Monday, June 27, 2011

Bottling Cider, June 26th, 2011

Today, the fermentation of the hard cider stopped again. Figuring that we had added enough sugar to the cider and that it had been sitting in the Ale Pail for one week, we decided to bottle it and see how our efforts turn out. 

Little did I know what an involved process this is. Bottling is beer takes up a lot of space and requires a lot of equipment, which makes it look interesting so people around you will at first want to help but will then wander off when they realize that its kinda repetitive and messy. But you end up with 55 bottles of cider!

That's right. More cider than we can drink. Deal with it.

Anyway, when we dragged the Ale Pail up from the basement where we had sentenced it to ferment, we took off the lid and a wonderful aroma of apples and alcohol saluted our senses. The cider was a bright yellow color, and still pretty murky (we hope that it will clear up in the bottles). 

The first thing we had to do was to sanitize the siphon hose, which we did by filling a bucket with a bleach / water solution (of the same concentration as we used to sanitize our equipment for brewing the cider a week ago, around 2 ounces of bleach per 5 gallons of water). Then we ran boiling water through the tubing and over it to rinse any remaining bleach off. Now it's time to start the siphon.

Apparently to people my parent's age, the first memory of siphoning is when they used it to steal gas out of someone else's car, and apparently you would "use your mouth and suck on it" (attributed to a member of that generation). I've heard stories about this, but nobody my I know who is my age has ever done it. The last time I used a siphon was for emptying fish tanks, which had all sorts of stuff in the water so I sure didn't use my mouth to start the siphon. 

Anyway, to start the siphon, we filled the tubing with sterilized water (from boiling) and then dipped one end of the hose in the cider and that's that. Siphon started. But it wasn't that simple, there were air bubbles that crept in so we had to restart it a few times. But we eventually did it.

Finally. Geez.

We think that the stuff floating on top is normal.
After we started the siphon, we moved the Ale Pail to a counter top (which is where we should have started, but we aren't that smart), so we could fill the bottles easily. And then we started to boil water for the bottle caps, since they need to be sterilized too.

A step above stone soup, but not by much.
Alright, so now we have sterilized our bottle caps and our siphon hose. Now we need to sanitize our funnel and start the sugar to prime the bottles with. 

What's priming you ask? Priming is a method where we add sugar, in this case dissolved in water, to each bottle so the yeast still active in the cider can ferment a little bit more and carbonate the bottles. Is it necessary? Yes, unless you want to drink flat beer or cider, which isn't so bad in the case of cider. My brother and I poured ourselves a glass of this delicious nectar.

So after we sanitized our funnel, we started the priming sugar for a boil (we brought the sugar water to a boil so it would be sanitized). Here are our pictures of the process to make sure that nobody screws this part up, being the hardest step. It's just 3/4 cup sugar (it's supposed to be corn sugar but we used cane sugar) to 16 ounces of water.

Roughly measure out 3/4 cup of sugar

The next part of the process we did in a sort of an assembly line process.

1. Clean with bleach. Exactly as it sounds. We need to fill the bottles with the bleach solution and then pour it out. 

Glug, glug, glug

Thanks to Jason Crain for his photography.
2. Rinse. Then we need to get that nasty bleach off unless you want it to be part of your cider drinking experience, which we didn't want, but we don't claim to speak for everybody. So to rinse off the bleach, filled the bottle with the boiling (or the near boiling water) and then poured it out.

I think he did a really good job with this picture. Good job Jason. Mad props
3. Prime. Priming is pretty simple, just seat your funnel on the bottle and pour a little bit of the sugar solution to each bottle. We can't give an exact measure since we eyeballed it, but just know that too much will result in a broken bottle and too little will result in a flat beverage. So ... error on the "too little" side.

Mmm, sugar water. 
4. Fill the bottles. Now we have to use the siphon hose back from the beginning of the post to fill the bottles with the cider. Our hose has a clamp on it that we can release to allow flow and engage to stop flow, which helped a lot. Fill each bottle to roughly halfway up the neck, but we understand if your results are a little imperfect. God knows our's were. 

Why am I smiling?

Filling them bottles with sweet, sweet nectar.
5. Capping the bottles. This step was pretty fun, and also a little bit of a let down. I thought that the bottle caps would be simply flat pieces of metal that the capper would then contort to get the crumpled edges. But nope, the caps were pre-crumpled so the capper just bent them a little bit. But it was still fun. Take the capper, a cap and a bottle and seat the cap on the bottle. Then, place the capper on top of the cap and move the handles downward. Simple and fun!

The claw!

Jason's happy dance.

First capped bottle. Awwww yeeaaa!

Strong like Thor!

Help! I'm trapped writing these stupid captions!

So just repeat this process 55 times. Yay. As I said, it took a lot longer than I thought, but it was worth it, I hope, who knows how the cider is going to taste in a week to two weeks (the amount of time it is supposed to sit in the bottle getting all carbonated and stuff). 

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