CIDER BREWING TIME!
As fall approaches, I wanted to brew a hard apple cider. It may or may not be ready in time for the wedding (19 days from today!!), but it will at least be ready to drink as the weather gets colder and everything starts to become apple and pumpkin flavored (I brewed a pumpkin ale a few weeks back too). Over the past few years, I have noticed that there seem to be more ciders available. Strongbow and Angry Orchard have always been my top picks and they have both started to brew different varieties in addition to their regular apple cider. I like the taste of the honey and ginger and spiced cider styles, so I wanted to brew something that would combine all of those flavors. I started with researching other homebrew cider recipes that used fresh apples. Finding decent homebrew recipes, whether it’s for beer or cider, is not always an easy task. Everyone has different terminology and equipment setups and standards, so it I often have to find a few recipes that look good, combine them, and then modify it to be what I want.
For this batch, I wanted to use fresh apple juice from our juicer. In the past, I’ve used fresh cider from the local orchard, but I wanted to do this all from scratch. I opted to use a juicer out of convenience (since we already own one) instead of building or borrowing a proper apple press that is traditionally used for making cider.
I wasn’t sure on exactly how many apples to use. One estimate online said to use 25 pounds of apples for 5 gallons of cider. It seemed like that could be either way too much or way too little. That is what I ended up going with as a starting point though. I used a variety of red and green apples to blend the different tartness and sweetness levels. These were all purchased from my local farmer’s market, which is neither local nor a farmer’s market. It is cheap though. In total it was less than $20 for the apples.
In the end I scrubbed, sliced, and juiced a little over 27 pounds of apples and got approximately 10 liters of juice (plus 4 lb 11 oz of dry pulp output that was used later to make dog treats). My juicer (a Breville) measures in metric, which I do not comprehend. Ten liters gave me a little over 2.5 gallons of juice to start with. I strained the juice using a mesh bag to get out the last bit of pulp. I took a specific gravity (sugar density) reading of 1.049. Then I added 3 ground up campden tablets (potassium metabisulfite) to the juice and started to heat it on the stove in my brewpot. The campden tablets in this case are helping to kill any bacteria or wild yeast strains. I was aiming to heat this up to around 185° F to kill off any microorganisms anyway, but the campden tablets make me feel a little bit safer.
After I had the juice on the stove, I started to boil another half gallon of water in a separate pot. I added the two pounds of brown sugar and stirred to dissolve it. I then added that to the brewpot. I put three cinnamon sticks into a tea ball (that’s what I use for steeping ingredients), added a dash of allspice, poured in a pound of honey, and stirred everything up while it was heating. I added another gallon of water to bring down the sugar content and to increase the volume. I took another specific gravity measurement of 1.060 & 3.75 gallons. At this point it tasted extremely sweet even after adding water. I was fine with it having slightly lower final alcohol content (1.060 would finish ~8% ABV), so I added another gallon of water to bring it to a final 4.75 gallons and 1.053 gravity (~7% ABV). I heated the cider to 185° F, added 2 tsp pectic enzyme to reduce some haze in the final product, and then used my copper immersion chiller to chill it for 20 minutes down to ground water temp of ~80° F.
I transferred from the pot to a carboy and took a final reading (13 brix, 1.053). I left one of the cinnamon sticks in the carboy to add a little more flavor. I tasted the final sample and was really happy with the flavour and with the sweetness level. I pitched the Brewers Best cider yeast strain and then put the carboy in my temperature controlled fermentation fridge set for 65° F.
This was my 26th brew overall and my 2nd apple cider. Final measurements: 1.053 OG & 4.75 gallons. Cider before fermentation is called must (similar to how beer is called wort before fermentation). I thought of a lot of dumb puns using the word must but won’t post them because they are really lame.
I hate recipes on Pinterest that have lots of text and pictures and leave the recipe near the bottom but have the instructions separate from the ingredients but now I’m realizing that that is just sort of a logical way to write a blog post that explains how you made something so now maybe I won’t be as angry when I read my next quinoa-cauliflower-sriracha vegan wings recipe. Also, this is a site I just found when making up that fake recipe idea: isitvegan.com.
Anyway, now I just have to wait a couple of weeks and see how it turns out. Let me know if you actually read this or if you have any questions. Cheers!
Ingredients List, Spiced Hard Apple Cider
Brewed 2015-08-13. The individual apple weights don’t need to exactly match this and can be adjusted to your taste.
- Apples – 27 lb 3.6 oz apples total:
- 3 lb 13 oz Golden (pre-bagged) (1.1 L juiced)
- 13 lb 9.5 oz Red delicious (pre-bagged) (5.4 L juiced)
- 3 lb 2.7 oz Golden delicious (loose)
- 4 lbs 0.1 oz Red delicious (loose)
- 2 lb 10.3 oz Granny Smith (loose) (those three = 3.5 L juiced)
- 7.3 oz ginger (fresh, juiced)
- 1 lb wildflower honey
- 2 lb brown sugar
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- Dash of allspice
- 2 tsp pectic enzyme
- 3 campden tablets (potassium metabisulfite) (ground up)
- Brewers Best cider house select premium cider yeast; optimal fermentation range of 60-75°