After a three or four month hiatus because of my summer travel schedule, I’m back to brewing in earnest. The dining room is full of fermenters: blonde and wit from a club boil, milk stout Chris and I made Saturday, and now cider. Erin Taylor found a source for local apple juice, so Sean made a trip to pick up some for interested parties. I haven’t made apple cider in five years or so. Other than obvious reasons, I’m not sure why. It’s pretty darned simple. Wild yeast aficionados can just put the raw juice in a carboy (open or closed) and push it in the corner. While I like wild ales and beers, I want a more predictable result. Folks who like still cider can dose the juice with Campden tablets (sulfite), then pitch their own yeast, then dose it again to stop fermentation and bottle. I like a dry cider, and I don’t care for sulfites. And they don’t care for me. So here’s my process, at the request of Justin and Alla:
I made a starter culture with two sachets of Montrachet champagne yeast. The yeast was fresh, so it took about 12 hours to come up. (Gotta love a good local homebrew shop.) The next morning, I dumped all 10 gallons of the juice into my brew pot and heated it slowly to 150°. (I used to go to 170°, but that’s not necessary.) Lid on, to keep the aroma in as much as possible. Once the juice was up to temp, I cut off the heat, wrapped the pot in a doubled-up blanket, and gave it 40 minutes, checking the temperature every ten minutes or so. It stayed constant, falling only to 148°. This time/temperature combination effectively kills most (five or six nines) of the wild yeast, bacteria, etc. which naturally come with raw apples.
I chilled the pasteurized juice to 90° with my immersion chiller, then sucked off a half gallon for Madelyn and Amelia. I pitched the yeast, decanted the juice into two carboys, and hauled them inside. Four hours later the cider had frothed over; by nightfall it was rolling along with four inches of bubbles on top. Today (three days later) it’s clicking along nicely. From here I’ll treat it like a beer: rack it to secondary fermentation when it slows down and stops foaming, then prime and bottle once testing with a hydrometer shows most of the sugar is gone. OG 1.052, so this will cap out at 7% ABV, though somewhere around 5 or 6% is more likely. Drink after a month or so in the bottle, and it should keep for at least six months, maybe longer pending its acidity.
So, back to brewing. And maybe back to blogging.