ll take your word and look up the Cote des Blancs. As long as my basement falls within the recommended temperature range, I’ll give it a shot.

Check out some of the Brewing Network podcasts, including Sunday Session (there is a recent one with drew beechum that discusses cider), and The Jamil Show. Some great stuff on those.

Some of my limited experiential tips:

-ferment low and slow (like 60 if you can for at least the first few weeks), and add yeast nutrient every day
-Champagne yeasts are great, but somewhere on here there is a thread with someone getting great results from one of the Trappist Abbey yeasts
-apples that are good for eating generally arent the best for cider. You want really tannic apples so tannins remain in the cider and give it some structure. If you can’t get these, adding tannic acid and/or malic acid will help
-I personally like mine backsweetened just enough to balance it out, as the yeast will chew through absolutely everything else. To do this, you need to crash, add camden and K sorbate, keg, backsweeten with high quality fresh (non-alcoholic) cider at bottling from the keg or in the keg itself.

Cidermaking is way closer to wine making than brewing. All about the fruit and some basic fermentation guidelines.

Not that this says everything, but my first cider I had some awesome juice from some crazy estate apples like Wolf Rivers, Red Astricans, Northern spys, Jonathans, and some pear juice, followed the above rules, and my cider took 2nd in a sanctioned local comp with around 50 cider entries. Plus I am not really a cider drinker, but really love this stuff.

Brick,

There are lots of very good suggestions above. I’ll just reenforce a few and add a couple of comments based on my own experience.

That’s probably the best advice you’ll ever get. I’ve tried to follow other “recipes” and ended up just doing things my own way … to get the results that met my expectations. However, it’s always good to know what others are doing … if for no other reason than to get ideas for more experimentation.

Amen! Why wait? You can do a lot of experiments with juice right off the shelves … maybe start with a simple one gallon batch every week or two. You’ll have a much better grip on what you want to do when you finally commit to that 5 or 10 gallon batch. Nothing worse than dumping a big batch down the drain because of a beginner’s mistake.

Another Amen! And that’s likely why most of the commercial “hard cider” I’ve had tastes like a sugar wine with too much malic acid added after the fact. I really haven’t found a commercial hard cider that I like.

If you want to bump up the OG, you can use a little brown sugar or concentrate. Just don’t go nuts with it.

A final note: In my experience the yeast I use has more impact on the flavor/aroma than anything else, hands down … and it’s a personal thing. That’s where small batch cider making comes in handy. Once you zero in on your favorite yeast, you can play around with your juice (and other aspects) with more confidence.

[quote=“Brick1083”]So would you recommend I trust their pasteurization and pitch the yeast without any Campden tablets or home pasteurization?

I had just assumed I’d keg this and serve it lightly carbonated like one of my beers. However, if this is a bad idea, I can always pull my old cases of bottles out of the basement.

I don’t see myself wanting to kill off yeast and backsweeten, but I did have another brainstorm. This is probably blasphemous, so forgive me, but could some malt extract be added to the must to boost the FG by several points?[/quote]

Pasteurization only works temporarily. If you want pasteurized cider, you need to do it yourself at home.

Kegging is a fantastic idea. I never have but I really should try that next time. You don’t need to bottle it. And then, yeah, carbonation will be no problem at all.

Malt extract is not a great idea. I have not tried it myself, but have heard from others that it gives a beery flavor that is not appropriate. If you don’t mind that, then go for it. Personally I wouldn’t recommend it.

I also forgot to mention… you can add sugar if you want, but it is certainly not necessary. You will get a 6-7% ABV beverage without adding any sugar at all. If you want to make a more wine-like beverage, then go ahead and add sugar. Personally I prefer just the plain unadulterated fermented juice, it is the best IMHO.

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