Batch 1 – Primary

Enough prep.  Time to start actually doing stuff.

 

I’ve done my shopping as detailed in the Batch 1 – Process post and I’m ready to go.  I’ve got cider.

 

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I’ve got yeast.

 

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Time to sanitize things.  I threw the airlocks, stoppers, and a few measuring utensils into a bucket of sanitizer.  I probably could have used a lot less sanitizer, something to note for next time.

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Time to actually put the yeast in.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a scale (note to self – buy small kitchen scale) to weigh out 1 gram of yeast.  So I have to make do and divide the yeast into small piles that are more or less even.  This was fairly easy with the 5g of EC-1118.  It was much more difficult with the Nottingham ale yeast.

Pitching the yeast is pretty easy.  Just gently pour the yeast into the cider.  Don’t stir or anything, you just throw it in basically.  If some gets stuck on the side, you can gently swirl the cider to get it off.  The yeast will sink on its own and start getting to work.

Next step is to fit the airlocks.  Put the airlock through the hole in the stopper, and place the stopper firmly into the mouth of the carboy.  Boom.  Add your sanitizer mix to the airlock until it reaches the max fill line and cap it.  Alternatively you can use vodka – but sanitizer is cheaper and you have some right there.

And thats it.  Place your cider somewhere thats 55-70 degress Fahrenheit (give or take) and away from sunlight.  I’d also put a towel down under them just in case.  Now we wait.  And wait.  And wait.

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My EC-1118 batch (1.2.1) ran into a bit of an issue.  My yeast went crazy for that cider and bubbled over!  Lesson learned for next time – take out some juice from the jar to create headroom.  If this does happen, sanitize your 3rd airlock and replace the dirty one with a clean one.

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And thats more or less it for primary!  Now to wait for a month…

Batch 1 – Process

Most of my batches won’t have a process page.  For my first batch though, I’ve got a lot of thoughts that I want to put down.

I start my cider journey with 3 simple goals.  First, I want to make some cider.  Second,  I want to make a baseline cider to know exactly what it tastes like.  Third, I want to use the correct process that I can expand upon as I get more experience.

The first point is obvious and needs no explanation.  The second point is pretty important.  When looking at instructions and read accounts of people’s first brews, a lot of them get pretty advanced or tried to jump straight to their favorite style of cider (carbonization, adding flavors, backsweetening, etc).  I want to make a cider that is going to be the BASE for my future ciders.  I want to know what it tastes like.  I imagine it won’t be very sweet, as I’m not stopping the fermentation process early, adding flavors, or backsweetening.  There probably won’t be any carbonation.  But once I know what it tastes like, I can know what direction I want to go to get to the cider that I want.

The third point is pretty similar to the second point.  While I could go the hedge wizard route (and I’m sure I will for fun sometime in the future) and make a quick gallon of cider with no real airlock – I want to do the same process that I’ll be using later on.  I want to figure out how an airlock works and how to use it.  I want to make first time mistakes with sanitization so that everything is easier and cleaner next time.  I want to “bottle” the cider (into growlers probably), so that I can turn that knowledge into racking and proper bottling in the future.

To accomplish my 3 goals, I’m going to make two batches of 1 gallon each.  Both batches will use the same juice as a base, but will use different yeast to see how they affect the cider.

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First we’ll start with our apple juice base.  I have obtained 2 one-gallon glass jugs of no-preservative apple juice from Whole Foods.  These will serve as my bases and the glass jugs will come in handy in future batches for racking into secondary.

In order to get alcohol from our juice, we need yeast.  There are TONS of types of yeast out there.  Bread yeast.  Wine yeast.  Champagne yeast.  Mead yeast.  Beer yeast.  All of those types of yeast break down into several different types or species or brands as well.  I’m going to be using two of the most commonly recommended types of yeast.  Each gram of yeast makes a gallon of cider.  First is Nottingham Ale Yeast.  Nottingham ale yeast is a yeast that works well for cider and is very popular.  From what I understand, it doesn’t overpower the natural flavors, which keeps your cider tasting like apples.  They come in 11g packets, so I’ll be good for 11 gallons of cider there.  The second type of yeast is the EC-1118 strand of yeast.  EC-1118 is a champagne and wine yeast that is very easy to use.  It isn’t too picky as far as temperature goes, and is pretty hearty.  It was only a couple of dollars more to get a 10 pack of EC-1118, so I ended up with enough to make 50 gallons of cider.  I’ve got some work to do…

We got juice and yeast – we should be done, right?  Well…not really.  Since we’re going to be doing this thing correctly, we’re going to need a few more things.

First is an airlock.  The purpose of an airlock is to let carbon dioxide (a side product of fermentation) out without letting oxygen in (our cider would go bad).  The basic idea is that a layer of water/vodka will allow carbon dioxide to bubble up and be released, while oxygen can’t get past the water.  Its very similar to fermenting sauerkraut or pickles if you’ve ever done that.  So what we’re going to need is an airlock for each jug we have.  I picked up a set of 3 S-shaped airlocks.  Note that these are just the airlocks.  We also need a way to put them onto our glass containers.  So we’ll need plugs/stoppers with a hole drilled into them.  We need a size #6 to fit our one-gallon carboy, and since we have 3 airlocks, I also picked up a set of 3 stoppers.

With juice, yeast, and an airlock – we now have everything to start making hard cider.  But theres going to be a lot of yeast sediment in our container that we don’t really want to drink.  So how do we get it out?  The answer is that we’re going to use a tube, gravity, and some suction to move our juice into another container.  We want food-grade 5/16 tubing. I went with this 10 ft one.

 

The same process is used for both racking (into another jug of the same size to let it ferment more, absorb flavors, or settle for even more filtration) and bottling (into any container(s) that you have in preparation to drink or give to friends).  We aren’t going to be racking this time – so we don’t need any more 1 gallon glass carboys (but the 2 glass carboys from this batch will serve as the racking containers for our 2nd batch).  We’re going straight to bottling.  Since we aren’t going for any carbonation, bottling is pretty easy.  You can use basically any glass container that can be sealed.  Some of the easiest are “pop-top” glasses that have an attached rubber stopper that allow for easy reseals.  I got these ones for future batches, or just keep an eye out certain bottles of beer/cider/wine at wherever you get your alcohol.  Its also very easy to use growlers from your local breweries.  I’ll be using a few growlers from some of my favorite cider places to start.  For most advanced brewers, you can purchase or reuse typical glass bottles, as well as a set of unused bottlecaps and a device to cap those bottles.  Truly advanced brewers could look into a canning machine to put their cider into aluminum cans.  Both those are a bit beyond what I’m looking to do for now – so growlers and pop-tops it is.

Now theres also some additional, optional things that are nice for the racking/bottling process.  In order to start the suction on a tube, we can either suck on the tube and quickly move it over the container we want to fill (think siphoning gas or emptying a fish tank) or we can get an auto-siphon.  I’ve had an aquatic turtle for two years, so I know how annoying it is to start the suction manually, so I’ve bought the auto-siphoning tool to make life easier – but it is optional.  Another thing to make life easier is something to stop the suction.  This is more important the more bottles you have.  Stopping the suction is sometimes imprecise and messy, and then you have to start suction again.  There another tool that stops and restarts suction to make it very easy to fill your containers without making a mess – a bottle filler.  Another optional tool, but one that will make life easier, especially if you’re going to be doing this more than once.

Almost there.  Theres one final thing that we NEED to do.  And that is SANITIZE EVERYTHING.  We don’t want any stray bacteria getting into our cider and doing weird things, so we’ll want to clean everything.  We also don’t want to use soap – as it tends to affect flavor even after its been rinsed (if you did wash something with soap, rinse with hot water several times!).  Boiling water is a very solid way to sanitize things, but using sanitizer is easier.  I’ve gotten an 8oz container of Star San (which was the most commonly recommended brand).  Basically follow the instructions on the ratio of sanitizer to water to use.  Fill up a (clean) bucket with the mixture and let things sit in there for a few minutes.  You can let it air dry or use it while wet (it won’t harm your cider).  Alternatively, you can use a spray bottle to apply it.  Don’t pat it dry though, and make sure to dunk your hands before touching things. Once everything is clean, we’re good to go.

So while cider is easy in concept, we’re doing some prep to make our first run smoother as well as preparing for our next run.

 

Batch 1 – Intro

My first batch of cider, wooh!  Unfortunately I went ahead and made the cider without actually making the blog posts to go with it, so this is a couple months after the fact.

My intros are going to cover a few things.  First is going to be the batch information.  Second is going to be my goal(s) and/or ideas for this batch of cider.  Finally, I can record any other notes that might be worth jotting down before hand (if I have any).

 

Cider Wizard 1.1.1

  • Whole Foods Apple Juice
  • Nottingham Ale Yeast
  • Start date: 2016/09/22

Cider Wizard 1.2.1

  • Whole Foods Apple Juice
  • EC-1118 Wine/Champagne Yeast
  • Start date: 2016/09/22

 

Goal(s): Since this is my first batch, my goals are pretty basic.  I want to familiarize myself with the cider-making steps and processes so I can use that information for later batches.  I want to see what basic apple cider tastes like, so I won’t be adding any sugar or other flavoring.  I also want to try 2 of the more common types of yeast to see how they affect the cider.  I also want to expand my cider-making supplies – this batch will provide 2 one-gallon carboys that can be used for secondaries later on.

 

Notes: Since I only have the 2 original carboys, I don’t plan on doing a secondary fermentation.  I also may be moving – so I may be forced to bottle after a month.

 

 

Versioning

As I make more and more ciders, its going to be hard to keep track of each batch.  So I’m going to name the batches accordingly.  Since I mess around with software, I’m going to give my ciders “versions”.

 

The first number is going to be the batch number.  Pretty simple.  First batch is going to be 1.x.x and the second batch is going to be 2.x.x and so on.

 

The second number is going to be the container number within the batch.  I’m starting out with 2 one-gallon carboys to start.  So my first batch will have 1.1.x and 1.2.x.

 

Finally, the third number is going to be the number of gallons in that batch.  I’m not sure this will really be necessary.  But its pretty easy information to add.  So my first batch will be 1.1.1 and 1.2.1.  If I switch to 5 gallon carboys or something in the future, I’ll have something like 8.1.5.

 

Theres two other pieces of information that I want to record, but don’t necessarily fit into a version well.  I’ll still be keeping track of these on the blog entries, but they won’t be reflected in the version. The first is the date.  I could use the date instead of a batch number, but the batch number gives me information relative to my cider journey.  The second is the type of yeast used.  This also doesn’t translate well into numbers, but I definitely want to keep track of it.

 

UPDATE 1: After thinking about it, the number of gallons in the batch seem pretty unimportant.  It might actually be somewhat problematic later on if I go with a 6.5 gallon carboy in primary to 5 different 1 gallon secondaries.  Sticking with 2 numbers seems like a better idea.  I’ll stick with the batch number and the container number within that batch.

UPDATE 2: With the addition of backsweetening, especially in individual bottles, it seems prudent to add something to indicate a backsweetened cider.  This is especially important to know which bottles of cider will need to be cold crashed.  A small ‘s’ on the end of a version number will show the bottle has been backsweetened.  So for batch 4.2, I have one bottle that isn’t backsweetened labeled 4.2, and the rest are sweetened and will be labeled as 4.2s.

 

Resources

Its dangerous to go alone – take this [knowledge]!  Theres lots of good resources out there on how to make cider.  Some of it is too advanced for me.  Some of it is too simple to be a stepping stone into more complicated stuff.  Thats why I’m making my own path forward.  But I’m certainly not doing it alone – heres a list of resources that I’ve read or used that might be useful to you!

  • Cider Subreddit – A community for talking about cider.  Varies from which commercial ciders taste the best to questions about homemade cider.  Check out the sidebar for even more resources!
  • howtomakehardcider.com – Great resource on making a 1 gallon batch.  Goes into some topics that might be beyond a new cider wizard.
  • Mother Earth News: How to make hard cider – Another good resource that has the cider making process.  Also goes into some interesting and complex things.
  • cider.org.uk – Very in depth view on cider.  Good read, but very advanced.
  • The New Cider Maker’s Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for Craft Producers – THE book to purchase if you’re looking to make cider.  Its great for beginners and more advanced brewers.  Probably the best reference book you could have, as it will be useful every step of the way.

A Wizard’s journey

We’re starting our journey as a cider wizard. I originally had a system where doing more difficult tasks relating to cider-making meant that you might be a level five cider wizard or something.  In addition to being a bit too nerdy, a lot of the tasks aren’t cumulative.  Someone could use their own apples to make cider on their first batch.  Another could use a hydrometer to figure out the alcohol content, but might have been using purchased juice.  Which should be above the other?  Unfortunately it doesn’t quite make sense to do something like that.

Instead, I’m going to put some distinct goals and paths that can be taken.  Depending on your circumstances, some might be easier than others for you.  But whenever you’ve hit a plateau and need something more to do – this list should be a good place to start.  Eventually I might give them all creative names or badges or something…maybe…

 

  • Pressing apples
  • Adding various flavors in secondary
  • Backsweetening
  • Carbonation
  • Determining alcohol content
  • Natural yeast
  • Keeving
  • Balloon cider (hedge wizard)
  • Applejack (mad wizard)
  • Growing your own apples
  • Pasteurization

 

Introduction

Mmmmm cider.  Hard cider, to be specific.  So if you aren’t 21 (or the legal drinking age in your country), then you should probably come back in a few years.

Cider is delicious.  Its a great alternative for those who don’t want to drink beer (whether due to taste or gluten).  The cider industry in the US has boomed along with the craft beer scene.  There are more and more ciders showing up, which can vary from artisan ciders (closer to wine than anything else) to the more common sweet carbonated ciders (more like beer).

Since I am a millennial, I apparently need a “side hustle”.  Some people have a project car.  Some people take up taxidermy.  I’m going to start exploring the world of cider.  So far I’ve done a good job of exploring the drinking aspect of cider – but now I want to look into making cider.

Cider is easier to make than beer.  The basic concept is simple.  Add yeast to apple juice and wait.  It gets a little more complicated depending on what you want your cider to taste like, whether or not you want carbonation, if you want to ship/sell it, and many other things. I’m going to start out pretty simple, and hopefully add in more complicated things as I go.

So this blog is going to be my “brewing journal” that tracks each batch of cider.  Its going to have my processes, the type of juice/apples, the type of yeast, what ingredients are added, how long I let it sit, and how the final product turned out.  This blog is also going to serve as an instruction guide for those who are interested in making their own cider and might not know where to start.  There are definitely resources out there for making your own cider – but they vary widely on strategies and difficulty.  So I want to create a straightforward journey in making cider that can be followed by other people, yet branches out to cover as much as I can about brewing cider.  I may also include amazon referral links to things that I’ve used – feel free to use them or not – up to you.

So, being the nerd that I am – I’m going to bring wizards into play.  Every wizard has to start somewhere before they get to Gandalf-level badassery.  So lets start our journey down the path of becoming a cider wizard.