Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Quick and easy cider recipe and tasting

Here's my super easy grocery store cider recipe:
5gal vol.
12-14 cans of apple juice concentrate.
1 tbsp yeast nutrient (DAP)
5 bags of Earl Grey tea
Water, probably ~4 gal
S-04 or T-58 yeast

Lactic Acid 88% at bottling (to taste)

Any kind/brand of juice will do, as long as it only has ascorbic acid as a preservative. So just juice, ascorbic acid, water.

Heat 1 gal of water to just off-boiling. Add the tea bags, and steep for 5min. Take out tea bags. The tea bags add tannin to the cider. If you have access to good cider apples (most apples sold are the desert kind, not really great for cider) then this step is unnecessary. Tannins add structure. In large amounts, tannins give red wines their "chewy" character, but in small amounts they lend a subtle body.

Add hot tea water to 2 gal of cold water. Do not add hot water directly to fruit juice. If you do you'll set the pectins and the cider will never clear.

To the now cool 3 gal of tea water, add most of the apple juice concentrate. Check gravity. Adjust volume/gravity until you hit 1.050 and have around 5 gallons of juice.

For a sweeter, appley-er cider, ferment with S-04. For a drier, tart, slightly spicy (think cloves) cider, use T-58. Ferment as close to 60* as possible. Should be ready to bottle within 7-10 days, but verify via hydrometer. T-58 will take longer to clear. S-04 will blow through the sugars within a few days and flocc out quickly.

My T-58 bottomed out at 1.010. My S-04 hit 1.016 and flocc'ed. I transferred to secondary and it's still very slowly bubbling away. I bottled the T-58 part of the batch a few weeks ago, and I'm drinking it now. It tasted a little lifeless at bottling time, and the pH was around 3.4. I added 15ml of lactic acid to drop the pH to 3.0. At that pH, it tasted "brighter."

Tasting notes

Appearance: Clear and golden.

Smell: Lightly apple, some bergamot/citrus aroma.

Taste: Fairly dry, a little bland in the middle, but it has a very nice finish. The bergamot from the Earl Grey really shines through in the finish, and nicely complements the apple flavor.

Mouthfeel: Carbonation ended up a little bit low, but it has a nice texture. The tannins complement the dryness well.

Overall: For how simple and easy it is, it makes an easy-drinking, semi-dry cider. I've made cider previously with better juice and wine yeasts and was underwhelmed. Ale yeasts are much better for cider making. If you have access to higher quality apple juice, the product will turn out much better. I was limited by what was available at my local Wal-mart. I think the combo of T-58 with good juice would make a really nice cider.

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