Cider – An Update

Whelp, that didn’t turn out as expected.

After about three months burping away in our little study in the depths of winter, my second round of ciders are, uh, complete. Insofar as they are complete failures. Mostly.

After drawing off a sample of the two basic ciders and the cherry cider I knew right away there was a problem with one of them. Rhino Farts.

Let me back up. When yeast are stressed they tend to give off bad or “off” flavors and aromas into what they are fermenting. Apple juice just so happens to be deficient in many of the nutrients that yeast need to be healthy. Also, if the temperature of the juice is too high, the yeast tend to stress out even more. These two factors can result in an aroma and flavor that is most often described as very rotten egg or sulfur. Hence, Rhino Farts.

It’s actually normal for there to be a little offgassing of farty smells during fermentation. Typically if you swirl or shake up the fermenting juice the whole thing will foam like crazy, thus “blowing off” the sulfery smell. Doing this daily or even a couple times a day will help get rid of those compounds. Also, just because the ambient temperature in a room is 65 degrees (F), doesn’t mean that the fermenting juice is the same temperature. The activity of the yeast fermenting actually creates friction in the juice, thus raising the liquid level to a higher temp than the air around it. So you might actually be fermenting at close to 70 or more.

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All this being said, one whole batch went farty on me. If stressed too much or if the juice hasn’t been de-gassed enough, the sulfur smells can actually dissolve into the liquid and become sulfur flavors. That’s what happened with the cloudy batch on the right, it never cleared on it’s own (whole other topic) and it just tasted like rotten egg apple. I dumped the whole 6 gallons.

Lessons learned? You betcha. Now I’ve added yeast nutrient to my bag of tricks, a powder that actually gives the little yeasties what they need to ferment apple juice more effectively. I’ve also moved fermentation operations into the basement. Now that we’re out of the freezing winter, it hovers around 50-55 degrees down there. That’s actually a little on the cold side, and will make the fermentation take longer, but it will be a much cleaner end result.

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So on to Round 3! I transferred the cherry cider from Round 2 into a new fermenter and added half a gallon of fresh juice to it. I also started a new 3 gallon batch with a yeast that was harvested by a fellow cidermaker, dubbed “Juicy Fruit.” In addition to those I have 6 gallons going of my “Standard” cider, a base recipe of Mott’s juice and Lalvin 71b wine yeast. I also have two one gallon test batches, one is a Honeycrisp juice and the other is a Mango Peach Cider, both with 71b yeast. All of these received yeast nutrient, and the mango cider got some Pectic Enzyme, which hopefully should break down the “haze” caused by the fruit.

More updates as we move along!

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