Brew #2 – Simple Apple Cider

For my second brew (though this may not be appropriate title, since nothing was actually “brewed”), I fermented a small, one-gallon test batch of apple cider.

When my first beer was fermenting, I was telling some friends about my new-found hobby, and several mentioned that it would be neat if I made a hard apple cider. One of whom especially loves Woodchuck Amber! Knowing this, I set out to make a simple, semi-sweet and carbonated apple cider.

I did some research online and found a great site, called The Homebrew Helper, that gives step-by-step instructions on how to make a hard cider. From this I developed a simple recipe of my own:

 Simple Apple Cider — Makes 1 Gallon

  • One Gallon of Apple Cider (I used Publix Brand, without preservatives)
  • 1/2 Can of Frozen Apple Juice Concentrate
  • 1/5 packet of Lalvin EC-1118 Dry Wine Yeast
  • 3/4 Granulated Sugar for Priming and Sweetening

Process: 2 weeks primary, 1-2 weeks secondary, 3 days carbonating, bottle pasteurize, 4+ days bottle conditioning

Estimated O.G.: I wasn’t sure yet — keep reading :)

Ready: 5 weeks

Brew Pitching Day & Fermentation

Really simple… I took the 1/2 can of apple juice concentrate (un-frozen), combined that with the one-gallon of apple cider in a sanitized bottling bucket, and transferred that to a one-gallon glass fermenter. I tested the gravity and got an O.G. of 1.044 at 78°F — I was very happy with that reading! I pitched the yeast in the fermenter, placed an air-lock on top, and placed it in my temperature controlled freezer to do its thing for two weeks.

Picture of the freezer and cider.

Cider fermenting away…

After two weeks I transferred the cider to a secondary fermenter to settle and clarify for another week and a half.

Bottling & Beyond

Three and a half weeks after pitching the yeast, I was ready to bottle! To put the icing on the cake, it was also Halloween! FYI, when kids are ringing the doorbell every few minutes, it can be quite distracting — but that’s beside the point.

First, I transferred the cider from the fermenter to the bottling bucket and got a gravity reading of 0.998 at 70°F! I was very happy with this, especially since this gave me an ABV of around 6.25%! I tasted the sample and it was very similar to a dry white wine with apple flavoring — pretty tasty actually. I’m looking forward to trying this with an ale yeast to see if the cider tastes as dry.

To bring up the sweetness, and to back-sweeten for bottle carbonation, I dissolved 3/4 cup of granulated sugar in water to make a simple syrup. I then added this to the bottling bucket and tasted the goodness that it created! It wasn’t as sweet as Woodchuck Amber, I’d say it was a bit more tart — more like Crispin — but pretty darn awesome!

After all was said and done, I got 9 standard bottles from the batch — less than the 12 I was anticipating, but this was likely due to the excess sampling before bottling! :)

I let the bottles sit for three days and tested the first one. It was not carbonated. At all. It didn’t release any pressure when I opened the bottle and was completely still. Based on the research that I did online, I expected at least some pressure and carbonation, so I was a bit disappointed.

Hoping for the yeast to work their magic, I then let the bottles sit for another three days, and tested another one… Still not much pressure, just a little bit.

It has now been a two weeks, and each of the samples I’ve tested have only been lightly pressurized and minimally carbonated. I’m not sure why, but I believe I didn’t have enough yeast cell in the batch coming out of secondary fermentation to create enough carbonation after back-sweetening. Nevertheless, the cider tastes pretty darn good (probably 3.5 out of 5 stars).

With that said, I didn’t pasteurize this batch since they did not create enough carbonation.

I’m going to be starting a new batch of cider with a different plan in mind — I’m going to start out the same way, but add in more concentrate during the secondary fermentation in an attempt to boost the number of yeast cells. We’ll call it Simple Cider v2.0. Check back for the results on that.

If you have any feedback about how I could have improved this batch of cider, please let me know in the comments below. Thanks!

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