Back to Shopping at NorthernBrewer.com

Stabilizing Still Cider Before Bottling

Hey Guys,

Have a couple of batches of cider im wanting to stabilize and bottle still, and have a few questions regarding my current situation, as there’s a plethora of opinions on what should be done.

I have a blueberry cider that sat in primary for roughly 1 week, cold crashed then moved to secondary. It has sat in secondary for roughly 2 weeks and I am now cold crashing again (SG 1.052, used safale cider yeast). I haven’t taken a FG yet, but when tasted there was hardly and sweetness, so im assuming the gravity is below 1.010 (im going to take a FG before I bottle of course).

I also have a ginger cider that im going to let sit in the primary for roughly 7-10 days, cold crash, add chemicals and then let sit roughly for a week before bottling. This batch had a SG of 1.052 used nottingham ale yeast.

Once the gravity for each is below 1.010, they will be cold crashed for 2-3 days, racked and im going to add the campden and sorbate. I will allow it to sit for roughly a week and then bottle.

My goal is to retain some of the residual sweetness, and to backsweeten if needed, is this a sufficient amount of time with the chemicals after cold crashing to safely bottle?

If anyone else has had a similar experience, or would like to chime in it would be greatly appreciated, just need some advice before I move forward.

Thanks!

It should be… if you wanted to be safe, you could back-sweeten, then give it another week or two to make sure fermentation doesn’t re-start (it shouldn’t), and then bottle.

The other option is to let it ferment dry, skip the chemicals, and back-sweeten with a non-fermentable sugar. In my experience, xylitol is the most flavor neutral and completely non-fermentable by sacch yeast. I don’t care for the flavor of sulfates or sorbate, so this is what I prefer, but you’re really just substituting one chemical for another. Both work fine.

I think you’re in a bit more of a hurry than I would be comfortable with. I’d give each batch a minimum of about 6 weeks from start to finish before bottling. Even after keeping cold and adding your sorbate and sulfite, fermentation can keep on going, and I fear you could end up with gushers or bombs. I’d give it more time before bottling. If you measure the specific gravity and it stays the same after about 7-10 days, then you should be able to bottle it safely. But I’m still a little skeptical. Patience is the best thing. If you can’t be patient, I’d expect carbonation and maybe even gushers or bombs, especially if you backsweeten at all. The trouble is, those chemicals don’t kill yeast but only hurt them. The yeast can keep on living and fermenting if they feel like it. You could try higher doses but then the chemicals might reach undesirable flavor thresholds.

Hope this helps spark some thought and hope you can get the results you want.

1 Like

Right, @dmtaylo2 has a good point. I’m only talking about the time between stabilizing and bottling-- if fermentation isn’t done and the yeast haven’t fallen out of suspension, it’s all out the window.

With cider, I haven’t really seen fermentation finish for a good 3-4 weeks on average, so after 7-10 days there’s probably a lot more residual sugar than you expect in there. Much safer to let fermentation finish on its own, and then stabilize/back-sweeten with your preferred method.

I agree. But if after the 7-10 days the gravity has dropped a considerable amount, cold crash and then add chemicals, if after the roughly week time window the gravity is not dropping, technically should be good to go right? If theres enough residual sugar I shouldn’t even need to back sweeten, thus not giving the yeast any more sugar than they are already not converting.

The cold only slows the fermentation, not stops it 100%. If that’s what you’re going for consider buying a .5 micron filter and filtering it. You can cold crash, filter, and then add your sorbate and metabisulfite (won’t need near as much) to halt fermentation.

2 Likes

There’s also a lot of other things going on other than attenuation within the first couple weeks of fermentation. The yeast are producing intermediate metabolites, such as diacetyl and acetaldehyde, and probably throwing off lots of sulfur compounds. I don’t know that I’ve ever done a cider that I wanted to drink within a couple of weeks. Not to say that yours isn’t ready, but there are other considerations beyond attenuation.

I would think that IF gravity has mostly dropped, IF you can drop the yeast out of suspension, and IF enough by-products from fermentation have been eliminated, then your time frame between stabilizing and bottling is reasonable. But that’s a lot of ifs, and any of them that go wrong can cause you some problems down the road.

2 Likes

I agree with @porkchop. The only way to make a great cider is to allow it time to ferment out and back sweeting it. I’ve never made a quality cider that didn’t need aging.

I should add that I successfully produced a dry wild cider last year by doing nothing more than buying a gallon of local orchard cider, unpasteurized, and just letting it sit in the back of my refrigerator for 6 months (actually longer). Temperature is around 39-41 F in my refrigerator, something like that. The yeast had no trouble at all fermenting that cold. Slow but steady.

So I think if the yeast is lively enough, as they very well might be, even with cold and chemicals, if they want to eat your sugars then they will. That’s why I’m always hesitant especially when someone thinks they can finish fermenting a cider in 3-4 weeks. This hasn’t worked well in my experience. One of the first batches I ever made was bottled at just about a month, and it ended up being all gushers and very dry indeed. Fortunately no explosions, but it was pretty heavily carbonated. And… that was WITH sorbate and sulfite.

Okay, so what im seeing is to use the chemicals after it has fermented completely, and then backsweeten as needed. But even if I wait 6 weeks, whats to say the yeast wont kick back up after ive backsweetened? Even if chemicals are added?

That’s a valid question/concern. Time and cold and chemicals all together will make the yeast tired. How much of each is required? Hard to say for sure. It’s a bit of a swag. I say 6 weeks, maybe 8 weeks is even better, someone else might say 4 weeks, someone else might say 4 months. Base it on experience and best judgment. No two fermentations are exactly alike, unfortunately.

Dude you’re always providing kick ass responses to my questions, its super appreciated!

Okay, so im just going to wing it then. If after adding the chemicals there is no gravity drop over a period of a week or so, im just going to bottle it.

1 Like

That’s the job of the sorbate. The function of potassium sorbate is to prevent yeast from budding. It won’t do anything to prevent the yeast currently in suspension from fermenting sugars, but it will stop them from multiplying. By waiting until most of the yeast have fallen out of suspension and you’ve racked the cider off the lees, the sorbate will effectively stop fermentation. But if your cider is still full of suspended yeast, the sorbate won’t do much.

You really don’t need to use k-meta if your cider has cleared. At that point, it’s there as an anti-oxidant, since you won’t have any yeast to scavenge oxygen. But a properly cleared cider does not need k-meta to make the sorbate effective.

If this sounds like more than you want to deal with, it might be worth trying the non-fermentable sugar! Just ferment dry, clear, sweeten to taste, and bottle. No muss, no fuss.

1 Like

Ive thought about using the non-fermental sugars, but im trying to keep my ciders as natural as possible :slight_smile:

Also, can I rack the cider onto the sorbate directly out of the cold crash? Or does it need to be room temperature?

Sure, you can rack it cold. No harm done.

That’s funny, though, because I went with the non-fermentable sugar instead of sorbate because I wanted to keep my ciders as natural as possible. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. :laughing:

So here’s option 3, which is maybe the best option if you want to avoid chemicals completely. Ferment dry, clarify, back-sweeten to taste, bottle, and heat-pasteurize the bottles. You can do this by holding the bottles around 150-160F for an hour or so. Some people use their dishwasher on a sanitize cycle, and some people fill a cooler with hot water and the bottles. This is commonly used for making a carbonated, sweet cider, as the heat will kill the yeast and prevent further fermentation. There’s a slight risk of bottles shattering when they’re carbonated, but since you’re bottling still cider, this really isn’t an issue.

Boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew?

You’re hopeless… :joy:

Back to Shopping at NorthernBrewer.com