Cider Day 2016

20161026_154757

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.

20161026_123918

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.

20161026_154040

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/

Home-Brewed Fresh Hop Cascade Pale Ale (Braumeister Version)

20141001_121644My Cascade hop bine just before harvest

Oh my god.  I can still smell hops…even though I brewed well over 14 hours ago, I’ve had a shower and all of the clothes I brewed in are in the wash (even my socks reeked of hops).  How could this be?

Well.  Yesterday evening I cut down my bine and harvested 360g of fresh Cascade hops.

It’d be a shame not to use them now, wouldn’t it?

20141001_150912

360g of fresh hop goodness.  I could have just poured milk on them and had them for breakfast

Now how to use those in a recipe?  I’d no idea what the Alpha Acid content of those fresh hops were, so I just blind guessed at 7%.

Cascade in a packet (2013 harvest) are 9.1% – and Beer Engine reminded me the last lot I used were somewhere around 6%, so 7% seemed a good enough punt for me.

According to Jason King on a recently viewed episode of Chop and Brew (http://chopandbrew.com/episodes/chop-brew-episode-14-brewing-with-freshwet-hops/) the human tongue can’t really discern a change in International Bittering Units of +/-10, so as I was also going to really only use them for very late boil additions and not bittering I guessed I’d probably be OK.

I picked up all of my ingredients from Archie at Hops and Vines in Witney (http://www.hopsandvineshomebrew.co.uk/).  Archie has only just bought the business from Mike – who has decided to retire.

If you’re up Witney way you can’t go far wrong than drop in and stock up on some bits and bobs.  Archie also stocks hops and malt from Rob at The Malt Miller, so you know it’s all quality gear.  I’ll do a more thorough write-up in future.

The recipe, just below, was fairly easy to put together and was really just a user-upper of things I had left over (bar the Maris Otter and Cascade dry hops from Archie).

I included the Palm Sugar as I wanted to try and up the ABV on the smaller malt bill and was also looking to dry out the body – which, combined with the US-05 yeast should do the job admirably.

 

FreshHopCascade

I fiddled about with the hop quantities to make the recipe work.  Bear with me here…  In theory you need 5x the weight of fresh hops for the equivalent dry, so I took my 360g and divided it by 5 – giving me the figure of 72 (rounded up to 70, dead) So in dry hop terms I had 70g to play with (no, I got lost too…), so I split that between the ten and five minute additions 30g/40g(ish) – again, in dry hop terms.  In wet that turned out to be 150g/210g.  My maths is probably all shot to shit there, but it worked out after a fashion, so I’m happy.

I did also have to steep the palm sugar blocks (which look like something out of Amsterdam) in warmish water until they dissolved before adding the resulting gorgeous liquor straight to the boil…

 

20141001_132152It’s just sugar, officer, honestly…

 

So once the Braumeister had finished it’s new mash schedule of:

38C  Dough-in
67C  Maltose Rest
78C Mash-out

We got the usual magnificent-looking wort:

20141001_152728Look at it, just look at it. That’s a seriously clear wort…

 I then sparged the now-lifted malt-pipe with 3.5Litres of water, giving me a pre-boil volume of 27L, the sugar solution was then added and the Braumeister set to “boil”.

Once the boil was on, I added the dry Cascade hops for the bittering charge – 40 or so IBU means that it should be smooth enough but with a touch bitter on the back-end.  The last ten minutes meant the adding of Irish Moss and the immersion chiller – plus a dose of flavour hops, again Cascade.

Then we got five minutes from the end.  Boom – 150g of fresh hop goodness with a backup of 5g of dried:

20141001_204021

Anyone for Brussels Sprouts?

These soon soaked up the wort and got to work spreading the Humulone joys:

20141001_204057

Five minutes later it was time for flame-out.  The boil was stopped, the next 20og(ish) of fresh hops went in and the the chiller went on until we hit 80C.  Chilling was then stopped and I left the whole thing covered for a nice half-hour hop-stand.  That should really extract the aromas.

 

20141001_204542

After the hop stand I ran the lot out into the fermenter.  See how the hops have soaked up the wort, realeased their goodness and sunk to the bottom of the boiler.  They look a bit like ghosts now:

 

20141001_213206

I ended up with nearly 22L of 1051 wort that should ferment out to 1009 with a bit of luck, giving me something like 5.5% ABV.  I’ll let you know how it goes…  I’ve still got 20g of Dry cascade for dry-hopping…as if it’ll need it!