Not really wine

BrokenAppleTree(z6 OH)December 19, 2005

Hi All,

I just wanted to see how many people are into producing Hard Cider (hereafter referred to as Cider)? I know it doesn't really fit the title of this group, but I figured I'd feel it out and see what everyone has to say. After all it is home fermented from fresh fruit.

I produce Cider from my own apples and those of my neighbors. This is my first year to produce more than two gallons and I've had a good time figuring out how to do it. Lots of experiments, I went through about 20 gallons of fresh cider to get 6 gallons of good hard cider (the rest was bad, very sour, but I've learned a good deal). My best results have come from using the native yeast on the apples.

Best Regards,


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wolfe15136(z6 PA)

This is something I've always wanted to try.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2005 at 2:36PM
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biblion(z6 CT)

Hi Brian
I think you found the right place to post about cider, which is really just apple wine anyway.
I have not grown any apple trees yet, though I hope to plant some trees on dwarf rootstock in the future.
I would like to hear about which apples you grow.
I tried making my first hard cider this year from non-pasturized cider obtained from local orchards. I fermented 8 gallons in two batches.
My first batch was made using champage yeast which I introduced to the must after sterilizing with potassium sorbate (I"m approaching this from a home wine-making persepective cause that's what I know a little about). It came out O.K. but, as was expected, very dry. I bottled it, adding half a nutmeg, two cinnamon sticks, and some fresh ginger root to each bottle. After a couple of weeks, it was actually not bad, at least to my admittedly not very sophisticated palate.

I'm puzzled about your having to use 20 gallons to get six.
I'm wondering if you might have rushed it a little? Apples have lots of pectin, and even if you use pectic enzyme, my short experience has taught me that you need to let it settle.

I'm really curious about your saying you used "native yeast", because that's what I would like to eventually do.
How did you "harden" your cider--did you just let the wild yeast in by letting it sit out in open containers? Where did you store it while it was being inoculated with the native yeast, and what kind of container did you use?

Sourness, in my wine-making experience, can be because the fruit actually rotted before fermentation, or it can be a question of time. Sometimes, when you taste a wine after the first or second racking, it can be sour, but later it mellows pretty nicely, so if you have not discarded the batches wich were sour you may, if you have space, want to give them a little more time to improve.

But you have experimented more than I have! Tell us about your experiments in more detail, please?

    Bookmark   December 21, 2005 at 12:23AM
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BrokenAppleTree(z6 OH)

Ok, here's what I figured happened: I picked the apples too early. I believe it is that simple. Each successive picking/pressing, the hard cider got better until I came up with the last 6 gallons. There was a second 6 gallon batch that probably would have been fine, but it got infected with mold so I threw it out. Lesson on that one to keep the head space at the top of your carboy to a minimum (I had way too much air in the carboy after the final racking I did).
The other sour batches were too sour. Age would not have helped them much.
A little clarification, cider it not apple wine. You can make apple wine with the correct yeast if there is enough sugar in the fresh cider, but normal cider fermentation stops around 6 or 7% alcohol (I believe wine is at least 12%).
"Native yeast" are present on the apple skins when you press them. So the yeast is "mixed" with the juice when you press. As long as you buy sweet cider that has not been chemically treated, the yeast will be in there. I've gone about fermentation two ways:
1) Press the juice, set it in a carboy with an air-lock and let it go. This is the only method a traditional cider maker will use. This work well for me last year on a very small batch. Fermentation start within 24 hrs but you run the risk of unwanted infection by bad stuff.

2) Press the juice add enough campden tablets to get 50 ppm. Then just let it sit with an air lock(be mindful of the head space). The campden tablets kill the unwanted organisms and "stunt" the yeast. The wild yeast will eventually begin to multiply and fermentation starts in 5 - 7 days. The fermentation will go crazy when it starts to go, so you'll have to clean out the air lock after the initial "burst" of activity.

In both methods above, youÂll have to rack the cider. IÂm still experimenting with the optimal times to do the rackings. I have no preference yet.
Most cider is dry. There are some chemical ways to stop fermentation to get sweeter cider and some complex ways to get "naturally" sweet cider. IÂve havenÂt tried to get sweeter cider yet, I like to keep chemical usage to a minimum, once IÂm a little more confident in my ability IÂll use method one more then method two.
Long post, so here are the apples IÂve recently planted: Golden Russets (a true American cider apple), Kingston Black (a true English cider apple), Northern Spy and Liberty because I didnÂt know much about cider apples when I purchased the trees a year ago. All the apples should work fine for cider if mixed appropriately. Enough for now, let me know if there are further questions (as you can tell I like talking about it).

- Brian

    Bookmark   December 21, 2005 at 1:30PM
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biblion(z6 CT)

Now I see why you only got six gallons. But learning to do this is half the fun. Next year, you'll know when to pick your fruit.

I understand your point about the difference in the percentage of alcohol, but I would point out that the alcohol content is mainly determined by the sugar content of your must. Its clear to me that you did not add additional sugars to your cider, which makes me wonder what your starting brix was, and how that might have been affected by the blend. How did you arrive at the right blend?
Did you take hydrometer readings, and were they different for the different batches?

Thanks for making clear the "natural yeast" point. I had always been taught that grapes were the only fruit with yeast present in the skin. This is good! It means I'll be able to proceed with a "natural" hardening when I next try cider making.

I don't know how much head space you left in your carboy when you got mold, but, to be honest, it seems to me that that might not have been the real cause of the problem. Yeasts need oxygen in the intitial stages of fermentation--and the more they get the happier they are, as you found when they pushed up through your airlock. I always start my fermentations in a primary, which helps one to introduce oxygen as well as other things. Ciders really foam when you give them a little air, eh?

The second fermentation method you used is a lot like the traditional method used in making a lambic. What method did you use to determine that you had 50 ppm sorbate in the mix?

Have you cinsidered using different yeasts to control the sweetness of the final product if you do not want to add additional sugars or chemicals (I agree with you wholeheartedly about that)? Cote de Blanc, for instance, cannot tolerate the alcohol level which even plain old baker's yeast will, and will leave you with a sweeter batch (but it wants a higer ambient temperature).

Thanks for sharing the varieties you planted. Wow, you had fruit after just a year? That's really cool. My reading indicated it would take a lot longer, so I'm encouraged.

Kingston Black and the Russets seem to be universal favorites with cider makers.
I don't have much room, so when I do finally try my hand at growing trees, they'll have to be espaliered or cordoned. Its nice that you have the space for yours--I wish I had more.

Thanks for answering my questions---and I wouldn't be too afraid to talking about your passion here. Looks like people on this website have lots of space to enthuse about the things they love, as you obviously love making cider.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2005 at 10:04PM
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BrokenAppleTree(z6 OH)

Just a quick note before I start work: I had 4 unknown mature apple trees on my property when I moved in. My favorite one is biennial and this past year was its off year, so I look forward to this coming years apples. The new trees haven't started to produce yet. I figure I will get a few apples this spring and increasing amounts for the next 5 years or so.
I did take hydrometer readings and they were different for each batch (increasing sugar content as the season progressed).
As far as head space in the carboy, most of the space "appeared" after my final racking because I was being careful not carry the lees over to the new carboy. The fermentation had almost completely finished at that point and I didnÂt think that I should add fresh cider to top it up because I wanted the cider to clear (well now I think I should have). I now know that the cider will clear over time in the carboy even with the addition of fresh juice (you just have to be patient).
Sulphite: 50ppm is 1 campden tablet per gallon.
I havenÂt done much research in the yeast area. IÂm reasonably satisfied with my last batch even though it is on the dry side. Next year IÂm going to focus on the fruit a little more, learning exactly when to harvest and to maintain the quality of the fruit while itÂs still on the tree.
Best regards,

    Bookmark   December 22, 2005 at 8:28AM
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biblion(z6 CT)

I envy you your trees--pretty exciting.
So, if I understand you the Kingstons, Liberty, Northern Spy, and Russets are NOT what you made cider from this year. You made your cider from the "unknowns". Have you identified them yet?

The increasing sugar content you noted indicates you are right on about them not being mature at the time you picked them. That makes perfect sense.

I, myself, am horrible about taking notes, but you probaly did and so will know next year when they are perfect for picking.

Nothing to be done about it now, but it occurs to me that you might have amended the sugar content and "saved" the batches. It wouldn't have been what you were looking for, but the result might have been interesting--sometimes things you were not trying to do turn out to be brilliant. Just a thought
if you have a similar problem with somehting in the future.

If I understand what you wrote, your mold problem did not happen until after your final racking (in six gallon carboys) . I'm curious about how long you let them work. I say that because, in my experience with wines, two or three months isn't too long to let some wines work before even the first racking. I know cider is different, but as I think about what you say about your experience and compare it with the little experience I have in cider making, it seems to me that cider may take a longer time to work, especially if you are using the wild yeast. I was surprised to find that just because there were not bubbles in the airlock, it didn't mean that the yeast had finished in some of my wine batches. I've had some batches which continued to throw lees even after bottling, even though they had long periods for the fermentation to work itself out (temperature make a difference, I've found). I do think you are right in saying that if you had topped your batches up it would have helped prevent the mold, especially since you did not transfer them between different vessels. Hmmm.... You know, though, thinking about that mold formation is bothering me. Did this happen only with batches made with your formula #1, or did it also happen with batches into which you had added the campden tablets?

One campden per gallon equal 50 ppm--got it. Thanks.

Your saying that you are going to focus on the fruit next year seems to me to be exactly the right thing to do. Once you know your fruit you can adjust for the blend you want.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2005 at 11:29PM
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letting the wild yeast start the fermentation is chancy at best.there are good and bad yeasts floating about. I use a good wine yeast, I generally choose one which permits high alcohol even using a port or sherry yeast. I find the apple variety is less important than some other considerations. I have a mixed variety pressed even adding some pear at times. even tho apples taste sweet, sugar must be added to get a good fermentation, and of course the sugars turn to alcohol also. not enuff sugar and the wine will be no good. I usually add no, or very little water to the fresh cider. Keep the carboys topped up after ferm is completed. I usually drink it up before it ages very long!
mead(wine made from honey) is also nice to add to the finished cider or add honey prior fermentation, I find it is better mixed in to taste after both are finished.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2006 at 5:41PM
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biblion(z6 CT)

I used champagne yeast for the frist batch I tried this year and cote de blanc for the second. The cote de blanc started o.k. but when I inoculated the cider, it did not take, no doubt because it didn't care for the temperature.
Because I didn't have time to get more yeast and didn't want the cider to spoil, I just used baker's yeast.
The final product tasted pretty much the same for both batches, but I don't know if alcholol content was different, I didn't take readings .
I used brown sugar in both, and no added water.

What apple varieties do you use for your cider?

Do you ever ferment on the fruit using those varieties instead of pressing?

    Bookmark   January 8, 2006 at 1:35AM
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I use what ever apples are available for the picking, and have never used anything but the juice. Champagne yeast is a pretty good one for general use, we use it a lot. I do ferment all the different berries without pressing; freeze them 1st to aid in skin burst. Sometimes fortify with brandy, maybe even a flavored brandy, for a bit xtra kick.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2006 at 3:50PM
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bunnyman(Thumb of MI)

I'm not a fan of wild yeasts. When making beer I learned that yeast has considerable affect on the final flavor of your brew. While I don't kill the natural yeast I do start my wines with a packet of wine yeast and get consistent results.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2006 at 11:39PM
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biblion(z6 CT)

Yep, I've always used cultivated yeasts in everything I've made, but when I did cider it came out really dry, and lost some of the natural fruitiness you get when cider hardens on its own. Probably just need to find the right strain of yeast. Since I tried it I read that the Cote de Blanc ferments slowly, so maybe I didn't give it enough of a chance it get going.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2006 at 1:36AM
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1122, I think, is good for fruitiness?? The wild yeast may not live as long due to increasing alcohol, this would leave some residual sugar and may also lend more fruitiness. Did you add any sugar to the dry wine? that can bring more fruit to the front. We make almost all wines ry then if we desire some sweeter for an ocassion its easy to add some sugar syrup to a glass. if its bottled sweet, thats all you get, by bottling dry, you can have both.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2006 at 11:41AM
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biblion(z6 CT)

1122 being---Lalvin? Red Star?

No, the wild yeast won't survive the high alcohol, and will indeed leave residual sugar, but for cider I think that's o.k., since its meant to be drunk young and doesn't really want the 12 percent plus you're looking for with a "wine".
I'll try syruping the cider and see if it does bring out the fruit, but I'm not all that pleased with the result of adding simple syrup or plain sugar back into finished wines that I've tried this with so far.I know this is the usual method, and it makes sense, but I've found that adding the additional sugar at the beginning or during the course of fermentation really incorporates the sweetness into the body of the wine. I'm no wine snob, but my palate seems to be able to discern the difference.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2006 at 11:16PM
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Yep, Lalvin. I have a friend who always saves some juice(frozen) then adds to the wine after it is finised. never tried that but might give it a shot. definatly some people have more defined palates than others, mine issometimes???. I do try to use better quality sugars and corn sugar when I can.My wife would prefer to use the cheapest of any ingredient even while paying 17$ a gallon for some grape juices??
Do you make Elderberry, thats our main stay; I like to make some bonus wines from the elders too. Usually they are sweeter and quite high in alcohol, like brandy.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2006 at 10:35AM
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biblion(z6 CT)

Saving the juice is a great idea.

Now, when you say "better quality sugars", what exactly does that mean? Not just granulated sugar like you would buy in the grocery store? Have you noticed a real diference in the taste of the finished wine when using corn sugar? Oh, and where do you buy your corn sugar at the cheapest price? Do you have a retail source or the internet or what?

Can't say I would disagree with your Mrs. about the money issue, but then I haven't used grape juices by the gallon, yet, either (I actually like non-grape fruit wines more). You might have sources there in Pennsylvania which are not avilable to us here in Connecticut. Still, if you can make a 5 gallon batch from a gallon of juice, $17 isn't all that bad. Twenty-five bottles of wine for less than $20 beats the stuffing out of what you can buy in a store.

I haven't made Elderberry since I helped my folks make some years and years ago. Then, we could just go pick the berries wild. Now, I don't live where Elder bushes grow. I'm in the intitial stage of planning out a planting on a pretty small plot of land, in which I hope to include blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. Elders may find a home here eventually, but they are not on my radar yet.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2006 at 11:44PM
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Thats 17$ per gal. X 5 gals.(85$) each carboy, still not a bad price totally. Have made some excellent kit wines too, but cant make good wine from those cheap kits. I buy corn sugar at the beer/wine maker supply. Imean purchase a good quality cane sugar vs. a cheap generic brand. Honestly dont knownmif I can tell the diff as we alter almost every batch from the previous one. Advantage of elders is their wines can be so diverse, age wll beyond ayear as most fruit wines. We do all the berries to include goose, currants, blackberry, rasp, etc., etc. I have 30 named variety Elderberry bushes in my wine yard. Some years close to 25 lbs. berries per bush. vary the weight of berries from 7 to 20 lbs. per 5 gal. batch. As with concord grape wine, water is added to bring total juice to 5 gal. It would be , probably, undrinkable if pure elder juice was fermented??

    Bookmark   January 12, 2006 at 10:54AM
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biblion(z6 CT)

Oops. I'm too used to thinking in terms of concentrates. $85 is more in line with the price for more expensive kits. That's not TOO bad, but it isn't cheap, either. I'm thinking about making a batch with canned peaches at 99 cents a two-pound can, so you can see where my priorities are.

I see, you don't use corn sugar as the basic yeastfood. Never thought about cane sugar having grades. Hmmmm.

Your "wine yard" sounds fantastic!

    Bookmark   January 13, 2006 at 2:13AM
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frenchy_fl(Z10 FL)

biblion, you will not have much luck with canned peaches. If you are looking at "Cheap", just use 100% frozen Peach juice in 12 ounce cans. Use 2 cans to a gallon batch of wine plus 2 cups of sugar; 3 cups if you want it really sweet.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2006 at 10:23PM
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