2015 Cider Extraviganza

As I pulled up to the farmer’s market, the rain began to fall on my windshield. The patter of rain combined with the rich smell of coffee from my thermos created a soothing environment; one which I was not willing to give up for the frigid rain and biting wind that waited for me outside of my vehicle. It was one of the first truly cold days of fall and with my winter clothes still in storage, I was poorly equipped for the weather in my cargo shorts and a t-shirt. With a grunt, and a final sip of my coffee, I got out of the car to make my cider purchase.

Mood's FarmMood’s Farm is located in South NJ, located far enough away from the major commerce areas to be considered rural, but not so far away that it’s a challenge to get to. The farm market where they sell their produce is a bit run down, but it’s age certainly gives the building character. If you are in the area, I certainly recommend checking out this local hub.

Among the home brew community, Mood’s is known  for one thing in particular… Cider. After pressing, they run their juice under a UV light, thus “cold pasteurizing” their cider. It allows for a preservation of taste but more importantly, it allows for fermentation without the interference of chemical preservatives. The juice that they create is primarily sweet, but it does have enough tannin and acidity to make it worth fermenting and acceptable as a hard cider without the need for chemical adjustments (although adding acidity brings this cider to a whole new level).

Cider from MoodsThis year I made a grand purchase of 20 gallons of Cider. 6 Gallons of that cider went to a class I taught at Keg and Barrel Home Brew Supplies, the remaining 14 gallons was mine to play with. I divided the cider up into 4 different projects: One Apple Wine, Once Hard Cider, and Two Apple Meads (Cysers). I’ve compiled my list of fermentations from this years cider, I will be updating them as the year goes on and the ciders reach completion.

The Cider Projects:

Mood’s Farm Cider (2015)

This is one of the 4 fermentations that came from this years haul from moods farm. My goal was to ferment one large batch of cider and then split it off to try different techniques. 3 gallons will go into a keg along with metabisulfite and sorbate. I will then back sweeten it with wine conditioner and possibly add some acid blend. Then, I plan to force carbonate and bottle. Another gallon will be bottled dry and a final gallon will be aged on bourbon soaked oak then bottled.

  • 5 Gallons Moods Farm Cider
  • 2 1/2 tsp Pectic Enzyme
  • 5 tsp Yeast Nutrient
  • 5 Campden Tablets
  • Yeast: Wyeast 4766 Cider

Process: After sanitizing all equipment, I poured the cider into the fermenting conical. I then added my Pectic enzyme, Yeast Nutrient, and Campden Tablets. I then left the mixture covered with a paper towel and rubber bands. The next day I pitched they Cider yeast. Within a day the fermentation began. After 2 weeks the cider was fermented to complete dryness. (TO BE CONTINUED)

Mood’s Farm Applewine (2015)

This is one of the four fermentations that came from this years haul of cider from moods farm. My goal was to create a dry to off-dry wine that was high in fruity character. As I normally do with fruit wines, I threw in pectic enzyme to create a clear wine later down the road. I may bottle three gallons dry, back sweeten one gallon, and age one on bourbon soaked oak.

  • 5 Gallons Moods Farm Cider
  • 5 Lb Corn Sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp Pectic Enzyme
  • 5 tsp Yeast Nutrient
  • 5 Campden Tablets
  • 6 1/2 tsp Wine Acid Blend
  • Yeast: Red Star Cote des Blanc (3 Packs)

Process: After sanitizing all equipment, I poured the cider and corn sugar into the fermenting carboy and mixed thoroughly. I then added my Pectic enzyme, Yeast Nutrient, and Campden Tablets. I then took an acid reading, finding that my acid level was between 0.3 to 0.4 titratable acid. In order to bring it up to roughly 0.6 titratable acid I added 6 1/2 tsp of acid blend to the mix. I then left the mixture covered with a paper towel and rubber bands. The next day I pitched 3 packs of Cote des Blanc yeast. I found that the wine started fermenting within an hour. (TO BE CONTINUED)

Mood’s Farm Butterbean Cyser (2015)

This is one of the four fermentations that came from this years haul from moods farm. I wanted to create a sack mead with a fair amount of residual sweetness. To accomplish this I chose a wine yeast with a low alcohol tolerance. In order to create a mead that I can drink in a few months, I chose to do staggered nutrient additions. I chose to use Butterbean since it is one of my favorite meads, and I was curious what it’s soft and mellow character would do for the cyser.

  • 1 Gallon of Mood’s Farm Cider
  • 3 Lb Butterbean Honey from Harvey’s Honey
  • 1/2 tsp Pectic Enzyme
  • Nutrients: 1 g Fermaid K & 0.5 g DAP in 4 increments
  • 1 Campden Tablet
  • Yeast: Cote des Blanc (2 Packs)

Process: After sanitizing all equipment, I poured the cider into the fermenting carboy. I then heated my honey in hot water to allow it to become less viscous. I then mixed thoroughly and added my Pectic Enzyme / Campden Tablets. I then left the mixture covered with a paper towel and rubber bands. The next day I pitched 2 packets of yeast hydrated with Go-Ferm. I then added the first round of nutrients, but made a bit of a mistake and substituted Yeast Energizer for the Fermaid K. I continued this process of adding nutrients and degassing. After 2 weeks I racked from the brewing bucket into the secondary fermenter. (TO BE CONTINUED)

Mood’s Farm Wildflower Cyser (2015)

This is one of the 4 fermentations that came from this years haul of cider from moods farm. My goal was to create a dry mead and possibly back sweeten one gallon, spice or oak one gallon, and keep one gallon dry as a control. By trying different methods I can create 3 different meads from a single batch and experiment with techniques to see which one I like best for future batches.

  • 3 Gallons Moods Farm Cider
  • 5 Lb Wild Flower Honey from Harvey’s Honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp Pectic Enzyme
  • Nutrients: 4.5 g Fermaid K & 2 g DAP in 4 increments
  • 3 Campden Tablets
  • Yeast: Wyeast 4184 Sweet Mead & EC-1118 (3 Packs)

Process: After sanitizing all equipment, I poured the cider into the fermenting carboy. I then heated my honey in hot water to allow it to become less viscous. I then mixed thoroughly and added my Pectic Enzyme / Campden Tablets. I then left the mixture covered with a paper towel and rubber bands. The next day I pitched a packet of wyeast sweet mead yeast. Unfortunately after 24 hours, I saw no activity. I then pitched 3 packs of EC-1118 that I hydrated with Go-Ferm. Every other day I either added nutrients or degassed by swirling the carboy. After 2 weeks I racked into a 3 gallon carboy and did some degassing using a vacuum pump. When trying the cider, it tasted very pleasant with a hint of honey although it was a bit boozy. (TO BE CONTINUED)

Lavender Hill Cider and Applewine

Lavender Hill Apple TreeI am extraordinarily lucky to have an aunt who has an apple tree on her farm. I’m additionally blessed that she has no interest in using the apples from her tree. The story goes that the previous owner of her farm planted the tree in order to make wine. I am not sure if he ever achieved this dream, but I am happy to take up his mantle. The tree sits in the middle of what used to be a pig pen. It hasn’t been attended too for several years and has been allowed to grow more or less wild. My aunt admitted that she has not sprayed the tree, so it is just about as organic as you can get. With all of this in mind, I started my journey by picking the apples from the tree.

2015 Apple HarvesAs I was collecting apples from the gnarled old tree, positioning my precariously placed ladder to pick the best fruit, I felt connected to the spirit of cider making. When you are not only juicing the apples, but actually picking the apples from the tree, you are truly starting from scratch and taking the cider into your own hands. On that day I was able to collect about 60 lb of fruit. I was unable to pick from the highest branches, but still felt good about my yield. From what I had read on line, you will get approximately 1 gallon of cider from 15 lb of apples, so I was looking at around 4 gallons of potential juice.

IMG_3128Upon arriving home with my haul, I had to determine how I would extract the juice from my apples. Unfortunately, I do not have a cider press handy, so I had to be creative with my extraction. From a previous health food kick, I had a juicer handy and decided that it would be the best way to extract my cider. With the help of my friend Kevin, I was able to  juice around 1.5 gallons of cider… until the motor died on juicer. After a moderate amount of cursing and general messing around with the juicer, I gave up and decided to try another method. I took my handy food processor and shredded my apples. I then “hand” pressed them in my fruit bag (the nylon bag I use for the pulp when brewing fruit wine). With one of us holding the bag and the other squeezing, we were able to extract a good amount of juice from the pulp. IMG_3127While this method worked, I would recommend working with the juicer to avoid some headache and aid in your yield. One note is that the cider produced from the juicer was more tannic and structured than that produced by the fruit bag method. Since tannin is what gives backbone to cider, I was happy to have this component in my juice. Finally, after Kevin went home for the evening, I was able to get the juicer working again and finished extracting the juice.

With my juice in hand, I had to decide what to make with it. Since I may not have the opportunity to ferment from whole apples again this year, I wanted to brew at least 2 different apple beverages. After waffling between English cider, Wild cider, French cider, New world cider, New England cider, Cyser, Applewine, Ice cider, and Graff; I settled on a simple new world style cider and a classic applewine. After tasting the juice I decided that the apples were somewhere between sharp and bitter sharp variety (For more information on Apple Varieties Click HERE). I was elated at this discovery, since it meant that I would not have to tinker too much with acidity and tannin.

New World CiderFor my cider, I went with my classic cider fermentation process which I have used in the past with quite a bit of success. Two and a half gallons were dedicated to this half of the project. I pasteurized the juice with 2 1/2 campden tablets, while adding 1 1/4 teaspoons of yeast energizer and 1 1/4 teaspoons of Pectic Enzyme. I transferred to the carboy and allowed the sulfate gasses to disperse for 24 hours. I then pitched 1 packet of belle saison yeast. While this is not a classic strain to use in a cider, I wanted to give the cider a bit of a unique funk. Additionally, I wanted this to cider to ferment quickly and clear rapidly, so this yeast fits the bill perfectly. The plan is to rack to secondary after 2 weeks, then bottle to approximately 2.75 Volumes of CO2 in Champagne bottles.

applewineFor my applewine, I decided to follow the basic instructions from EC Kraus with a few changes. Instead of using Cane Sugar, I went with Corn Sugar in order to dampen the possible off flavors of the latter sugar. Additionally, I decided to let the acidity and tannin stay where they were and not add any additional acid or wine tannin. If later on I find that the tannin is too low, I will put the wine on oak or add some liquid wine tannin. I pitched Lavlin EC-1118, a yeast which has a very good reputation in both dry white wines and ciders. The goal is to rack to secondary after 2 weeks, age for a month, dose with metabisulfite and sorbate, age for 2 more weeks, then bottle.

I think that what this project has taught me is how easy it is to make cider, even if you are starting from scratch. Lets be honest, our ancestors fermented this beverage successfully with much less equipment and far fewer resources than we have today. If they could make some refreshing cider, there is no reason why we cant do the same. Go out, find a friend with an apple tree, and do your best to make some tasty cider.

Cider: The All American Beverage

https://www.etsy.com/listing/176648039/translucent-american-flag-apple-led-logo?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=macbook%20retro%20apple%20logo&ref=sr_gallery_19What 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

  • Cider Equipment1 Gallon Glass Jug
  • Air Lock and Bung
  • Racking Cane
  • Yeast Nutrient
  • Hydrometer
  • Funnel
  • 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.

Sanitize Cider

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.

Pour Cider

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%).

Hydrometer Reading Cider

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.

Pitch Yeast Cider

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.

Fermenting Cider

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).

Rack Cider

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 – Bittersharps: http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2013/10/cider-apple-guide-bittersharp-apples-kingston-black-foxwhelp-herefordshire-redstreak-hard-cider-tannin.html

Cider Apple Guide – Bittersweets: http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2013/10/cider-apple-guide-which-apples-are-in-hard-cider-bittersweet-dabinett-yarlington-tremletts-nehou-ciders-to-try.html

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!