Author Topic: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders  (Read 30223 times)

Offline theBINKYhunter

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Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« on: January 09, 2016, 01:53:16 PM »
I haven't listened to many podcasts lately and only recently listened to the dead simple cider show. I am going to listen to the follow up QA when I have time.

I'm all for giving this a shot and appreciate the simplicity of it all but am not sure about a couple things:

Yeast - where should I buy it and what should I buy? I saw this champagne yeast on Amazon. Is this an OK kind to buy? I've read stuff in the FB group about this yeast and that yeast. I'd like to try a couple different kinds to see what happens. Is there a list somewhere of good yeasts to start with or which was attenuate lower/higher? (see, I did listen).

Airlocks - I see all of these different types and sizes that I can choose from. I realize I could use a balloon but if I'm going to go down this road I suspect I'll be traveling it for a while and getting some equipment is not going to bother me. What should I look for or please show me which one I should buy?

When it's done... Can I leave it in the gallon jug (or transfer to a different jug) or do I need to bottle it to store it? If I need to bottle it do I just need bottles/caps/capper? Jack mentioned growlers but they seem pretty expensive for just starting out. I probably need a successful batch or two before I can look at getting deeper into this and not have raised eyebrows from my wife.

Is that it? Jack mentioned several times it's that simple and I believe it is but I want to make sure I cover my bases.

Offline David in MN

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2016, 02:28:29 PM »
OK... Couple things. First, it is that simple, second it isn't.

The yeast and airlocks you've selected will work just fine. No worries there. You might find a yeast with a more preferable flavor (to you) but for a start it's fine.

If you ferment in the storebought bottles you don't need a fermenter but this will be a scale-up if you get into it.

If you want your cider sparkling as I prefer you need a bottling setup so you can add sugar and cap. A few bottles (you could just buy Grolsch type swingtops) are easy to come by. If you want to drink it still you don't really need to bottle but leaving the ferment on the yeast is poor form and can lead to off flavors. At minimum you need to pour the ferment off the lees in order to keep it good flavored.

I'd strongly recommend Homebrewing For Dummies which actually has a chapter on cider. Moreover it has chapters on cleaning, sanitizing, yeast, and multi stage fermentation. It's a good jumping off. You might consider (for your first batch) a kit from a supplier like Midwest Homebrewing. While I respect Jack's "dead simple" ideas it's not really beginner stuff to play with multiple small batches to perfect a formula. Start with something you know will work (in beer we call this pale ale).

When I've done ciders I buy apple juice and add turbinado sugar for a dry 6-7% ABV cider. But I've got a decade of homebrewing (I'm currently drinking a saison from my keg while a 5 gallon mead ferments). I use the very yeast you asked about.

Offline theBINKYhunter

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2016, 08:10:28 PM »
Well... I went for it this evening!

I bought a case of the Grolsch swing top bottles (16oz). I'll need another case to bottle both batches but it's a start and the shop I went to only had one unopened case of brown bottles.

I'll get a siphon and some other things I need to bottle but I plan on making it sparkle at the end of this. I've got two different yeasts going and have a third (ale yeast) that I'll try once I know I did it right and these two batches are going. I haven't been this excited about something new in a while!


Offline archer

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2016, 08:32:45 PM »
wait 'till you can drink it... ;)

Offline theBINKYhunter

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2016, 08:45:36 PM »
I'm already looking at mead for the future ::)

I listened to the Q&A cider show and loved the idea of buying glass containers of juice. I'm going to pick up one or two tomorrow and use them to rack to and then start a new batch in them in a few weeks.

I think I may be hooked...

Offline David in MN

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2016, 07:30:23 AM »
Make sure you age it completely and then age it a month more. Ciders take a little time to clear (for me).

If successful (and if it's bubbling you will be). You've taken a big step. Knowing that process you're ready for mead, almost ready for wine, and 75% ready to extract brew beer.

I'd still recommend some literature. You might like the DIY types to set up a bottling station. And check Craigslist for gear on the cheap. Lots of us quit once we have kids.

Congrats on getting into it! I'm looking forward to see your recipes. Full confession, cider is my lazy drink. Between well thought out Belgian ales and long fermented meads I use sugar added cider to have a dry 6% abv drinker while I plan my next brew.

Offline theBINKYhunter

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2016, 08:14:04 AM »
Yup, I have bubbles! This is pretty cool. My kids watched me set it up last night and this morning I explained why it was bubbling. Pretty cool science experiment for them.

I'll eventually go deeper into this but that will have to wait a few months until school is done. Keeping it simple right now is good enough for me and will also keep my wife happy.

Offline theBINKYhunter

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2016, 06:53:12 PM »
Picked up two gallons of organic apple juice in glass jugs for $8 each today. Cheapest I could find empty jugs were $10 and up. Looks like I got paid to have my family drink apple juice! I'll get these cleaned out and rack into them when my ferment clears. I realize I'm barely 24 hours into this venture but I'm pretty sure I'm hooked. This is pretty freaking amazing.

Offline jerseyboy

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2016, 07:11:01 PM »
Picked up two gallons of organic apple juice in glass jugs for $8 each today. Cheapest I could find empty jugs were $10 and up. Looks like I got paid to have my family drink apple juice! I'll get these cleaned out and rack into them when my ferment clears. I realize I'm barely 24 hours into this venture but I'm pretty sure I'm hooked. This is pretty freaking amazing.

Good job getting started. If you want to add to your list of things to do in the future, one is apple wine. Basically you add sugar so it will ferment out to 11% or so and add tannin for aging and you will have something that will keep for years and smell like apples when you open it.

Jerseyboy

Offline theBINKYhunter

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2016, 10:12:58 PM »
I am not a big wine guy, and neither is my wife, however I'm already thinking about what cool gifts this could be for holidays, birthdays, etc. and wine could go on that list. If I can nail some really awesome recipes and get some great looking bottles/labels I can make unique gifts for the rest of my life that people will look forward too, rather than buying them crap they don't really need.

Offline goofyshooter

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2016, 09:07:20 AM »
Anyone know how much corn sugar i should use to carbonate 1 gal? I am ready to bottle but cannot remember how much sugar to use

Offline theBINKYhunter

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2016, 09:18:00 AM »
I thought I heard Jack day .5 tsp to 12oz. I could be wrong though and am not at that point do I haven't looked it up yet.

Offline David in MN

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2016, 09:55:45 AM »
Anyone know how much corn sugar i should use to carbonate 1 gal? I am ready to bottle but cannot remember how much sugar to use

The ratio is 3/4 cup of dextrose per 5 gallons of ferment for most brewers. Some styles carbonate a little more or less but this ratio will work and not explode bottles.

If you're doing small batch it may be easier to use carbonating drops rather than measure out minute amounts of corn sugar.

http://www.midwestsupplies.com/fermenters-favorites-fizz-drops-8-oz.html

Offline theBINKYhunter

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2016, 02:25:18 PM »
It's really not that exciting, but I am excited. Racked to the second fermenter last night.


Offline theBINKYhunter

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2016, 08:14:14 PM »
Quick airlock question: Is my airlock supposed to be sitting like this?



I used S airlocks for my primary ferment and switched to 3 piece airlocks for the 2nd stage. When I assembled the bells were sitting down low but the pressure from the fermentation has pushed them up. They've been sitting at this cockeyed angle constantly. I'm assuming if there is enough pressure pushing the bell up that no air is getting in through the couple bell-holes that are above the water line but I would love some feedback from someone with more experience.

Offline David in MN

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #15 on: January 31, 2016, 08:32:41 PM »
Never fear, you're using it correctly it just needs more water. The inner bell should be pushed up nice and high. I'd guess .5 tsp. would have you perfect so the holes are covered with a nice bit of safety. You've got a difference in water level so it's OK but I'd just like a splash more. Just don't go over the center post.

The great debate in airlocks is that 3 piece are easier to clean but "S" types function better.

Offline theBINKYhunter

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #16 on: January 31, 2016, 08:39:27 PM »
Thanks, I wasn't sure if I needed more water or if that's how it was supposed to function. I guess the bell stops rising when it hits the cap on the top.

From what I gathered with airlocks the 3 piece/S type debate is similar to the 9mm/.40/.45 debate.

Offline David in MN

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #17 on: January 31, 2016, 08:47:32 PM »
Thanks, I wasn't sure if I needed more water or if that's how it was supposed to function. I guess the bell stops rising when it hits the cap on the top.

True.

From what I gathered with airlocks the 3 piece/S type debate is similar to the 9mm/.40/.45 debate.

Mmmm... Maybe. I'm dedicated to "S" type. They're just easier to use. When I used 3 piece I used vodka instead of water because I got nervous about condensation in the bell part. Probably unfounded but it was enough to sway me. If an "S" won't work I use a blowoff tube in a bucket of sanitizer. That's rare.

Offline theBINKYhunter

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #18 on: January 31, 2016, 09:04:47 PM »
With my extremely limited experience I think I'm going to prefer the S locks.

What's bad about condensation? Will a little water dripping into the must/ferment ruin it?

Offline David in MN

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #19 on: February 01, 2016, 05:35:00 AM »
No. Just kinda poor form and a possible way to introduce contamination. Once fermenting it's a low risk but it offends my sense of perfection.

That said cleaning blowoff from an "S" type sucks. But I doubt this will happen in meads and ciders, only in high gravity beers.

Offline theBINKYhunter

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #20 on: February 01, 2016, 09:09:24 AM »
I see... I guess I better buy some Vodka them for the next batch I run in case I use the 3 piece locks... ::)

Offline Marinesg1012

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #21 on: February 01, 2016, 10:04:29 PM »
I see... I guess I better buy some Vodka them for the next batch I run in case I use the 3 piece locks... ::)

That is how I do it, I run the three piece ones becuase they are easier to clean I have had some mead's and ciders get a little rambunctious on me and blow through the air lock. I fill mine half way with vodka and leave them be.

Offline Beetlebum

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #22 on: February 02, 2016, 12:58:25 PM »
I see... I guess I better buy some Vodka them for the next batch I run in case I use the 3 piece locks... ::)

Nah, you're fine. Use vodka if you want but not using it wont spoil your beer. You should be keeping it in a "safe" place where it wont get disturbed by dirty things... no dogs licking it, no blowing leaves at it, don't drop dirty diapers on it, etc. You'll be fine. RDWHAHB (Relax, Don't Worry, Have A Home Brew).

I've only tried one yeast so far (a wine yeast) and it came out like a wine... surprise surprise. I need to try a couple ale yeasts because I suspect the yeast is going to be the biggest factor in apparent style. I'm currently conditioning a cranberry cider and a spiced cider (cinnamon, cloves) with the same wine yeast, Premier Cuvee ($7.40 for a 10 pack on Amazon). I suspect they will still seem like a wine even if I carbonate them.

I've brewed beer for a while, extract and grain, and I may give that up in favor of cider. Its just TOO easy and so far, I've gotten a better product out of it.

Offline David in MN

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #23 on: February 02, 2016, 01:22:29 PM »
I've brewed beer for a while, extract and grain, and I may give that up in favor of cider. Its just TOO easy and so far, I've gotten a better product out of it.

OK... True. I've been making beer, cider, mead, and wine for over a decade. I find beer to be the most enjoyable because I like the process and the control of the outcome vis-a-vis the ingredients and process. But it is time consuming. Before the baby I'd brew a beer and make a mead during the mash and a cider during the boil. But I have the fermenters to do so.

I actually think the real value of homemade drinks is in the cost offset. I could never brew a Budweiser clone cheaper than its street price. But I only brew Belgian farmhouse and Trappist style beers that run upwards of $12/bottle and it costs me $1/bottle. I can't find ciders I like outside of crazy expensive English and French varieties but the homemade stuff tops American producers for pennies. Same with mead.

As I write this I have a cider fermenting (5 gal Costco apple juice, 2 lbs. turbinado sugar, champagne yeast), recently bottled my mead (10% abv dry sparkling), and have a saison on tap while I plan my next beer which will likely be in line with Westvletern 12. I say keep brewing and use the gaps to do the easy stuff.

On yeast.. For ciders and meads I only use champagne. It tastes clean and highlights the original apple or honey. YMMV but I like that. I used to buy mead specific yeast from Wyeast but the results weren't worth the cost in my book.

Offline Boozemaker

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #24 on: February 02, 2016, 05:00:09 PM »
If you're considering making mead, I strongly recommend reading The Complete Guide To Making Mead by Steve Piatz.  The cost of the book is minimal compared to the cost of wasting honey at $3+ a pound.

Offline Beetlebum

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #25 on: February 03, 2016, 08:53:29 AM »
On yeast.. For ciders and meads I only use champagne. It tastes clean and highlights the original apple or honey. YMMV but I like that. I used to buy mead specific yeast from Wyeast but the results weren't worth the cost in my book.

Now my understanding from the reading I've done is that a champagne yeast is more likely to strip out the apple flavor. You've found that to not be true?

Offline theBINKYhunter

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #26 on: February 03, 2016, 09:04:50 AM »
Now my understanding from the reading I've done is that a champagne yeast is more likely to strip out the apple flavor. You've found that to not be true?

I bought two yeasts to start, both were Red Star from Amazon. Montrachet and Pasteur Champagne. I racked to a secondary on Friday and sampled them both. One one tasted like wine and one like champagne, but I could tell it was appleish for both of them. I'm sure I'll prefer the champagne after sampling but maybe someone else will like the red wine yeast ferment.

As I write this I have a cider fermenting (5 gal Costco apple juice, 2 lbs. turbinado sugar, champagne yeast), recently bottled my mead (10% abv dry sparkling), and have a saison on tap while I plan my next beer which will likely be in line with Westvletern 12. I say keep brewing and use the gaps to do the easy stuff.

David, did you add the sugar to bring up the alcohol content or does it do more for flavor as opposed to fermenting pure apple juice?

Last night I started two more gallons of juice. Same yeasts as before but I added 8oz of mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries) since I had them around and wanted to see what will happen with this. I figure I'm still in the experimental learning stage plus I have enough bottles to bottle four gallons so why not?


Offline David in MN

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #27 on: February 03, 2016, 09:31:17 AM »
Now my understanding from the reading I've done is that a champagne yeast is more likely to strip out the apple flavor. You've found that to not be true?

Not really. It might strip some flavor but the yeast adds no flavor itself. On the extreme end think of the banana/clove funk that a good hefeweizen yeast adds. I don't want that. I want it clean. I know of mead producers who like using wine yeast and cider makers who swear by English ale yeast but I'm kind of stuck in my ways.

The other benefit of champagne yeast is that it ferments to a very low terminal gravity and I like my drinks dry. It also handles high initial gravity well and I tend to aim for 6-12% alcohol in everything I make. My current cider will be about 8% abv and very dry with a lean body. My kind of drink.

If you want your cider to be really "apple-y" just add a couple frozen concentrate mixes to the must. It'll jack up the flavor.

David, did you add the sugar to bring up the alcohol content or does it do more for flavor as opposed to fermenting pure apple juice?

Last night I started two more gallons of juice. Same yeasts as before but I added 8oz of mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries) since I had them around and wanted to see what will happen with this. I figure I'm still in the experimental learning stage plus I have enough bottles to bottle four gallons so why not?

Sugar ferments clean. It jacks up the booze but it also leans out the body. Since I like dry, lean bodied ciders I add sugar. If you're familiar with Belgian ales this is the trick that keeps the light and drinkable despite a very high alcohol content.

Traditionally we add the fruit to the secondary fermenter as its essence is diminished in primary. But you never know...

Offline theBINKYhunter

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #28 on: February 03, 2016, 09:54:33 AM »
Traditionally we add the fruit to the secondary fermenter as its essence is diminished in primary. But you never know...

Good to know, I'll report back what happens with these. I guess for my next round I'll add sugar to my primary and see how that goes. A dry lean body sounds right up my alley. Too bad we're not closer since it sounds like we'd get along great with our drinking preferences.

Offline David in MN

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Re: Couple questions about getting started with the simple ciders
« Reply #29 on: February 03, 2016, 10:46:28 AM »
Good to know, I'll report back what happens with these. I guess for my next round I'll add sugar to my primary and see how that goes. A dry lean body sounds right up my alley. Too bad we're not closer since it sounds like we'd get along great with our drinking preferences.

I don't know. I'm a horrible influence. But it could be fun...  :beer:

Try turbinado or demerara sugars in your cider. They're like super-light brown sugar with just a hint of molasses. I find it a complement to the apple. But you could use anything from corn syrup to maple syrup to honey to plain beet sugar. It all works but some give a nice flavor to add to the apple. Lots of personal taste here.