Much like my recent experience with sour beer; cider is another style that always seemed way more complicated than it is.
Apple juice and yeast? That’s it? Don’t I need fresh juice from an orchard? Or special yeast? Or some way to filter the yeast?
Apparently not. I didn’t want to invest much in a project I figured was doomed from the start – so I went for 6 gallons of the finest Costco Kirkland brand apple juice and a packet of Red Star Cote de Blanc dry wine yeast. Here’s how it’s done.
- Clean and sanitize one carboy.
- Add 5 gallons of juice to carboy.
- Oxygenate like you would wort. Pouring the juice down a funnel into the carboy seemed good enough to me.
- Sprinkle yeast on top.
- Wait 7-10 days for fermentation.
- You might not see any kreusen. Check the gravity to determine when it’s done.
- If desired, back-sweeten with remaining juice and carbonate.
Pretty quick to throw a batch together if you don’t have time for a full brewday. The results? Pretty darn tasty. Probably not award winning (I sent a few bottles to NHC, just in case) but plenty drinkable.
- Make sure your juice is preservative free. Check the ingredient list for anything with an ‘-ate’ in the name. Sorbate, Sulfate, etc.
- Some yeast food, like DAP would probably be a good idea.
- If clarity isn’t a concern, just pitch the yeast. Otherwise you might want to add some pectic enzyme to the juice (available at the LHBS) for 12-24 hours before pitching.
- Carbonation level is up to you. Anywhere from still (no carbonation, very wine-like) to champagne sparkling. If you can force carbonate in a keg, this is ideal.
- Sweetness is the other main choice you have. If you keg, just add back the remaining juice to the keg and then rack the cider on top. Fermentation won’t really pick up again as long as you keep it cold. For bottle carbonation you’d need to either use a less attenuative yeast or some sorbate. Otherwise the yeast will ferment out your extra sugars.
- Next time I’ll probably try an English yeast – Nottingham dry or one of the liquid stains. Wine yeast makes a wine-like cider. Belgian strain might be fun to try also.
- Experiment with some fresh sour apples or other fruits in the fermenter for some extra character. Use your imagination.
That pretty much covers the basics. Just like beer there’s lots of room for experimentation. I think I’ll be doing lots of “experimenting” from now on.