I’ve been waiting patiently, and while I’m not sure if my cider is 100% fermented – I’m moving very soon so I need to bottle it before then. I’m going to not attempt a secondary for this batch since I don’t have the time. So lets bottle some cider.
Like every part of the cider making process, step 1 is always sanitization. Whip up another bucket of star san and sanitize anything you’re going to be using. I sanitized my bottles (growlers – not ideal, but its what I got), caps, and the bottling pump/tubes/wand. Let them air dry (on a sanitized plate).
And then we’re ready to bottle. First is to attach the tubes to the pump and bottling wand. Second is to put the bottles on the floor (or at least lower than the carboys). We’re using gravity and suction to move the liquid, so we need our destination bottles to be lower.
Insert the pump into the carboy, so that its on the bottom. There should be a cap on the bottom that means the intake point is actually 1/2 inch or so above the bottom, which should help avoid the yeast layer on the bottom. Speaking of the yeast layer, try not to stir up the yeast that has settled into the bottom. We want as little of it as possible going into our bottle (or secondary if we were doing that).
Start the flow by pulling the inner part of the pump up, and then pushing down to pump cider up the tube. You might have to do 2-3 pumps to get it started. On the other side, if you’ve got the bottling wand, you’ll need to push down on the bottom of the bottle to actually fill the bottom. Its very convenient since you simply stop pushing on the bottom to stop the flow.
I found that this was very difficult to do alone. You need to hold the pump steady, move the pump, hold the bottle steady, and push down with the bottling wand. Very difficult with two hands. I ended up stirring up a lot more of the yeast sediment than I wanted to. I’d definitely recommend enticing a friend to help with the promise of cider.
I’d also try “bottling” some cider into a glass to give it a try. This will be the first taste of your cider, which is pretty exciting. But don’t get too disappointed with how it tastes – cider gets better as it ages.
Ideally you’d be bottling into better bottles. Pop tops are really good for home brew operations, as they are easily reusable. Regular beer bottles are also good if you pick up a set of new bottle caps and something to put the top on those bottles. I wasn’t quite prepared, so I have a couple of larger pop top bottles and then 3 growlers. Regular growlers aren’t great because they are twist-offs. Twist-offs don’t do well under pressure. Our bottles might still have some carbonation going on (especially if we add a small bit of sugar to purposely carbonate the beverage) – so we need to be careful. A pop top or regular bottle cap will simply push the top off if its under too much pressure. A twist off won’t come off properly, so the pressure builds up and the glass will be the first thing to give, resulting in a bottle bomb!
Luckily, growlers are a bit thicker glass than a regular twist-off. I’m also not adding any sugar and I’ve let my primary go for quite some time, so I should be good. Just in case, I’m going to store my cider in a plastic bin as it ages, which should contain any bottle bombs and not ruin part of my basement or spread glass everywhere.
I’ve now got v1.1 with the Nottingham Ale Yeast on the right, and v1.2 with EC-1118 yeast on the left. You can also see my Magic Hat growler isn’t too full. This isn’t ideal, as theres a lot of surface area exposed to air. I’ll definitely be drinking this first (and giving friends a try) – otherwise it might start affecting the flavor if left to age.
And thats more or less it. As of right now, both ciders aren’t great. The nottingham is slightly better in my opinion, but they both need aging. It also tasted a bit yeasty, which I hope is from me stirring up the cider with the pump – which should be fixable in future batches. I’m also picking up some pop top bottles for next time.