QUESTION: Hello Keith,
Russell Gibbon here. You very kindly answered a whole load of questions that I sent to you some time towards the end of 2013. Well, first - THANK YOU! Yesterday I opened my first brew bottle, and it came out very well indeed! It is an American Pale Ale, a pretty straightforward extract kit. But I´m thrilled to have made a success of it, and YOU are large part of that.
Second, when you wrote back, you mentioned how you like to make cider -adding some fruit at some point. I wonder would you be prepared to share with me YOUR cider-making recipe and process? My wife is keen on making some cider. I´ve plenty of recipes from books. But I´d like, once more, to follow YOUR avice.
All the very best, Keith, and thank you in advance,
Here are some good tips:
Glad I could help.
I just made 5 gallons of cider and kegged it. To my way of thinking Cider is one of the simplest beverages to make, right up there with mead.
Like mead the kind and quality of starting materials is paramount.
Right now stateside, varietal ciders are all the rage. A subsidiary of Boston Brewing Company just launched, called Angry Orchard is producing cider from different kinds of apples: Granny Smith, Crisp, and traditional. They also have a few flavored, like Apple Ginger.
First thing to tell you is that you DO NOT have to have fresh pressed apple juice. Go get apple juice from the store. You can use frozen if it does not have sugar added. Any juice will do, the filtered, or unfiltered, or even a mix of the types, so long as it does not have sugar added. We want to work with the natural sugars.
Don't be too put off if it says preservatives added, this is usually to keep the natural yeasts in check and will not affect the fermentation.
I would suggest maybe starting with a gallon or two, see how it tastes, and then you can use another juice, or add some flavoring if it is too bland. Apple pie seasoning or ginger are good choices.
Now on my latest batch I did not add fruit, I just went with the apple juice. I used some generic juice that was 100% apple, and was unfiltered.
You don't need to do much else but place it in a clean fermenter, splash it in good to aerate it a bit, a funnel works well. Then shake it or stir it to aerate it as much as you can.
Then pitch your yeast. Put on your airlock and wait.
The yeast you choose depends on a number of things. Cider yeast labeled such will produce a traditional dry cider. A less expensive alternative is Red Star Champagne yeast. Its cheap and works well. Since you are bottling, if you want the cider to be sparkling, you will need to prime it as you did the beer.
After the fermentation has completed, I would cool it for a while in your refrigeratior to get it to clarify and let any sediment settle out. Then siphon it to a second container, mix in your priming sugar. You could use a half cup of apple juice concentrate as your priming sugar.
Let it thaw. Pour 1/2 cup into a measuring cup and add about 1/2 pack of champagne yeast to it mix well and let the yeast hydrate. When it sinks its ready to pour it into your fermented cider. Mix it well. Then start filling your clean bottles. Stir your cider at intervals while you bottle.
Keeping sanitation in mind, if you want to add spices to the cider, take a bit of apple juice or water and add the spice to it and let it simmer. Record the amounts of liquid and spice you add to make your "spice tea". Simmer it till you can taste the spices in the liquid.
Let it settle, you can even filter it though a coffee filter. Then add the spice tea to your fermented cider, until it reaches the desired level of spice flavor.
This is not an exact art since peoples taste vary, that is why you should record what you add to the tea and how much of that you add to your cider so that you can back calculate the exact amounts.
If you are making sparkling cider, as described above, remember the CO2 will add a bite and sparkle to the cider which will change the flavor perception a little from what it would taste like if it is still. I am sure your wife would prefer the more champagne-like flavor of the sparkling cider. I do myself.
I would suggest you just make a generic plain cider and see how you like it, then start playing around with additives.
If you want to add actual varietal apples to it, I would do it after the cider has taken off fermenting. Wait till its fermented at least a day, then take your apples, peel and core them, slice them, you can run them in your food processor too then microwive them a bit to kill any microbes that might be lurking around, cool, covered then add them to the fermenting cider. This will add more sugar (processing them helps the yeast get at the sugar easier) and speeds things up as well as adding more varietal flavor and aroma. If you pick a distinctive type of varietal apple the flavor and aroma will come through better. Traditionally there were "cider" apples Dabinett, Yarlington Mill, Chisel Jersey, Ellis Bitter, Ashton Bitter, Somerset Redstreak, Medaille d’Or, Esopus Spitzenberg (Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple, reputedly), Ashmead’s Kernel (three hundred years old, fabulous flavor & acid, English), and Wickson (tiny, American, less old than others, and developed for cider). These cider apples have similar traits to grapes that make them good for cider: sugar and high acidity.
But as I said, good cider can be made cheaply from generic juice. Play with the late addition of apples if you like, but try some generic cider first and see if you think it necessary. I think my cider stacks up well against the traditional britsh cider, its fairly moderate in alcohol, 4-5%, dry and refreshing. A nice break from beer and a better alternative to the light lagers that tend to predominate in the US and Mexico.
If you try adding juice, say pomegranate or cranberry juice to the cider, you will need to adjust the residual sugar so the cider is sweet enough to offset the tartmess of the adjunct juice. You can do this by using a little carmel malt. German medium gravity carmel malt, say in the 40 degree range would do. You can order it on line, get it crushed. One lb would do for 5 gallons. Steep it in some of the juice or water. This is where it gets tricky.
If you have a steeping bag,great, if not a strainer will do. You can do this a couple of different ways. You don't want to dilute your juice, so if you use water to steep you grain, add some apple concentrate to the resulting wort before adding it to the cider.
The carmel malt has carmelized sugar that the yeast cannot break down so it adds a bit of sweetness to the cider. This will also work well to add a note of carmel sweetness if you are trying for a apple pie cider. Add this along with the spices.
Alternatively to caramel malt, is candy sugar. Just cook some sugar and water on your stove till it starts to gain color. If you want to make invert sugar, readily fermentable sugar add about 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid (power found in baking/spice section) to 1 pound of sugar and enough water to make simple syrup. 1:1 ratio then cook it till it gets color. Making belgian ales I make a number of batchs, each a bit darker: golden, to light brown to mohagany. They all add a differnt flavor and you can add them as you like experimenting. I would go with a light brown to medium brown for cider, since you don't want to add too much color. Without the citric acid the sugar will not be as fermentable and will retain more sweetness in the cider. Mix it in before fermentation, or after, but adjust the priming sugar downward. You do not want to over prime your bottles.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hiya Keith,
Brilliant! Again! You really are a fount of knowledge. Thanks so much. I´m sending you this follow up as I´m scratching my head a bit on the adding of fruit to the second fermentation. Way back in October in your first message, you mentioned that you like to add some raw fruit to the second fermentation. Er, so, does that mean that you just squeeze cut up chunks of fresh fruit into the top of the secondary fermentation carboy, before plugging it with the airlock? I note your point that the fruit pieces need to be nuked in a microwave to make sure that there are no unwanted passengers.
Regarding the suggestion you have for using a steeping bag - YES, I´ve got the steeping bag left from the APA kit that I mentioned to you.
I was reading about cider brewing yesterday, and I understood that most cider comes out "dry or hard" (i.e. not sweet) - because the yeast consume all of the sugar. Back in Britain, when I was a young lad - we could choose between either a dry or a sweet cider. Personally, I prefer a sweet cider, though I´m going to have a go at both types. I understand that I can make a standard hard cider then, at the point of bottling, add some Spenda, maltodextrose or other complex sugar that the yeast don´t eat, to the liquid before bottling. I also want it sparkling, so, I imagine that means also adding the usual corn sugar that you would add to a beer brew, for carbonation. But DOES it? Won´t the yeast consume that too? And, I´d imagine, by adding plenty of sugar I´d be setting up some potential bottle bombs?
So, any clarity that you can give me on creating a cider that is a) sweet and b) sparkling - very much appreciated. I hadn´t been aware of the caramel malt option. Plus I was thinking of trying Nottingham yeast in place of the champagne yeast. Thanks too for the "Belgian" tips. I´ll get there eventually (and I really want to!) but for now, Belgian brews seem way too difficult for me. All in good time.
All the very best once more,
ANSWER: Yes and yes. You can puree them if you are using a glass carboy, or use a food grade 5 gallon bucket for your fruit additions. Just drill a hole that will fit your airlock stem in the snap lock top. I have a lot of friends who use buckets.
Third paragraph. Yes to everything. Malto dextrose does not to my mind add sweetness, only body. Splenda would work or the crystal malt or carmelized sugar. You can add these to taste before bottling, and if you can add it later before fermentation. The reason I say that is despite the claim that these do not ferment, they may in fact ferment a little and add to the carbonation during conditioning. You don't want to overcarbonate and risk bursting bottles.
Yes, add the corn sugar. I add mine in powdered form directly to the bottles, or mix a simple sugar, of equal parts corns sugar and water, usually 3/4 cup of each to the cider or beer before bottling.
In trying to keep thing simple, I have avoided mention of a hydrometer. If you want to get complex, you can measure the actual gravity of the juice you are using, then pick a primary yeast that will attenutate to one level followed by a another yeast at bottling time that will ferment out to the next level, but still leaving some residual sweetness behind. This makes carbonating the sweet cider trickier. The Splenda option is one I have not tried, but would probably work. The caramel malt would be more traditional. You might also try fermenting with a beer yeast that leaves some residual attentuation power, then prime the cider with honey. If the yeast peters out before completely doing the job, you have your residual sweetness. A nice science project would be prime several bottles with different priming options. You will first have to do some arithmetic. Calculate how many teaspoons of a given priming option to add to each bottle. Ferment out a gallon of cider with your chosen primary yeast. Then add a bit of several different priming yeasts to splits of the cider. Then add it to the bottles with the various priming options. If you keep good notes, you can pick the result you like best, and use it for a full batch. I calculated the amount of dry corn sugar to use for different bottle sizes so when I do bottle condition I can add the necessary number of 1/4 teaspoons to each bottle.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thanks Keith. Superb suggestions and guidelines as ever. I´ll let you know how I do with it. A lot of recipes mention something called "acid blend." I´ve looked it up, it seems to be an ingredient used in winemaking. Hmm. Not sure what I can do about that one - I don´t know any wine brewing suppliers in Mexico.
Adios fer now and thanks again,
Acid blend is a combination of tartaric, citric, and malic acids, and is only added to bring a depth of flavor to the finished cider or wine.
I don't know if you order stuff over the internet, but it is readily available from various mail order brew supply shops. They sell it on Amazon.com.