It is late October, and while we’re suffering through a record heat-wave (after an uncharacteristically cold and wet summer), the leaves are falling and the apples are ripe. So it is once again time to make some apple cider!
In some way apple cider is amazingly easy to brew – you dump cider (or even canned apple juice) into a fermenter, add a bit of nutrient and yeast, and leave it alone. But making an excellent batch is challenging. In my case a lot of the ciders character is up to luck, as I have no control over the types of apples the cidery is pressing (their main product is sweet cider for local grocery stores). But, by using healthy yeast, back-sweetening and other tricks, I usually end up with good cider.
This year, there are two batches of apple cider on the docket.
Bryan’s ‘Traditional’ Apple Cider
First up is my “traditional” annual apple cider (1,2,3), which I am simplifying this year to make my life a bit easier. Some of the changes motivated by a recent episode of the Brew Files Podcast. In this podcast Denny Conn mentions that “his” yeast (Denny’s Favourite, Wyeast 1450) leaves behind a bit of body and more apple flavour. He also mentioned using grape tannins and acid to adjust the cider’s flavour. He also doesn’t both with pectinase or k-meta, with good success. So I’m giving all this advice a try…although due to an apparent mis-labeled yeast in my bank, I’m using WLP002 not Denny’s 50.
- 20L fresh pressed apple cider from the local cidery
- 1.5 tsp complete yeast nutrient, Whitlabs 1000(~4x the recommended beer dose)
- 1.5L starter of what I thought was Denny’s Favorite 50. The yeast made a “snowball starter” like WLP002 is known to do, so its probably WLP 002.
- Wine tannin and acid blend to taste
- K-meta + sorbate + sugar, if I decide to back-sweeten
Brewday in quotes because this is more of a “2 minute brew”. I prepared a yeast starter from my bank as per usual, and let the yeast settle for 2 days prior to brewing. I picked up the apple cider from a fellow guild member, who was holding my share, as the boss and I were off for a romantic weekend touring some breweries (turns out birthdays can be fun when you’re old). The apple cider had been pressed a day previously, by a local cider producer, from local apples. We next made our way to the in-laws to pick up our offspring, and after a fantastic dinner of smoked ribs, headed on back home.
Once home, I measured out 3 tsp of yeast nutrient and dumped that into a carboy. I then added 7 jugs (~21L) of apple cider via a sanitised funnel. A quick stir with a sanitised spoon ensured the cider was evenly blended, and a gravity check confirmed a reasonable gravity (1.051). I pitched the yeast, popped an airlock onto the carboy, and that finished off the “brewday” for this batch of cider.
After a month I will transfer the cider to a secondary fermenter, where it will sit for another month. I will then adjust its character for consumption. Until I sample I don’t know what changes I will make, but I am prepared for the following:
- Back-sweetening. This is performed by stabilising the cider with 2.5 teaspoons of potassium sorbate and 1/4 teaspoon of k-meta. 24 hours later simple syrup is then added to taste.
- Add body with wine tannin.
- Brighten flavours with acid blend. Acid blend is a mix of tartric and citric acid, and when added to ciders, meads or wines, can help to bring out a “brighter” fruit character.
My goal is to have this on-tap for Christmas
- 12L fresh pressed apple cider from the local cidery
- 1 tsp complete yeast nutrient (~4x the recommended beer dose)
- Good ol’ Nottingham yeast, 1 packet properly rehydrated
- 1.6kg of Kirkland (Costco) brand honey
While I’ve made a number of meads, I’ve never made a Cyser (cider-mead hybrid). Since I had to purchase some honey for an upcoming “secret beer” (my contribution to my brew clubs annual Advent beer exchange), and since I could get 3x the volume of Costco honey for the same money as the grocery store equivalent, I thought the extra honey was a perfect opportunity to make a cyser.
As with the regular apple cider, the brewing of the cyser was also amazingly easy. I added the nutrient and 1 jug of apple cider to a small carboy, and then poured in the honey. I vigorously stirred for a few minutes to blend in the honey, and then I mixed in the remaining apple cider. A gravity check determine the O.G. was 1.093 (on-track for a 12-13% ABV cyser). Once the honey was incorporated, I pitched the Nottingham yeast and sealed with an airlock.
The plan for this cyser is a bit more complex. The higher gravity means a longer ferment and ageing will be required. The expected ABV is also near the limit for Nottingham, so a secondary yeast strain may be needed. I will check the gravity in a month, and if it remains above 1.003 I will add champagne yeast will to complete fermentation. Once gravity is stable and below 1.003 I will transfer the cyser to another carboy for several months of ageing.
At the end of the ageing period I will perform a sensory analysis and adjust the cyser accordingly. Adjustments could include the addition of wine tannin to build mouthfeel, the addition of acid blend to brighten flavours, or light oaking to add more complexity. Once “tweaked”, I will bottle the cyser. I plan to bottling the cyser still, as cyser is often wine-like. That said, I have a few champagne bottles lying about so I may bottle a portion sparkling. I will age the cyser until October 2018, and plan to open the next bottle on my next birthday. My next birthday marks the half-way mark through my statistically probable lifespan, so ‘m going to need a good strong cyser to help me through what may be a rough day.
What I am saying, is check back this time next year for tasting notes…
Updates to follow…