Cider Day 2016

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Why am I doing this?  I’m not even really that keen on cider…but I know a lot of people (including my nearest and dearest) who are…

I live next door to a farm that has a reasonably-sized orchard and my neighbours are more than happy for me to take away the windfalls.

So I did – a whole two wheelbarrows-full.

Next I popped to Hops and Vines in Witney to hire a scratter and cider press from the ever-cheerful and ever-helpful Archie and Jenny.

As it was a weekday in the midst of the school holidays we set up a production line: the kids washing the apples in a bucket, Eve halving them and me scratting and putting the occasional turn on the cider press.

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We probably only had a couple of hours in total to do our pressing, so it was wash, hack, scrat and press as quickly as we possibly could; and, looking at the wheelbarrow – full of not entirely squeezed-dry pomace – we had left afterwards, I’m sure we could have forced a fair few more litres out.

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But, we ended up 21 or so litres – and that’s probably about enough for me, Eve and a few “bribeable” colleagues and public officals*

(*I lied about the public officials…there’s laws about bribing those sort of people for Chrissakes…)

In all it took about a half-hour to clean-up, get the stuff back to Archie and Jenny and the juice into the fermenter…

So all of that sounded rather jolly didn’t it?  Hack, scrat, squeeze and then ferment – how easy is that?

Not very, that’s how…

Prepare yourself for heartache that has been the last 10 days:

I moved the fermenter full of juice to the spare room, and after letting it settle for a bit, stuck in 3 level teaspoons of Campden powder, sloshed the lot about and put it under airlock.

The idea being that the Campden powder (Sodium Metabisulpate) should kill off the wild yeasts and bacteria so that I could get a reliable ferment from a packet of cider yeast…or so the plan was.

After two days the sulphur dioxide produced by the Campden powder should have been largely gone, so I pitched a packet of Gervin G13 cider yeast – taking care to rehydrate it with warm (but cooled from boiling) water from the kettle.  Once the yeast was creamy and well-hydrated I just dumped the lot in and left it to it’s own devices.

Unfortunately it’s main device over the next two days was to do precisely eff-all.  Despite me rousing it every six hours, it still did nothing.

Alarmed by it’s lack of acticivity I added some pectolase (I’d like my cider clear, I think) and waited a few hours while the juice dropped clear, and then – after deciding that the sulphiting might have killed the Gervin cider yeast -I added some re-hydrated Lalvin Champagne yeast.

In the next two days – and despite regular rousing – it again did precisely sod-all.

I even added a little yeast nutrient and moved it to the warmth of the airing cupboard to try and gee things up a bit…

…nothing, nowt, zip, nada.

After speaking to Archie and Jenny again they gave me a consolation packet of Mangrove Jack cider yeast – which I made into a starter with some juice from the fermenter, mixed 50/50 with boiled and cooled water.

I waited for the starter to get foamy and then dumped that in. Archie also suggested maybe some oxygen was required, so in went the sanitised stainless airstone and 30 seconds of pure oxygen was bubbled through the fermenter.

Two days later and I wasn’t exactly at high krausen, I was more at a sort of “high scum” with an occasional bubble of CO2 from the yeast sediment at the bottom of the fermenter.

Something was happening…albeit very slowly.

A day later and there was a thick and creamy krausen on the surface with some tantalising, but infrequent, bubbling.

Sunday morning the krausen had dropped and was replaced by some rather more violent activity: a swirling hell-storm of a ferment, with streams of bubbles whirling around in the now-turbid apple juice.

The surface of the juice resembled champagne in a saucer-glass with a vigorous effervescense dancing on the surface.

As each bubble burst it sent forth a fine mist of liquid – which hung like a thick fog under the glass of the carboy.

Now I’m worried that it’s gone slightly too crazy and we’ll be in fusel alcohol city, but there’s no malt in it, it’s just apple juice and the packet of yeast says it’s fine to ferment anywhere between 12 and 28c (I wish I had that temperature band for beers!)…I guess we’ll just have to see what comes out at the end.

At this rate I suspect it’ll be done in a couple of days…and then it’ll need at least two weeks for the acetaldehyde to be cleared up by the yeast and the whole lot will need to drop clear.

The take-aways?  God, I don’t know: Be patient? Oxygenate two days after sulphiting? Don’t make cider again unless you’ve got a strong mental outlook?

This whole think makes me realize how comfortable I’ve got with fermenting beer…I haven’t had one exercise and prey on my mind as much as this bloody cider…

Should I try wine next? Am I really that much of a glutton for punishment?

Cider updates will follow…

Hops and Vines: http://www.hopsandvineshomebrew.co.uk/

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