cider-art - 10/31/95
Article on brewing ciders by Balderik (Rick Cavasin)
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Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
From: cav at bnr.ca (Rick Cavasin)
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:
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
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.
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
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
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
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