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How to get started in Cider. The definitive(ish) guide to beginner'

Cider

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#1 Airgead

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 03:21 PM

The missus wants me to brew cider for her. Can I do that?

Sure you can. Cider is easy. It's even easier than beer.

Cool! She wants something like Rekorderlig. Can I do that?

That's a bit harder. Those ciders need a bunch of extra processing to make them come out so sweet. Its really hard to make something like Rekorderlig but you can make a really nice cider.

Humm... Ok... will it still get me laid?

Absolutely.

Sweet! Ok so how do I start?

Easy. All you need is apple juice and yeast. Any apple juice will do as long as its preservative free.  

Juice and yeast. Is that all?

Yep.

What juice? Do I need to pick apples?

Get the best, most flavourful juice you can. Because juice is the main ingredient in a cider, it contributes more than anythign else to the flavour. Get the best you can. Picking apples allows you to blend the juice from different types to tweak the flavour but you can make a fine cider from regular apple juice.

So supermarket juice is OK?

Yep. Bear in mind though that really good ciders are made from special cider apples, not regular apple juice so while it will make a good cider, it won't make a great cider. Cider apples are hard to find here unless you live in apple country or grow them yourself. You can approximate cider apples by blending several types of eating and cooking apples together. If you want really great cider, you will need to go pick apples. But supermarket juice is a great place to start.

What yeast would you recommend?

Beer gets a lot of its flavour from the yeast. Cider though is more like wine. Most of the flavour comes from the fruit and minimal from the yeast. It does make some difference but not much. There are some special cider yeasts on the market. Wyeast 4766 is a good one. Any good white wine yeast will do nicely though. One thing to note here is that regardless of the yeast selection, your cider will most likely ferment out dry. Apple juice is all simple sugars so even if  a yeast says 70% attenuation on the data sheet, that will be calibrated on a beer wort which contains complex sugars. in a cider, assume that all yeasts have 100% attenuation. They will eat all the sugar and leave you with a dry cider.

How strong will my cider be?

Depends on the juice. Normally in the 5-8% range.

Can I make it stronger?

Yes. If you want it stronger, just add sugar. You can add different sugars to get extra flavour. Honey is nice. Brown sugar is good too. Maple is lovely but expensive.

Really strong? I mean.. like REALLY strong?

*sigh* yes. If you want rocket fuel just pick a yeast with a high alcohol tolerance and keep adding sugar. Just don't invite me over to drink it with you.

What temperature do you ferment cider at?

Depends on the yeast. Most wine yeasts have a range of 14-25ish. Cider will benefit from a longer, slower fermentation so whatever yeast you use, try to go with something at the low end of its range.

How long will it take?

Fermentation will usually take between 1 and 4 weeks depending on yeast and temperature. Cider will benefit from some aging so leave it alone for 4-6 weeks and it will improve no end. Cider was traditionally brewed in autumn, aged over the winter and drunk in spring.

My cider tastes too dry.

Ciders will usually end up dry because the juice is all simple sugars. The yeast will chew through it all and leave it dry. If you want something sweeter, you need to add some extra, unfermentable sweetness. You can;'t just add sugar because the yeast will eat that as well. You need something that won't ferment. Lactose is traditional. Your other alternative is to sweeten when you serve. Add a shot of something sweet to the glass as you pour. Apple juice works. So does sugar syrup, honey, or if you want something really like Rekorderlig, some cordial. If you keg, you can sweeten the keg and keep it cold to prevent re-fermentation. You can also try artificial sweeteners. I think they taste foul but some people don't mind them.

My cider tastes a bit ... you know... meh.

Great cider is made from cider apples that contain sugar, acid and tannin. Most eating apples contain just sugar. Most shop bought juices are made from eating apples so they lack acid and tannin. You can add some grape tannin and some malic acid to compensate. You can get both from the brewshop. You can also add acid by juicing up some cooking apples and adding around 5-10% of your volume as cooking apple juice. Tannin is hard without cider apples.

There is no foam on the fermenter. What have I done wrong?

Nothing. Most of the time, ciders are low in protein which means they won't hold a stable foam. That means much less foam on the fermenter. This is also why cider's won't hold a head like beer.

How do I carbonate it?

Same as a beer.

What are OzTops? I keep hearing about them.

They are a plastic gizmo that lets you brew small batches of cider in a 3l juice bottle.

Do I need them?

Nope. They can be handy and are a good way to do small batch ciders but an airlock and a bung will let you do the same.

Can I really brew in a 3l apple juice bottle?

Yep. Just tip out (or drink) some of the juice and add yeast. Put the cap on loosely and away you go. Be careful though. You can't carbonate in those bottles. They aren't designed to take pressure so they will go foom and you will end up with cider everywhere.

Where do I go from here?

You have a few batches under your belt. The world is your oyster. Your regular cidermaking has translated into regular sex with your significant other. Other men regard you with a mixture of awe and terror. You are king of all you survey. But you want more.

 

You can take your cidermaking to the next level by looking into making seasonal ciders from freshly picked and juiced apples. I do warn you though that madness lies down that road. Soon you will have a cider press. Then you will have an orchard. Cider will consume your life and you will die a broken man from sheer sexual exhaustion.

 

Cheers

Dave
 

 



#2 Tropical_Brews

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 03:36 PM

Good guide. You can add tannin by just adding some boiled black tea. I remember that from making fruit wines not from grapes.



#3 manticle

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 03:37 PM

Some people add tea for tannins - never tried it myself. Also crab apples.

 

Yeast and bacteria from french style cider houses and apple skins make a big difference (as do their fermentation processes and apple varieties).

 

People should get out and try some good craft ciders and leave 5 seeds, strongbow and rekordelig (and even things like pipsqueak) on the shelves.

 

Decent guide Dave - covers most bases.


Edited by manticle, 11 May 2013 - 04:54 PM.


#4 Airgead

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 04:04 PM

Ahh.. the old tea trick. I forgot about that one.  Yes, you can indeed add tannin that way. Need to be careful not to add too much. Otherwise it ends up tasting like tea.

 

Lets see if we can set this thread up as a sort of FAQ on beginner cidermaking. We have them for various types of beer brewing so why not cider. I've made a start. Let's expand on it.

 

Cheers

Dave



#5 fletcher

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 04:16 PM

i've just put one down with the addition of honey, squeezed lemon and a bit of tea - tastes amazing now out of the fermenter and not finished yet



#6 DrSmurto

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 06:04 PM

Great intro Airgead.

 

Once point i would make

 

Beer gets a lot of its flavour from the yeast. Cider though is more like wine. Most of the flavour comes from the fruit and minimal from the yeast. It does make some difference but not much.

 

This holds true for mass produced cider but is so far from reality when you think of french and english cider (ie great cider).



#7 cremmerson

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 07:13 PM

Brilliant thread and well written.

How much black tea for a 23l batch?

#8 Deep End

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 07:17 PM

I usually have one cup in the morning of brew day, then might have another whilst sterilising equipment, maybe even have one whilst mixing up, and for sure I'm having one when its all done.  So its 4 Tea Bags for me.



#9 Airgead

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 08:42 PM

Great intro Airgead.

 

Once point i would make

 

 

 

 

This holds true for mass produced cider but is so far from reality when you think of french and english cider (ie great cider).

 

Yeah... fair enough. When you get into the funky stuff that does change but this is a beginner's guide...

 

I regard funky cider as being in the advanced course.

 

How much black tea for a 23l batch?

 

Make a cup of strong tea. Add a little. Taste. If its enough stop. If its not, add more. Rinse Repeat.

 

Stop a little short of where you think it should be. It may well intensify with aging. Or it may not. But its much easier to add more later that it is to take it away. It can be done but its tricky.

 

Cheers

Dave



#10 Bribie G

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 08:49 PM

Great guide. One point about the cider apples is that East Anglian ciders in the UK are made from dessert apples, the further West you go (towards scrumpy territory) the more robust the ciders become as they are made from purpose grown cider apples.

 

I'll try the tea trick with my latest batch.

 

I note that Craftbrewer doesn't stock Malic Acid, might have to score some on my next trip to Sydney.



#11 Airgead

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 09:04 PM

I say malic because that's the main acid naturally found in apples. You could just as easily add tartaric (grape acid) or citric. Both of which can be found in the supermarket in the baking section.

 

Malic is just a little more like what you would get if you used bittersharp cider apples.

 

Cheers

Dave



#12 benen

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 09:55 PM

Just making the Somerset Gold from the recipe list now. Bought myself a 5L carboy today for experimentation.

#13 fletcher

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 11:51 PM

Brilliant thread and well written.
How much black tea for a 23l batch?


i had 3 tea bags in about 500ml boiling water for a 10L batch. the tea flavour is there ever so slightly and not over powering. you could probably just get away with doubling that i reckon; if not slightly more

#14 431neb

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Posted 12 May 2013 - 07:25 AM

Good guide. It took me a while to pull together the same information from scratch a few months ago.

 

As a fruity leg-spreader you can't go past an Aldi Apple, blackcurrant and (not too much) cranberry juice hooch back-sweetened with cordial of your partner's (or future partner's) taste. My advice for beginners is to keep it simple. I chased the impossible dream of sweeter cider (without pasteurisation) and it was pretty ordinary. Let's just say that cloudy pear juice can make for some pretty mobile sediment that picks up the blackcurrant stain. It's a really bad look especially in a clear bottle (if you roll that way).

 

Not advocating this method for great cider, more for backyard personality juice that goes well with a barbie... Or a barbecue.



#15 Dave70

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 02:51 PM


 

Humm... Ok... will it still get me laid?

Absolutely.
 

 

My wife doesn't like cider.

 

Is it OK to spike her milk with Rohypnol?



#16 NickB

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 03:10 PM

Well, from my only experience at making cider, I'd definitely advise letting your cider develop a nice pellicle thanks to a natural yeast fermentation. I'd also recommend, forgetting your yeast, and letting the yeast present on the apple skins ferment the batch out. Accidentally or otherwise! Honestly, I made an amazing cider, by completely forgetting the yeast (an accident) and tasting it 4 weeks later. So much so, that my latest batch has the dregs of the previous batch pitched in to help.....


Anyone starting out, completely ignore my advice unless you like very sour, very tart, farmhouse ciders...



Mmmmmmm ;)


EDIT:Dave, my missus doesn't drink much at all. I have to use my natural charms to seduce her. It's an amazing twice-a-year-spectacle..... ;)

Edited by NickB, 13 May 2013 - 03:12 PM.


#17 talco92

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 06:06 PM

What's a good sweetener for my apple cider? I'm moving it to secondary fermenter in 1-2 days and want to be able to drink it from the bottle, so adding cordial to it isn't really an option. 
I can't add lactose either (vegan) and I used wine yeast which can ferment maltodextrin so can't use that either. 

any hope or should I get used to completely dry cider?  :icon_cheers:



#18 benen

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 06:14 PM

Stevia? I'd get used to it dry. So many things are an aquired taste.

#19 Airgead

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 09:17 AM

What's a good sweetener for my apple cider? I'm moving it to secondary fermenter in 1-2 days and want to be able to drink it from the bottle, so adding cordial to it isn't really an option. 
I can't add lactose either (vegan) and I used wine yeast which can ferment maltodextrin so can't use that either. 

any hope or should I get used to completely dry cider?  :icon_cheers:

You could pour it into a glass like civilised folk... :D

 

Or just leave a little headspace in the bottle for a shot of cordial.

 

Are you sure about wine yeast and maltodextrin? Wine yeast has difficulties with any complex sugar. One of the key differentiators is that ale yeasts will ferment maltose and wine yeasts won't.

 

Lactose is milk sugar so yes, not vegan. Is yeast vegan?

 

Your options are pretty limited. Something like stevia will work but I find it tastes nasty. If you can keep the bottles cold you can add whatever sweetner you like and just keep them cold enough to prevent fermentation. Otherwise you need to get into some extra processing.

 

Sterile filtering before fermentation finishes will leave a sweet cider but carbonation will be an issue. You would need to force carbonate which may not be an option if you are bottling.

 

Some people bottle sweet, carbonate then pasturise the bottles to stop fermentation. I think they are insane and asking for glass explosions.

 

There are some traditional methods like Keeveing which reduce the nutrients in the juice and essentially stall fermentation early but for those you really need to be pressing your own apples.

 

Malolactic fermentation will smooth out a dry cider by converting malic acid into lactic acid which reduces the perceived acidity and makes it less sharp. That could be an option.

 

Or just learn to like it dry.

 

Cheers

Dave



#20 JDW81

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 10:00 AM

A small amount of hops can also add a little of what you miss through not having tannins (although not quite the same). I generally add 25g of cascade to a 23L batch, boiled for 10 minutes. Trust me, it works.

 

JD