What could be more American than… Cider? Surprisingly, cider is one of the most patriotic beverages which you can brew. In fact, it was more likely that the earlier settlers tankards were filled with cider than with beer. During the founding of America, beer was a drink of immense luxury, mostly due to the deficit of readily available barley. Instead the Neo-Americans turned to locally available sugar sources. As the old poem went “If barley be wanting to make into malt, We must be contented and think it no fault; For we can make liquor to sweeten our lips,
Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut tree chips“. Americans were desperate for safe sources of hydration, and cider provided an excellent source.
The wholesome vision of Johnny Appleseed, planting orchards from his bag of seeds, proves a little more saucy when we think about what those apples were used for. Apples (much like hops) do not grow true from seed. In other words if you plant the seed of a red delicious, you will most certainly not get a red delicious apple in 10 years time. In fact, every one of that apple’s seeds will grow into a completely unique and most likely inedible apple. So… what would be people be doing with these inedible apples? Making Cider of course!
Apples come in many different varieties, most of them quite difficult to eat. The main categories of apple are Sweets, Sharps, Bittersweets, and Bittersharps. Each category is defined by the level of of tannin (bitterness) and acidity (sharpness).
Sweets: These are your every day edible apples, containing low acidity and low tannin. These varieties make a great snack, but often lend very little to your cider. Varieties include Golden Delicious, Johngold, Macoun, Gala, Fuji, Braeburn, and Honeycrisp.
Sharps: These are very interesting apples containing low tannin and high acidity. These are mostly for major consumption but can have some value if you want to add a bit more acidity to your cider. Varieties include Granny Smith, and Rhode Island Greening.
Bitter Sweets: Highly inedible yet extraordinarily useful in cider, these apples are high in tannin and low in acidity. These are the darling of the American cider seen, giving the fermenter a sweet base with a substantial amount of tannin for backbone and aging potential. Common Varietals include: Dabinett, Yarlington Mill, Tremlett’s Bitter, and Nehou.
Bitter Sharp: These beers are the classic crab apple varietal, they contain high levels of both acidity and tannin. These are pretty much the Cadillac apples of the cider world, often being used as a single varietal cider. They are quite disgusting as a raw apple, but their juice is prized for its ability to be used as a single apple cider, with no need for addition of acid blend or wine tannin. Common varietals include: Kingston Black, Foxwelp, Herefordshire Redstreak, and Porter’s Perfection.
Even with the wide variety of apples available, most of us will be fermenting our ciders from pre-blended juice, apple cider concentrate, or locally purchased juice. The juice is often a solid blend of various grapes, making a palatable yet complex unfermented cider. These juice blends often provide a solid base for your cider, but if you need to make some adjustments you can use both wine makers acid blend or wine tannin. Alternatively, you could use oak to add tannin to your cider.
1 Gallon Cider Equipment & Additives
- 1 Gallon Glass Jug
- Air Lock and Bung
- Racking Cane
- Yeast Nutrient
- Graduated Cylinder
- Optional: Wine Tannin, Acid Blend, Oak
Cider Making Instructions:
1) Sanitize your Equipment: Follow your basic sanitation procedures. For more information click HERE.
2) Pour your Juice into the Fermenter: Oxygen at this point will only add fermentability to your cider. Simply pour your cider through a sanitized funnel into the primary fermenter.
3) Take a Hydrometer Reading: Most cider will come out to about 1.045 original gravity. If you would like to increase your alcohol potential, you can increase your ABV by adding corn sugar (1 lb of corn sugar will increase the alcohol of 1 gallon of cider by 5% or 5 gallons of cider by 1%).
4) Add the Yeast: At this point you have a lot of choice. If you are looking for a very clean and very dry fermentation, I would recommend going with Pateur champagne yeast. If you are looking for interesting aromatics, try a Belgian yeast. If you want a classic and clean fermentation, try a yeast that is designed specifically for cider. For my part, I really enjoy a nice dry white wine yeast.
5) Wait and Allow to Ferment: Cider generally takes 1 – 2 weeks to ferment out fully. Your goal is to keep the cider at about 70º – 75º F during fermentation. You will most likely notice that there is a great deal of suspended protein and yeast even after fermentation is complete. This is perfectly normal and just requires time to settle out.
6) Rack to Secondary Fermenter: After your beer is finished fermenting, its time to rack to a secondary container. You simply move your cider from its original fermenting container to the secondary (either a 1 gallon, 3 gallon, or 5 gallon glass carboy).
7) Wait 2-4 weeks: Your goal during this time is to allow the cider to clear, if you find that the cider is taking to long to clear, you can try a clarifying agent such as gelatin, super-kleer, or isinglass.
8) Bottle and Prime: One of the down sides to bottling cider is that you can not back sweeten. This creates a very dry cider which is very tasty to some, yet highly undrinkable to others. I have heard of people trying invert (un-fermentable) sugars such as splenda to the cider to allow for some final sweetness in your cider. I can not vouch for that procedure but would be interested to know other people’s results. In general if you want a very carbonated cider (think champagne), go with 1 oz per gallon of priming sugar (corn sugar), if your more interested in a beer type carbonation, try 0.75 oz per gallon.
9) Wait 2 Weeks and Enjoy your Cider: Put your cider in a cool and dark location for 2 weeks, during this time, your cider is going to produce carbon dioxide to carbonate your beverage. After that long and tempting time, chill down to 45 degrees, crack a bottle and enjoy your patriotic beverage.
Cider Apple Compositional Data: http://www.cider.org.uk/appledat.htm
Cider Apple Guide – Sharps, Sweets, and Sharp-Sweets: http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2013/09/cider-apple-guide-american-varieties-sharp-sweet-delicious-gala-fuji-granny-smith-greening-jonathan-pippin-gravenstein.html
Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan
Making the Best Apple Cider by Annie Proulx
New England’s Annoyances: http://www.poetrynook.com/poem/new-englands-annoyances
Special thanks to Keg & Barrel Home Brew Supplies for providing the yeast for this project!