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New to Brewing - SG question

I just started fomenting my first batch of Cider. Last year I tried a locally bottled store bought blend of fresh Cider and I loved the complex and sweet taste. My first thought was, “This would make a great hard cider.” So this year, my local grocer had it on sale and I bit the bullet. I went out and bought a fermentation bucket, airlock, tubing, and bottle filler. I also purchased 5 gallons of cider.

I mixed it up and just poured in the yeast from the packet into the cider and stirred. The yeast I am using is Red Star Cote des Blancs yeast. I am looking forward to tasting this cider and feeling the sense of accomplishment.

I have one question though. How reliable is using sugar content on a nutrition label to estimate potential alcohol content. You see, I didn’t by a hydrometer and the only thing I have close is a refractometer from my days as a salt water aquarium keeper. But, the label on the juice says that there is 26g of sugar per serving with 16 servings per container. Thats 416g of sugar/gallon or 110 g/L. I found a hydrometer chart online and this suggests that the SG is around 1.040 with a potential %vol alcohol of 5.1.

Do these calculations make sense? I know they are just rough estimates, but the final number is not outside the realm of possibility. Thanks for your feedback.

Use your refractometer, and multiply the result by 4. That’s going to be your true original gravity, with 1.0 in front of the number. For example, if the refractometer says you have 14% sugar, then your original gravity is 1.056 (4 times 14 = 56).

I have made cider with the Cote des Blancs yeast a couple of times, using unpasteurized, unsorbated cider. If you use unadulterated cider, you’re going to end up with a final gravity around 0.995 to 1.000, somewhere in there. This should get you a final alcohol content between 6.0 and 6.5% ABV.

If your cider contains preservatives such as sorbate, the yeast might crap out earlier and give you less alcohol. Or, it might not. Hard to say, as I’ve never used preserved cider.

If your luck is as good as most people’s, you are simply going to LOVE your finished cider. Best of luck to you.

Thanks dave, I’ll have to try that. I am doing the fermentation in a bottling bucket so I can take a measurement without opening the lid. I think it is starting to go now, the water in the 1 piece airlock is no longer balanced so it looks like some CO2 was force through at some point. The cider I used is 100% juice from fresh apples, flash-pasteurized, no sugar or preservatives so there shouldn’t be any sorb ate in it.

The refractometer has a SG scale on it, but I wasn’t sure if they were specifically designed for salt content vs sugar content.

I got a hydrometer to test my cider. After a week, I am at 1.010. I tasted what I used to test and it wasn’t bad, but it had an odd taste maybe too astringent. Is this something that will decrease as the yeast finishes and the cider mellows?

It’s really hard to say without tasting it myself. Different people pick up astringency in different ways. To me, astringency happens about midway through the tasting process, where it’s as if a sponge has soaked up all the moisture out of my mouth and made it feel cottony, but then that fades to a pleasant crisp but not-quite-so-dry aftertaste. If that isn’t your perception, then I don’t know what it is. Also I don’t think that sort of astringency will go away. It comes from the skins of the apples or additions of tannin. If you used store-bought cider and did not add any tannin, I would be shocked if you have astringency issues. Perhaps you are perceiving an alcohol hotness? Possible contamination!? I hope not.

My ciders are likewise at about 1.010 right now and I think they taste great, other than the fact that they still taste a lot like yeast because they’re not done fermenting yet. I get a little astringency, but not too much, as well as tartness and sweetness at various levels (well, I am making 8 one-gallon batches!), so it will take a little more time to know for sure if the balance for each one is what I like or whether I want to blend them at the end before I bottle.

Finished.

I just scored a 5g carboy at auction for 10.00, now I can rack it. My cider has been going in the primary since 10/20. I estimate the starting SG at 1.040 and have a finished SG of 1.000 giving a 5.43% ABV. Now that I have the carboy I am going to rack, leave it in the dark cool basement and see if I can get it to clear up and let the flavors mellow.

I believe I will want to back sweeten but I don’t know what to bring it up to and I want to be sure the yeast is dead before I do. I could kill the yeast now since its about the alcohol content I want, but I wasnt sure if the yeast was necessary for aging.

What are your thoughts?

Kill it now with sulfite and sorbate if you like, and consider adding gelatin at the same time if it is cloudy at all. The gelatin will clear it up in 24-48 hours, and it will then be ready to bottle right away – no need to let it “mellow” unless you think it might still be fermenting for some reason.

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