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Son of a...vinegar!

Thanks to a heat wave and thunderstorm (and maybe me waiting a little too long on fermentation}), my cider now smells strongly of vinegar. I’m gonna guess my batch is toast, and I should start making some salad dressings?

Yup. It happens with cider a lot. Happened to me 3 times over the past 10 years. Any exposure to air / head space above the cider can allow acetobacter to take hold. So to avoid turning cider to vinegar in future, the best way is to ferment in a carboy and keep it filled all the way to the neck to limit the amount of surface area exposed to the air.

Yeah…I should have known better than to try to ferment two gallons of cider in a 5 gallon container. I think I have two one gallon containers, though, so I can probably avoid that in the next round.

Ferment cider cold too. I ferment my cider in glass carboys in a plastic storage tote filled with water and ice packs and try to keep it at 55. A cold temperature supports yeast growth over bacterial growth. Also, pitch lots of healthy yeast. I’m not a fan of wild anything, so I pasteurize my cider. I have a friend down the road that makes an excellent high octane cider with unpasteurized cider in a 50 gallon oak barrel, but I think he gets away with it by adding insane amounts of sugar and keeping that barrel in a cold barn all winter. It’s usually not ready until the following summer, and even then, it’s still fermenting. I don’t like adulterating my cider, so I don’t usually add much if anything to it. I was going to ferment this year’s batches in a chest freezer with an Inkbird controller I bought this summer, but (un)fortunately, the freezer is getting packed full of garden vegetables and hops as our big stand up freezer is packed full too. Oh well, maybe next year.

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Vinegar needs a few things to go it’s way to get going: a population of bacteria, a supply of oxygen and warm temperatures. Fruit flies supply the bacteria, and most apple juice will already have it present, but a dosage of sulfite (1 campden tablet per gallon juice mixed in 12-24 hours before pitching the yeast) will stun it to the point where the yeast can out compete it.
Keep head space in the fermentor to a minimum, and ferment cool will also reduce the risks. Do all three (my usual method) and it is very unlikely you will have a problem.

So… use smaller fermenters and don’t brew during heat waves…got it. sigh well, at least I can say my vinegar is organic…

Are you a BBQ type of person? I use apple cider vinegar in almost every marinade and rub.

There’s some good summer cocktails out there that use a splash of apple cider vinegar as well.

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Blend it in with a pale ale and tell people it’s a kombucha beer!

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