Low-temp cider fermentation not really happening

I got my cider Saturday, added 5 crushed campden tablets at about 6 p.m to cider that was probably 50 degrees. Sunday evening about 26 hours later, I pitched a vial of White Labs Cider yeast that I had allowed to sit out at room temperature for about 3 hours. It fizzed out of the vial when I opened it (dipped everything in StarSan first of course), so I know the yeast is at least viable. I pitched the yeast into the cider, which was around 64-65 F and stirred it well & sealed it with a lid an airlock.

Monday evening, 24 hours after pitching and nothing happening yet. Temp still 64-65 F. This didn’t surprise me.

Tuesday evening, 48 hours after pitching and still nothing happening, so I opened up the primary and added 1 tsp. of yeast nutrient and stirred it well to try to aerate it. I noticed a mild yeasty odor and some islands of foam on the surface prior to stirring, so something is slooooowwly happening. It’s still at 64-65 F.

Wednesday evening, about 72 hours later, it looks like maybe the cup in the air lock has risen a bit like there might be some gas developing.

Anyway, I’m not freaking out, but I am wondering what is a typical timeline for fermentation to start given that I used no starter, no nutrient in the beginning, and my cider has stayed at 64-65 F. The only examples I’m finding here of how long things take to get going are situations where the cider is 70+ degrees.

Thanks for talking me down off the ledge! :roll: Oh, how much nutrient should be added? The vial of nutrient offered no guidelines, and I didn’t have time to look online. I figured 1 tsp for 5 gallons would not cause any harm, but may not have been of help, either.

Where did you get your cider. Often stores sell cider as fresh pressed however they contain potassium sorbate. I have never had a problem fermenting cider at 64*.

Sorry, forgot to mention the cider is from a cider mill that only does the UV pasteurization, so that shouldn’t be it.

I should clarify the gist of my original question: I am pretty sure fermentation has sort of started, based on the couple of patchy thick foamy islands floating on the cider as well as the faint yeasty odor that I observed when I later added the nutrient last night. But there has yet to be any sign of bubbling. I’m just wondering about a ballpark length of time it takes to see things really kick into gear when the cider is at this temperature.

So how many days does it take for a normal batch of your cider to get started?

I think your cider is going to turn out just fine. If you saw a little foam at 48 hours, you’re in business. The nutrient probably didn’t help much, but also didn’t hurt of course. Be patient – this is going to take some time to ferment out.

I think you’ll be fine as well. I always use nutrient feedings in my ciders.

I was hoping to see your voice of reason here, Dave!

How much do you use per gallon? (and thanks for holding my hand as well!)

(LOL- my DH is getting p’d off because I won’t let him set the thermostat above 63,* but he knows it will be worth it.)

If added at the beginning, I add 1/2tsp of nutrient/ 1/2tsp of energizer per gallon. But, most times I do staggered nutrient feedings.

You know I’m going to ask you to describe this staggered feeding schedule. :slight_smile:

A couple of suggestions for your next batch.
Check your pH and adjust it as necessary to around 3.5
Oxygenate or aerate your juice just prior to pitching.

Typically a staggered nutrient feeding starts @ pitching and then are done at 24hrs after active fermentation, 48hrs after, and then around 30% through fermentation. Using a nutrient/energizer mix.

Personally I question whether nutrients are needed at all in a cider fermentation. Every cider I’ve made thus far did just fine without nutrients. I know for mead, nutrients can be important, but I’m not so sure about cider. And then if you do use nutrients, I question whether incremental additions are truly necessary, versus adding it all at the beginning. It’s like if your kid eats PB&J for lunch everyday. Just because Mommy makes 5 PB&Js every Sunday and puts them in the refrigerator for junior to eat throughout the week, does not mean that junior can or should eat them all on Monday. There will still be one for him on Friday when he’s ready for it. Am I wrong? If anyone knows of some concrete experimental data that proves that incremental nutrient additions are important, I’m all ears (and eyes).

Dave, I don’t have anything to back up nutrients helping cider fermentations other than personal experience. I have noticed an improvement in my cider using nutrients during fermentation. The staggered nutrient additions is just out of habit more than anything else.

But, it seems like a while back I saw some info from Dr Clayton Cone suggesting that wines, meads, and ciders would all benefit from staggered nutrient additions.

Ummmm… still hoping to hear what is a typical time to see something happening at 64.* I still have no bubbling. I’m working now so I’ll have to wait until later tonight to check for any smells or signs of yeast foam on top of the must again (I’ll remove the airlock and peek through the hole).

I’m “this close” to making a management decision and just pitch a dollop of US-05 yeast cake, but I’ll give it until 6 p.m. Friday to get its act together. Cider - you’re officially on notice!

If you’re very sure there isn’t any fermentation yet, US-05 is going to do a nice job for you. It certainly cannot hurt. Don’t think too hard about it. If you are still worried, pitch the US-05 and be done with it. Your worrying will be over within hours.

LOL! Gentlemen, we have liftoff! Worrying and fretting did the trick because late last night I noticed a krausen (proper term here?) had formed, and it is over an inch thick now. :slight_smile: Of course the airlock shows no signs of life at all. I’m going to label my 2 primaries and the lids to see if this happens with this bucket again (happened with some beer awhile ago).

So who knows if adding that bit of nutrient or the stirring did anything or not, probably didn’t hurt. In hindsight then, I would say it would take at least 48 hours for cider to get going at 65*, especially since I only pitched a vial of yeast (some of which was lost when it fizzed out of the tube when I opened it).

Thanks again guys for all the help!

I can say from working in the cider industry that almost everyone uses nutrients, mostly staggered, and sometimes more than one type. It’s very much like a wine ferment. A typical rate is 1g/gal yeast rehydrated with 1.25g/gal GoFerm. We use Fermaid K additions at 1g/gal split between the 1/3 and 2/3 sugar break. One of the problems with adding it all at once is that you can end up giving nutrient to wild yeast and bacteria, particularly if you add it before fermentation has really started.

If you’re fermenting above 60 with a white wine or champagne yeast I would expect a healthy ferment to be done in 2 weeks. At 65 it can be just over 1 week.

One of the best reasons to use nutrient is to avoid H2S/sulfur. That, oxidation, and contamination are the 3 most common faults I’ve seen in home made ciders.

That is very helpful – thank you for the information, J.

I am trying my first batch of cider in cooler temps as well. I put 5 gallons of fresh orchard cider in a sterilized bucket and added the correct amount of potassium sorbate. I waited 26 hours and transferred the cider to a sterilized 5 gallon carboy and pitched in American Ale yeast. When I cleaned out and sterilized a 6 gallon carboy, I transferred the cider into that larger carboy to prevent a blowoff. That was Sunday. It is now Thursday night and I have no action, no bubbles in the airlock, nothing. Will pitching more yeast help, or has the cider sitting out in 65* for close to a week done it in? Thanks for the insight.

Are you sure you used potassium sorbate? I think you’re going to have a hard time getting it to work. Typically campden tablets (potassium or sodium metabisulfite) are what is used before fermenting to sterilize the juice.

From what I’ve seen you use sorbate at the end to kill the yeast to leave some sugars in the cider. Campden tabs dissipate after 24 hours and then you can get yeast to grow.

My bad. I used Potassium metabisulfate which was recommended to me at the lhbs. I used less than 1/4 teaspoon of it in 5 gallons. Other than nutrients, I didn’t add anything else. Should I have put in some sugar to get the yeast going?