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Thinking of blending/making my own hard cider

Ken_LightKen_Light Posts: 3,539 ✭✭✭
So as some of you know a couple friends and I brew beer. While I still enjoy doing that with them, I've recently discovered I'm pretty intolerant of gluten. I don't think I'm up to the task of trying to brew a good gluten-free beer, and what's out there plain sucks, so I've been enjoying hard cider recently. There is a definite craft movement going on in cider like there was in beer a decade or so ago, with some really great products coming out. But, I can't help myself, I want to try my hand at it, and it looks pretty darn easy to produce *a* cider. I want to make a good one though.

Anyone tried this before? Anyone have any idea of what makes a good, preferably dry, cider recipe? I'm fairly certain I don't want to add sugars, and I know a blend of sweet and sour apples is probably gonna work best like it does for applesauce and apple pie. But there's so many to choose from! And what ratio?

So I'm thinking this thread will go one of two ways. Either some of you can offer some guidance, or you'll read about me fumbling my way through this thing. I think both would be pretty fun. :) I'm thinking my first step might just be to start juicing, tasting, and eventually trying to blend different varietals.
^Troll: DO NOT FEED.
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Comments

  • JSaintJSaint Orfordville, WIPosts: 1,879 ✭✭✭
    I literally just purchased yeast from Northern Brewer to do such a thing. I am going to be using unpasteurized apple and pear cider from a farmer where I work. I guess the apples are 9 varieties and the pears have 3 but that doesnt matter. Its organic and has a good amount of pulp like the stuff you usually get from the orchard. From what I have read all you need is the cider or juice, some yeast nutrient, maybe some sugar (helps produce sweetness and a little more alcohol), and the yeast. Everyone is saying champagne yeast is the best but it comes out like white wine. Not a fan of that. Either WLP002 or WLP775 from Whitelabs is what I would recommend. 002 just won their contest for cider but 775 is a dry English Cider yeast which is what I like and want for my cider.
    "Beauty is in the eye when you hold her." -Ricky
  • roland_7707roland_7707 Posts: 2,834 ✭✭✭
    No idea how to make it, but i wouldn't mind being a taste tester.
    One God, One Truth
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,634 ✭✭✭✭
    it seems like the standard to make cider is to use table sugar. i dont think this is a good idea. use corn sugar. it ferments "cleaner" with no off flavors. that is why it is used to prime most beers for carbonation.

    beyond that ABV may be sort of a crap shoot. yeah we may know where the yeast will top out as far as ABV goes but we dont know how much fermentable sugar is in the starting apple juice let alone any other fruit you may be adding. there may be charts on that somewhere online.

    so long as you dont add too much sugar it should be fairly dry. the yeasts are strong enough to eat it all.
  • Ken_LightKen_Light Posts: 3,539 ✭✭✭
    JSaint:
    I literally just purchased yeast from Northern Brewer to do such a thing. I am going to be using unpasteurized apple and pear cider from a farmer where I work. I guess the apples are 9 varieties and the pears have 3 but that doesnt matter. Its organic and has a good amount of pulp like the stuff you usually get from the orchard. From what I have read all you need is the cider or juice, some yeast nutrient, maybe some sugar (helps produce sweetness and a little more alcohol), and the yeast. Everyone is saying champagne yeast is the best but it comes out like white wine. Not a fan of that. Either WLP002 or WLP775 from Whitelabs is what I would recommend. 002 just won their contest for cider but 775 is a dry English Cider yeast which is what I like and want for my cider.
    This sounds like a good way to start too, like using a pre-made beer recipe. From what I've read you're going to want to heat that up to something like 165 for a bit to kill off wild yeasts and bacteria if it's unpasteurized. A friend of mine did this with Trader Joe's jug of apple juice with decent results. The great thing there was it's pasteurized and the jug was it's own carboy so he just pitched yeast and popped on an airlock. Let me know how those yeasts work out, I tried one from I think woodchuck actually at a beer festival a couple years ago with an english ale yeast that was really good.
    ^Troll: DO NOT FEED.
  • Ken_LightKen_Light Posts: 3,539 ✭✭✭
    kuzi16:
    it seems like the standard to make cider is to use table sugar. i dont think this is a good idea. use corn sugar. it ferments "cleaner" with no off flavors. that is why it is used to prime most beers for carbonation.

    beyond that ABV may be sort of a crap shoot. yeah we may know where the yeast will top out as far as ABV goes but we dont know how much fermentable sugar is in the starting apple juice let alone any other fruit you may be adding. there may be charts on that somewhere online.

    so long as you dont add too much sugar it should be fairly dry. the yeasts are strong enough to eat it all.
    I was thinking about the ABV last night after I posted this! Do you think a standard hygrometer work to test it like you do beer? It would be useful, because I might end up wanting to use some adjunct sugars, not for sweetness but for alcohol.
    ^Troll: DO NOT FEED.
  • JSaintJSaint Orfordville, WIPosts: 1,879 ✭✭✭
    Ken Light:
    JSaint:
    I literally just purchased yeast from Northern Brewer to do such a thing. I am going to be using unpasteurized apple and pear cider from a farmer where I work. I guess the apples are 9 varieties and the pears have 3 but that doesnt matter. Its organic and has a good amount of pulp like the stuff you usually get from the orchard. From what I have read all you need is the cider or juice, some yeast nutrient, maybe some sugar (helps produce sweetness and a little more alcohol), and the yeast. Everyone is saying champagne yeast is the best but it comes out like white wine. Not a fan of that. Either WLP002 or WLP775 from Whitelabs is what I would recommend. 002 just won their contest for cider but 775 is a dry English Cider yeast which is what I like and want for my cider.
    This sounds like a good way to start too, like using a pre-made beer recipe. From what I've read you're going to want to heat that up to something like 165 for a bit to kill off wild yeasts and bacteria if it's unpasteurized. A friend of mine did this with Trader Joe's jug of apple juice with decent results. The great thing there was it's pasteurized and the jug was it's own carboy so he just pitched yeast and popped on an airlock. Let me know how those yeasts work out, I tried one from I think woodchuck actually at a beer festival a couple years ago with an english ale yeast that was really good.
    Its crazy these days because all of the big name ciders you find are owned by the macro beer companies. Crispin, Strongbow, Woodchuck, Angry Orchard, and on. I think they jumped on that boat because the craft beer movement is too well developed. With that being said they still make some damn good cider. Love Crispins Bownslane. Awesome English-style cider. With the pasteurizing I am not sure if I want to heat it up. I think I want to allow the wild yeasts to also ferment in there. My friend thinks it would be more authentic because most of the English ciders he tasted over seas had a hint of Lacto and Brett and he really enjoyed it. This is merely an experiment anyways so why not! lol. I saw someone do the exact same thing with some apple cider but it was from Whole Foods. Was it a 5 gallon jug?
    "Beauty is in the eye when you hold her." -Ricky
  • JSaintJSaint Orfordville, WIPosts: 1,879 ✭✭✭
    Ken Light:
    kuzi16:
    it seems like the standard to make cider is to use table sugar. i dont think this is a good idea. use corn sugar. it ferments "cleaner" with no off flavors. that is why it is used to prime most beers for carbonation.

    beyond that ABV may be sort of a crap shoot. yeah we may know where the yeast will top out as far as ABV goes but we dont know how much fermentable sugar is in the starting apple juice let alone any other fruit you may be adding. there may be charts on that somewhere online.

    so long as you dont add too much sugar it should be fairly dry. the yeasts are strong enough to eat it all.
    I was thinking about the ABV last night after I posted this! Do you think a standard hygrometer work to test it like you do beer? It would be useful, because I might end up wanting to use some adjunct sugars, not for sweetness but for alcohol.
    Yea a hydrometer would work for that. Just need to calculate the Gravity beforehand. From what I hear you dont want it over 1.065. I forgot to add this website from a homebrewing forum last night.LINK
    "Beauty is in the eye when you hold her." -Ricky
  • Ken_LightKen_Light Posts: 3,539 ✭✭✭
    Yeah, I'm pretty used to the gravity thing from brewing beer. The hydrometer has several scales though, do you know if I use the one for wine or beer or what? I'm thinking wine, since its primarily fructose like grapes rather than maltose like beer, but that's just a guess.

    Poking around a couple sites, it seems like there are some tablets you can use to kill yeast and bacteria without heat, but if you want that in there, go for it. More than bad tasting cider, I'd worry that I wouldn't get a consistent flavor batch to batch. I'm looking to really experiment and tweak my own personal blend, so consistency is important to me.
    ^Troll: DO NOT FEED.
  • JSaintJSaint Orfordville, WIPosts: 1,879 ✭✭✭
    Ken Light:
    Yeah, I'm pretty used to the gravity thing from brewing beer. The hydrometer has several scales though, do you know if I use the one for wine or beer or what? I'm thinking wine, since its primarily fructose like grapes rather than maltose like beer, but that's just a guess.

    Poking around a couple sites, it seems like there are some tablets you can use to kill yeast and bacteria without heat, but if you want that in there, go for it. More than bad tasting cider, I'd worry that I wouldn't get a consistent flavor batch to batch. I'm looking to really experiment and tweak my own personal blend, so consistency is important to me.
    I think the guys on homebrewing.com measure it with beer in mind but yea like you said its just a guess. Yea this is probably the first and last time I will be buying cider from this guy so I really just wanted to mess around with it. First time for everything! Made plenty of beer but I like a good cider too.
    "Beauty is in the eye when you hold her." -Ricky
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,634 ✭✭✭✭
    one or two fermentations?
    this thread is making me think about doing a gallon batch or so. i was thinking about using a very strong yeast, fermenting once with just the apple juice and corn sugar then once that has died down adding in a bunch of halved white grapes. this should get the yeast going a little bit again and add some flavor.
  • JSaintJSaint Orfordville, WIPosts: 1,879 ✭✭✭
    Just did mine today. Unpasteurized Pear and Apple Cider. 1 gallon each. The OG was about 1.043 so I added about 4 teaspoons of sugar. Should have measured it but I didnt have time to dump all of the cider into another container and mix the sugar. I also added 1 1/4 teaspoon of yeast nutrient. Put all the cider, sugar, and nutrient in the fermentor. Aerated the cider then added the yeast. Hopefully by tomorrow night it will be going crazy. I'll check in on it on Monday and post an update.
    "Beauty is in the eye when you hold her." -Ricky
  • MartelMartel Somewhere in PAPosts: 3,304 ✭✭✭✭
    I don't have the patience to do all this, but it sounds like a great hobby. Best hard cider I've ever had was called Gale's Hard Cider. It came from the Thomas Family Winery in Madison, IN. They ship to some states. Check 'em out, but I don't want to fiddle with the HTML so you'll have to copy and paste.

    http://www.thomasfamilywinery.us/cider
    Intelligence is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.

    I like Oliva and Quesada (including Regius) a lot.  I will smoke anything, though.
  • JSaintJSaint Orfordville, WIPosts: 1,879 ✭✭✭
    So looks like this was an utter failure. Barely any fermentation. Yeast just dropped right to the bottom. There is no way after 3 days it is finished. Oh well I will try it again with store bought cider and dry champagne yeast. At least it is cheaper throwing this out than a 15 gallon saison.....which I just did recently too.
    "Beauty is in the eye when you hold her." -Ricky
  • Ken_LightKen_Light Posts: 3,539 ✭✭✭
    JSaint:
    So looks like this was an utter failure. Barely any fermentation. Yeast just dropped right to the bottom. There is no way after 3 days it is finished. Oh well I will try it again with store bought cider and dry champagne yeast. At least it is cheaper throwing this out than a 15 gallon saison.....which I just did recently too.
    What happened with the saison?????
    ^Troll: DO NOT FEED.
  • JSaintJSaint Orfordville, WIPosts: 1,879 ✭✭✭
    Ken Light:
    JSaint:
    So looks like this was an utter failure. Barely any fermentation. Yeast just dropped right to the bottom. There is no way after 3 days it is finished. Oh well I will try it again with store bought cider and dry champagne yeast. At least it is cheaper throwing this out than a 15 gallon saison.....which I just did recently too.
    What happened with the saison?????
    Fermented at 90 degrees. Got a heavy bandaid flavor with a bean smell lol. Won't do that again. I was going to try and just put some Lacto and Brett in there to see if that will eat away at that but decided against it and will hold onto the Lacto and Brett for a Belgian Blonde.
    "Beauty is in the eye when you hold her." -Ricky
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,634 ✭✭✭✭
    JSaint:
    So looks like this was an utter failure. Barely any fermentation. Yeast just dropped right to the bottom. There is no way after 3 days it is finished. Oh well I will try it again with store bought cider and dry champagne yeast. At least it is cheaper throwing this out than a 15 gallon saison.....which I just did recently too.
    did you add any corn sugar to kick start it? or yeast nutrient? the proteins in apples are very different than in grains so its more difficult for the yeast to digest.
  • JSaintJSaint Orfordville, WIPosts: 1,879 ✭✭✭
    kuzi16:
    JSaint:
    So looks like this was an utter failure. Barely any fermentation. Yeast just dropped right to the bottom. There is no way after 3 days it is finished. Oh well I will try it again with store bought cider and dry champagne yeast. At least it is cheaper throwing this out than a 15 gallon saison.....which I just did recently too.
    did you add any corn sugar to kick start it? or yeast nutrient? the proteins in apples are very different than in grains so its more difficult for the yeast to digest.
    Yea I added some sugar and yeast nutrient. About 5 tsp of sugar 1 1/4 nutrient.
    "Beauty is in the eye when you hold her." -Ricky
  • Ken_LightKen_Light Posts: 3,539 ✭✭✭
    JSaint:
    kuzi16:
    JSaint:
    So looks like this was an utter failure. Barely any fermentation. Yeast just dropped right to the bottom. There is no way after 3 days it is finished. Oh well I will try it again with store bought cider and dry champagne yeast. At least it is cheaper throwing this out than a 15 gallon saison.....which I just did recently too.
    did you add any corn sugar to kick start it? or yeast nutrient? the proteins in apples are very different than in grains so its more difficult for the yeast to digest.
    Yea I added some sugar and yeast nutrient. About 5 tsp of sugar 1 1/4 nutrient.
    Did you make a starter or just pitch it dry?
    ^Troll: DO NOT FEED.
  • JSaintJSaint Orfordville, WIPosts: 1,879 ✭✭✭
    Ken Light:
    JSaint:
    kuzi16:
    JSaint:
    So looks like this was an utter failure. Barely any fermentation. Yeast just dropped right to the bottom. There is no way after 3 days it is finished. Oh well I will try it again with store bought cider and dry champagne yeast. At least it is cheaper throwing this out than a 15 gallon saison.....which I just did recently too.
    did you add any corn sugar to kick start it? or yeast nutrient? the proteins in apples are very different than in grains so its more difficult for the yeast to digest.
    Yea I added some sugar and yeast nutrient. About 5 tsp of sugar 1 1/4 nutrient.
    Did you make a starter or just pitch it dry?
    Just dumped the vial in. Figured I wouldnt need a starter for just a 2 gallon batch. The vial is for 5 without a starter.
    "Beauty is in the eye when you hold her." -Ricky
  • Ken_LightKen_Light Posts: 3,539 ✭✭✭
    JSaint:
    Ken Light:
    JSaint:
    kuzi16:
    JSaint:
    So looks like this was an utter failure. Barely any fermentation. Yeast just dropped right to the bottom. There is no way after 3 days it is finished. Oh well I will try it again with store bought cider and dry champagne yeast. At least it is cheaper throwing this out than a 15 gallon saison.....which I just did recently too.
    did you add any corn sugar to kick start it? or yeast nutrient? the proteins in apples are very different than in grains so its more difficult for the yeast to digest.
    Yea I added some sugar and yeast nutrient. About 5 tsp of sugar 1 1/4 nutrient.
    Did you make a starter or just pitch it dry?
    Just dumped the vial in. Figured I wouldnt need a starter for just a 2 gallon batch. The vial is for 5 without a starter.
    If it wasn't a dry yeast packet you probably didn't need one at least with 2.5x the supply necessary. Thought maybe I was on to something there, but I doubt it.
    ^Troll: DO NOT FEED.
  • Ken_LightKen_Light Posts: 3,539 ✭✭✭
    Gonna get a few varietals of apples at the farm tomorrow and start making some regular cider to taste.
    ^Troll: DO NOT FEED.
  • JSaintJSaint Orfordville, WIPosts: 1,879 ✭✭✭
    Ken Light:
    JSaint:
    Ken Light:
    JSaint:
    kuzi16:
    JSaint:
    So looks like this was an utter failure. Barely any fermentation. Yeast just dropped right to the bottom. There is no way after 3 days it is finished. Oh well I will try it again with store bought cider and dry champagne yeast. At least it is cheaper throwing this out than a 15 gallon saison.....which I just did recently too.
    did you add any corn sugar to kick start it? or yeast nutrient? the proteins in apples are very different than in grains so its more difficult for the yeast to digest.
    Yea I added some sugar and yeast nutrient. About 5 tsp of sugar 1 1/4 nutrient.
    Did you make a starter or just pitch it dry?
    Just dumped the vial in. Figured I wouldnt need a starter for just a 2 gallon batch. The vial is for 5 without a starter.
    If it wasn't a dry yeast packet you probably didn't need one at least with 2.5x the supply necessary. Thought maybe I was on to something there, but I doubt it.
    Im just going to buy some store bought cider. Much cheaper. I will also try Lalvin EC-1188 as the yeast this time around.
    "Beauty is in the eye when you hold her." -Ricky
  • Ken_LightKen_Light Posts: 3,539 ✭✭✭
    Ken Light:
    Gonna get a few varietals of apples at the farm tomorrow and start making some regular cider to taste.
    Went to the nearest farm today and got Gala, Fuji, Macintosh, Cortland, and Summer Rambo. Cleaned, cored, puree'd and strained them all separately and put them in mason jars in the fridge. On my way, one small step at a time.
    ^Troll: DO NOT FEED.
  • JSaintJSaint Orfordville, WIPosts: 1,879 ✭✭✭
    So I chose to measure the SG of the Cider before dumping it and it looks like it actually did ferment! From an initial reading before adding sugar it was at 1.043. When I took the reading it was at 1.000! Very excited. Tried the cider very tart on the front and dry on the back. Need to back sweeten just a tad I think.
    "Beauty is in the eye when you hold her." -Ricky
  • Rob1110Rob1110 Posts: 1,455 ✭✭
    Just caught this thread and wanted to chime in since I've become a big fan of cider recently. I'll also say that I generally despise most American Ciders. American Cider makers go with sweet apples, clean yeast and end up with a sweet, carbonated apple juice-like product. I'm a huge fan of French Ciders, which I find much more balanced and complex. Comparable more to cider meets champagne meets wild ale. Funky, cheesy, tart, dry, yeasty, barnyard. Those are the characteristics I'm looking for. They're also very low gravity (almost never over 7% ABV).

    They're starting with bittersharp and bittersweet apples (think crab apples) to keep acidity, maintain balance and avoid too much sweetness. It's also traditional to crush and press the apples and let the cider ferment naturally. They don't sulfite or boil to kill off natural yeasts and bacteria but let them do their thing.

    I understand the desire for consistency, but I'm into sour beer and really don't mind some variability. I recently started a 1-gallon small batch of orchard fruit cider (1/2 gallon of apple cider as a base and added apples, pears, nectarines, peaches, plums and apricots - blended and strained). I didn't boil or sulfite but pitched a small amount of cider yeast to ensure fermentation. About a week in, I intentionally inoculated my cider with some bugs from one of my wild ales that I have souring up right now (no pitched bugs but local, wild yeast and bugs). It's dry, tart and very funky. I'm digging it but recently found a crab apple tree on the side of the road (not in front of anyone's house, so it's free game) and brought home a bag of apples and juiced them. Got about 750mLs of that and am allowing it to naturally ferment. Once I'm ready, I may age one of the two on Brandy or Cognac soaked French Oak Chips and blend them together before bottling. I'll probably end up with about 1 gallon total, which I'm sure I'll kick myself for not making more but it was an experiment. There's always next time!

    Cheers!

    -Rob
  • JSaintJSaint Orfordville, WIPosts: 1,879 ✭✭✭
    Found some Musselman's Cider today at a Walmart for $4.48 a gal which is pretty decent. Going to use about 4 cups of it to back sweeten the cider..... At least I hope that will work. I plan on racking it off of the yeast on Thursday. At that time I will transfer into a keg and carb it up. Next experiment will be a cider with champagne yeast and then after fermentation add a cinnamon stick in a neutral grain alcohol tincture. Let it sit for about 5 days then rack off to a keg.
    "Beauty is in the eye when you hold her." -Ricky
  • JSaintJSaint Orfordville, WIPosts: 1,879 ✭✭✭
    Did the addition of soft cider to the hard and racked into a keg today. Hooked it right up to some CO2 in my fridge. Hoping that sweetened it enough. We will find out soon.
    "Beauty is in the eye when you hold her." -Ricky
  • MartelMartel Somewhere in PAPosts: 3,304 ✭✭✭✭
    JSaint:
    Did the addition of soft cider to the hard and racked into a keg today. Hooked it right up to some CO2 in my fridge. Hoping that sweetened it enough. We will find out soon.
    CO2...anyone have a line on a good still cider available in stores? I can only find the carbonated junk that's sold with beer.
    Intelligence is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.

    I like Oliva and Quesada (including Regius) a lot.  I will smoke anything, though.
  • JSaintJSaint Orfordville, WIPosts: 1,879 ✭✭✭
    Martel:
    JSaint:
    Did the addition of soft cider to the hard and racked into a keg today. Hooked it right up to some CO2 in my fridge. Hoping that sweetened it enough. We will find out soon.
    CO2...anyone have a line on a good still cider available in stores? I can only find the carbonated junk that's sold with beer.
    Its mostely all carbonated now from what I've had. There may be some French ciders that are still. Not sure though.
    "Beauty is in the eye when you hold her." -Ricky
  • RainRain Posts: 8,960 ✭✭✭
    Necro...speaking of cider...I'd like to try some. What are a few good/decent offerings you can recommend to me?And how did your own brewing/crafting/whatever-you-call-it go??
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