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cider-art - 10/31/95


Article on brewing ciders by Balderik (Rick Cavasin)


NOTE: See also the files: cider-msg, beverages-msg, mead-msg, wine-msg,

cordials-msg, jalabs-msg, fruits-msg, fruit-apples-msg, wassail-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I  have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given by the individual authors.


Please  respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The  copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear at this time. If  information  is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



From: cav at bnr.ca (Rick Cavasin)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Hard cider

Date: 25 Oct 1995 13:15:29 GMT

Organization: Bell-Northern Research Ltd.


Here's my blurb on cider making that I wrote a couple years back.

Probably needs updating, but I haven't had time.  A neat site for

things cider related that I found recently is:




Cheers, Rick/Balderik


On making ciders and perries:


based on my own experience (having successfully made

cider, perry, various fruit meads, and a wide range

of ales), and information gleaned from discussions

with other brewers.  For the most part, I will describe

what works for me.  In some cases, I will mention

alternative approaches and the reasons for my choices.

All information should be taken with a grain of salt.


Not to be reprinted without permission of the author.




For the purposes of this discussion, ciders and perries

will be defined as relatively low alcohol (closer to beer

strength than wine strength) beverages made from the largely

unadulterated juice of apples and pears respectively.

This discussion will only consider the fermentation of

*extracted* juice, not fermentation of macerated fruit.


While the procedure for making cider and perry are identical,

the wide variety of apples available add another dimension

to the making of cider.  In addition, the lower popularity

of perry makes information about it scarce.  For these reasons,

this discussion will henceforth only refer to apples/cider.

Except where the discussion revolves around apple varieties,

and elsewhere as noted, it may be assumed that the same procedures

apply to pears/perry.


Choice of apples


Traditionally, alcoholic (hard) cider is made from special

varieties of apples that have been bred for this purpose.

These varieties are rare in North America, and increasingly

so in Europe. To understand what is special about these apples,

and to understand how to approximate a cider made from them

by blending available varieties, the flavour profile of apple

juice must be considered.  The main components are

sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and aromatics.

The sweetness will be largely absent in the fermented

cider since the sugars will be converted to alcohol.

The sourness and bitterness are widely regarded as

important for providing character to the cider, and

the aromatics will make the cider taste/smell of apples.

Unfortunately, many of the ciders available at grocery

stores, farmers markets, and roadside stands do not

have what is traditionally regarded as the optimal balance

of these flavour components for hard cider. Many of these

ciders consist largely of dessert apples and while this may

produce a cider that is sweet and pleasant enough, the flavour

may be disappointing once fermentation has converted most of

the sugar to alcohol.  Of course, this 'optimal balance' is

something of a matter of personal taste, and one need not

pursue it religiously.  If one is content with the flavour

obtained from the juice that is available, that's really all

that matters.


In the absense of true cider apples, some cider makers claim the ideal flavour

profile can be approximated by blending:


Desert apples (eg. Delicious, MacIntosh, Pippins, etc.)

Cooking apples - for sourness (eg. Paula Red, Ida Red, Northern Spy, Cortland)

Crab apples - for bitterness


in proportions of approximately 7:2:1 (some say 6:2:2).


Making one gallon of cider is barely worthwhile except as an

experiment.  The standard sized batch (for which the most

readily available brewing equipment is designed) is 20 litres.

It takes about 2 bushels of apples (~100lbs) to yield this

much juice.  Extracting the juice from that much fruit is a

fairly daunting task if all you've got is a small press or


Unless you have a good cider press, or have the connections to

get cider pressed to your specifications, one of the following

compromises will have to be made since :


a) Simply use whatever cider is available and hope for the best

b) Inquire about the blend of apples used in a particular cider and

   try to choose one that sounds like it has a decent blend - a

   cider containing a wide range of apples is better than one containing

   one or two varieties

c) choose a cider that comes as close as possible to your desired

   blend, and then augment the juice with small amounts of what's missing

   by pressing these apples yourself (with a juicer or small press).

d) choose a cider, then augment it with frozen apple concentrate

   (typically 1 can concentrate to 1 gallon cider) I haven't tried

   this method yet, but I understand that it can help spice up

   what would otherwise be a bland cider.

e) choose a cider that comes as close as possible to your desired

   blend, and add acid and/or tannin additives to correct the balance.

   I have no experience with this approach.  See additives.


A very good cider can be obtained with no more effort than method b).

Before cider season proper commences, identify potential sources

of unpreserved cider. Most apple cider has potassium sorbate added

to it, making it unsuitable for fermentation (sorbate is a yeast

inhibitor).  You must make absolutely certain that the cider does

not contain any sorbates!  During cider season, inquire from these

sources about the blend they are using (this will change over the

course of the season).  Once candidates are identified, if it is

feasible, you might want to purchase a jug from each so that you

can compare the ciders and choose the one you think tastes best

before purchasing the whole amount required.

Alternatively, you may want to ferment a gallon of each, keeping

track of the sources so that the best source will be identified for

the following year.

If you do have access to a small press or juicer, while pressing

the whole batch may be impractical, it may be feasible to press a

basket or two of crab apples to add to a purchased cider.

Helpful hint: juice extraction is greatly enhanced by freezing

the fruit for a few days and then thawing it.  Put the fruit in

a good freezer bag to avoid freezer burn and to contain the juice

that will ooze out upon thawing.


In the case of perries, one is faced with a bit of a conundrum.

Pears by themselves will not provide the acid/tannin levels deemed

by some to be necessary in such a beverage.  On the other hand,

one may view this as the nature of the beast, and accept that

perry cannot be judged by the criteria applied to wines and cider

vis acid and tannin levels.  While some may find the flavour of

a pure pear cider rather thin and disappointing, I enjoy the

subtle flavour and bouquet of the pears, and eschew the addition

of anything that may compete with it. To each his own.





Additives fall into a number of possible categories:


Fermentables - sugar, honey, apple concentrate, other fruit

Spices - cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, etc.

Yeast Nutrients


Acid blend/Tannin


The number of combinations and variations that are possible

with the first two categories is beyond the scope of this basic

introduction. Some cider makers add yeast nutrients to ensure

a strong fermentation.  While apple juice may not be as rich

as beer wort in the trace elements required for healthy yeast

metabolism, neither is it as poor as mead must.  I have never

found it necessary to add yeast nutrients to my ciders, and

have obtained clean, vigorous fermentations.

Your mileage may vary.

Metabisulphite (campden tablets) will be covered in the next

section.  Since most people want their ciders carbonated, the

use of stabilizers is inappropriate.

Acid blend and tannin can be added to bring the flavour profile

of the cider in line with what is regarded as optimal. Without

test equipment, this is something of a hit and miss affair.

Test kits are available at brew supply stores, as are books

containing instructions on this approach.  In some respects,

this is an alternative to obtaining a good blend of apples.


Sterilizing the Must



Well, when you get your fresh cider (assuming nothing has been added

in the pressing process) it will have a certain amount of wild yeast,

bacteria, mold spores, etc. from what was on the apple skins, the

press, etc. at pressing time. This flora will vary from region to region,

season to season, and perhaps from orchard to orchard.


There's basically 4 things you can do:


1) Just let the juice ferment as is using the indigenous yeast.

   While there's a certain amount of risk involved with this approach

   (it's really hard for a beer brewer like myself to follow this route),

   many cider makers report excellent results with this method.

2) Do nothing about the indigenous yeasts, but add a brewing yeast in the

   hope that the larger population of added yeast will dominate.

   Risks of approach #1 are somewhat mitigated by the strong initial

   fermentation that will result.  Still some risk of problems down the

   road, but again, many cider makers report good success with this


3) Add potassium metabisulphite (campden tablets) to kill the indigenous

   flora, then add a brewing yeast.  This approach reduces the risk of

   uninvited guests spoiling the cider down the road. I've always found

   that the residual SO2 from the sulphite lingers for a long time and

   slows the onset and vigor of the initial fermentation (I've done A/B

   comparisons).  Some people are alergic to sulphites. Still, many

   people go this route.

4) Heat the juice up to pasturizing temperature (about 160F for 15min)

   to kill *most* of the indigenous flora, then pitch your desired

   yeast.  In this case, you have a bit of work involved in heating/

   cooling the cider, and you risk setting the pectin (which will

   cause a haze - although adding pectinase will fix that).  The main

   disadvantage is that the heating may adversely affect the flavour

   of the cider. I think beer brewers and mead makers are more inclined

   to go this route since they'll have the equipment and familiarity.    


The main problems with approaches 1 and 2 are that down the road, small

amounts of nasty organisms will cause the cider to spoil. If sugar is

added to boost the final alcohol level, this might help (perhaps this

is how people who go this route get away with it as often as they do?).

I have not been happy with my results using method 3.  I typically use

method 4, although I am currently dabbling with method 2.





As I don't recommend the use of sulphites, I won't discuss this method

any further. In the following procedure, steps 1 to 3 may be skipped

(see Sterilizing the must). For those with no brewing experience, it

is recommended that a book on beer, wine or cider making be consulted

for basic brewing/sanitation methods.  'The New Complete Joy of Home

Brewing' by Charlie Papazian, though a text on beer making, can be

used as a reference for basic equipment/techniques.


1) Heat in a big canning pot (may have to do in shifts depending

   on batch size) to about 160 deg. F.

2) Hold at this temp. for about 15-20 min to pasturize it.   

3) Cool as quickly as possible by sitting the (covered!) pot in a tub of

   cold water or by using a wort chiller (beer brewing paraphenalia).

4) When the cider is cooled to about room temp., put in fermentation

   vessel (some use plastic buckets whose lids have holes for airlocks,

   I use glass carboys), agitate vigorously to aerate the

   must, and then add the yeast (see section below for additional notes).

   Fit air lock.  Be sure to leave

   enough head space in this primary fermenter for the foam that

   will be kicked up by the initial fermentation.  I put 20litres

   of cider in a 23 litre carboy.  I subsequently rack it to a 20l

   carboy for secondary fermentation. If possible ferment in a

   cool place (in the 60's is good). Though higher temperatures will

   result in a faster, more vigorous fermentation, depending on the

   yeast, it may also result in harsh off-flavours.  I usually

   keep the fermenter at room temperature until fermentation is

   well established, then move the fermenter to a cooler place

   (ensuring that it is not so cool that the fermentation is inhibited).

   If using a glass carboy, keep it out of direct light or wrap it with

   something opaque.

5) Ferment for a couple of weeks or so, when the initial vigorous

   fermentation subsides and stuff begins to settle out, syphon (rack)

   into a clean carboy.  Make sure it's topped up to avoid oxidation.

   Don't splash it around during the transfer for the same reason.

   While aeration before fermentation is beneficial to the yeast,

   once fermentation has begun and alcohol is present, aeration of

   the cider will cause oxidation which causes off-flavours.

6) Rack it again in a month or two.  Add pectinase enzyme if the

   cider fails to clear.

7) Rack periodically as sediment forms on the bottom of the fermenter.

   (every few months or so)

8) Bottle when there's been no sign of fermentation for some time

   and it is sufficiently clear, adding about 1/2 cup of corn sugar

   to 20litres of cider for priming (if you want it carbonated).

   CAUTION: For carbonated cider, use only bottles intended for

   carbonated beverages (ie. beer, champagne or softdrink bottles).

   The cider should be ready to bottle after about 6 months.  If no

   additional fermentables are added to the must, the specific

   gravity of the cider should drop to just below 1.000 when fermentation

   is complete.

9) If the cider has been primed with sugar prior to bottling to give

   a carbonated cider, the bottles should be stored for a few weeks in

   a somewhat warmer enviroment (room temp) to encourage the yeast to

   ferment in the bottle (producing the carbonation). Once the cider

   is carbonated, it can then be placed in cool storage. Some subsequent

   aging will probably improve the flavour. Because your cider has been

   carbonated in the bottle, some sediment will be unavoidable.  Not to

   worry, careful pouring will allow you to leave it behind, and it's

   good for you anyway.





I've been using using ale yeasts, specifically, pure liquid cultures

(Wyeast European and Irish strains).  

They're expensive, and a little bit more fuss than the dry stuff.

Other clean fermenting ale strains would probably work just as well.

(Some strains, Belgian Ale strains for example, contribute distinctive

flavours of their own which may be out of place in a cider/perry)

If you're going to use dry yeast, I'd recommend something like Cooper's

ale yeast, or Lallemand's Windsor Ale yeast.  Edme's Ale yeast is also

not bad.  Before tossing dry yeast into the must, make sure you

rehydrate it in a little warm water (50ml of sterile, chlorine free

water at about blood temp.) for about 15min.

I'd buy two packages of yeast of different brands, that way if one is

no good (no signs of activity within 36hrs), you can quickly pitch

another one.  I always keep spare packages of dry yeast in the fridge

just for emergencies. You never know how long a particular package of

dry yeast has been sitting around on the brewing supply store shelf.

A few notes about yeasts:


1) Different strains of yeast have different alcohol tolerances.

   Champagne yeasts (and possibly Sherry yeasts - not sure) have

   the highest tolerances to alcohol.  Ale strains tend to have

   lower tolerances.  Generic wine yeasts are somewhere

   inbetween.  When the alcohol level of the fermenting wine/mead/

   ale exceeds the tolerance of the strain being used, fermentation

   ceases. A judicious choice of yeast strain can make it easier

   to hit a target of alcohol level X and sweetness Y, but the

   tolerance of each strain is not a hard limit. It's difficult

   to know what strains were used historically.  Digby mentions

   the use of 'mother of wine (presumably yeast sediment from a

   batch of wine)', ale barm, and in several cases, naturally

   occuring yeast.


2) Different strains of yeast differ in how 'attenuative' they

   are.  An attenuative yeast will ferment a high percentage of

   the fermentable sugar in the must, while an unattenuative

   strain ferments a lower percentage.  Champagne yeast is

   attenuative, Epernay yeast is less so.  Ale strains differ

   slightly in the degree to which they are attenuative. You can

   enhance the residual sweetness of a beverage slightly by choosing

   a less attenuative yeast, without boosting the alcohol

   content to the point where the yeast is poisoned.  This

   requires a certain amount of care since even a slight

   contamination with a more attenuative strain can lead to

   fermentation restarting in the bottle and the 'glass grenade'



3) Yeast is a living organism, and its life cycle is a little

   more complex than 'eat sugar, excrete CO2 and alcohol'.

   Fermentation is not the yeast's prefered mode of feeding.

   Yeast would much rather breath in oxygen, and convert the

   sugar to water and CO2 the way we do, but in a pinch they'll

   switch over to fermentation when oxygen is unavailable.

   It is this ability that the brewer exploits to good advantage.

   Since fermentation is a less efficient mode of operation,

   the yeast is sometimes unable to continue fermenting until

   all the available sugars are consumed.  I've never heard a

   completely satisfying explanation for the phenomenon, but

   a fermentation will sometimes become 'stuck' ie. stop

   prematurely.  It will can just as inexplicably start

   up again, sometimes with disasterous results.

   Two factors which seem to contribute to stuck fermentation

   is a lack of oxygen during the early stages of fermentation

   and a lack of the various trace elements that yeast require

   to live and reproduce.

   The first factor is easy to remedy.  Once the must has cooled

   to pitching temperature, you agitate the must by either

   repeatedly pouring from a height (this is actually mentioned

   in several of Digby's recipes), or by shaking the must

   in a partially empty container.  The oxygen allows the yeast

   to go through a respiration phase which makes for a more

   vigorous fermentation which is less likely to 'stick'.

   The second factor can be somewhat problematic when making

   mead.  Compared to ale wort, honey must is deficient in

   a number of trace elements needed by yeast.  The addition

   of fruit to the must can help alleviate this problem.

   Adding nutrient can result in very quick

   fermentation, but some people claim that the nutrients

   contribute their own off flavours that take just as long

   to mellow out.  


Copyright 1994 by Rick Cavasin, 68 Lightfoot Place,  

Kanata, Ontario K2L 3L9  CANADA. Permission granted

to reprint in SCA related publications, as long as

credit to author is retained, and the author receives

a copy.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org