Our first batch of cider is done!!
It is golden and dry at a final gravity of 0.996 (to learn all about gravity click here). For reference, a typical American Pale Ale would have a final gravity of 1.010-1.015, and your driest saisons are as low as 1.002). We used Wyeast 3068 or Weihenstephan yeast which is mostly used for weizen beers, or German wheat beers. These types of ales typically have a noticeable banana and or clove characteristic. We thought it would be interesting with the cider, and it is. The flavor is subtle, but there. A light banana and phenolic smell on the nose and in the after taste, with a dry, long, somewhat tart finish.
I’m thrilled with the way it turned out. It has a lovely complex flavor similar to a white wine. As it continues to age over the next few months it will get even better as the slight alcoholic heat settles.
As you may remember from my first post about our cider making shenanigans, after you’ve got your apple juice, it is extremely easy to make hard cider. Just sanitize a large bucket, pour in your juice, add 1/4 tsp of potassium metabisulfite to kill any wild yeasts, let it sit for 24-48 hours, then pitch your favorite yeast and let it go.
We took an initial gravity reading of the juice we had pressed, which ended up being 1.038 (potential ABV = ~4.7%). We decided to boost that by adding 2 pounds of brown sugar to the juice, which got us to 1.053 (potential ABV = ~7%). Because the gravity dropped below 0, we ended up with a final ABV of around 7.2%. In order to clarify the cider (which was still very hazy even after a month of conditioning), we added an ounce per 5 gallon batch of pectic enzyme and 1 packet of isinglass which is a type of fining, or clarifier. It sounds kind of gross, but isinglass is actually made from the bladders of fish and has been used for centuries to clarify alcoholic beverages (vegans take note). Pectic enzymes help to break down the pectin in the fruit which causes cloudiness. We ended up with a pretty clear cider as a result.
We decided for the first round of cider to bottle condition (let it self-carbonate in bottles) rather than keg and force carbonate. This way we could hold onto it for as long as possible.
As we’ve done more and more batches (a total of 7!) we’ve experimented, adding different types of sugar to boost ABV, trying different yeast strains, and more recently even making a beer and cider hybrid with a saison yeast. That last one won’t be ready for a few weeks but I’m already just itching to try it.
Now that we’re at the end of apple season, Mike and I decided to “brew” up our last couple batches of the fall. We took a trip out to Indiana to visit our friendly farmer’s market apple orchard, Backyard Orchard. We’ve been getting all of our cider apples from these guys and man are they tasty. Our new friend and orchard owner, Dennis, promised us lots of “hangers” for way less than your typical market prices which makes sense since we were picking and transporting ourselves.
Plus we get to hang out with all these adorable apple eating dogs – so freaking cute.
This year has been an excellent year for apples. Our orchard friends have too many to pick right now. I guess that’s a good problem to have. Especially when 1 bushel of apples only gives you about two gallons of cider. We wanted to pick some late harvest apples this year so that we could capitalize on the more concentrated juice. With these late season apples we got a gravity reading of 1.043, or a potential alcohol of 5.5% ABV.
That’s the update! Stay tuned for more as we finish out the cider making season.