Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hard Cider - Attempt #1, June 19th, 2011

A few weeks ago my brother and I decided to brew something. Anything. As long as it tasted good and had alcohol in it. We wanted to make honey mead but the price of honey forced us to postpone that endeavor. So we settled on making hard cider. Apple juice with alcohol, one of the best inventions ever.

This is our first attempt at making a hard cider, so there I'm sure there is a lot of room for improvement. In fact, this is our first time brewing anything. Well, you don't need to brew anything for this recipe, so this was our first time making an alcoholic beverage from scratch. Here is our recipe that we came up with while at the grocery store.

The secret recipe

"Drink of the Gods" Hard Cider
- 5 gallons apple juice
- 100 ounces apple sauce
- 4.25 fluid ounces (one packet) liquid cider yeast
- 5 teaspoons yeast nutrient

--Revision-- (see footnote)
- 2.5 cups of white sugar
- 5 more teaspoons yeast nutrient

All the ingredients lined up for a photo shoot

If it seems pretty simple, it's because it is. The ingredients all together cost us less than $35. The most expensive part was the apple juice, which cost us ~$20, so a smart idea would be to see if you can find a way to buy apple juice or apple cider whole sale. 

So once we got all the ingredients together, we had to sanitize our fermenting equipment, which consisted of a 5 gallon "Ale pail" we picked up at our local homebrew supply store, a lid to the pail, and a 3 piece airlock. Together, the equipment cost ~$25, so it's pretty affordable as well. 

The fermenting "apparatus".

The tube sticking out of the lid of the pail is the 3 piece airlock. We didn't take pictures of us sanitizing the equipment because we figured that it was a pretty self explanatory procedure that no-one could mess up. And because we forgot. However, I remember reading in my brewing book (which is essential) that sanitizing is the single most important step as bacteria that may seem harmless can thrive in the nutrient rich environment that cider (or beer or mead or wine) provides them while fermenting and they can sour the drink. 

To properly sanitize, mix 5 gallons of cold water with 1 or 2 ounces of bleach and wash all of your equipment with the solution. After you thoroughly wash your equipment, we rinsed with boiling water to get any bleach off the equipment. 

Once everything is properly sanitized, it's time to mix everything together.

Step 1. Add the Apple Juice. Not as hard as it sounds. Just pour the apple juice into the ale pail and try not to make a mess.

Adding the first of the apple juice.

We tried not to cross the streams.
Step 2. Add the Apple Sauce. This step is actually harder than it sounds. Really, learning how not to splash might take some practice.

He splashed some 'sauce

Around the 3rd jar we nailed the art of splash free pouring
Step 3. Add the Yeast. Follow the directions on the yeast package, then simply "pitch" the yeast, which is brewing lingo for dumping the yeast into the liquid. 

Pitching the yeast
Step 4. Add the Nutrient. Take the pouch of yeast nutrient (which is mainly urea, interestingly enough) and add 1 teaspoon per gallon of liquid in your batch, so 5 teaspoons.


Action shot
Now that we have added all the ingredients, the last thing to do is to put the lid on, fill the 3 piece airlock with water, and then fit the air lock onto the lid. 

Lid on

Fill the air lock up to the line marked.

Fit the air lock onto the opening in the lid
Once you have completed these steps, you are set! All that is left to do is to wait for the cider to ferment, which should end anywhere from 7 days to 10 days.

Update: June 20th, 2011
After waiting for over 24 hours for the air lock to start bubbling, we decided to add more nutrient to the cider hoping that the cause of the lack of evidence of fermentation was that the yeast didn't have enough food. 

We decided to add 1.5 cups of white sugar and 5 more teaspoons of yeast nutrient to the cider. Of course, it could possibly take longer than 24 hours for the yeast in the cider to grow enough to start fermenting so we might have jumped the gun.

Update: June 21st, 2011
The air lock is bubbling slowly! So we know that there is at least some yeast activity. It is uncertain if adding more nutrient was what the yeast needed to start fermenting or if it was just a matter of time before fermentation began.

Update: June 25th, 2011
The airlock stopped bubbling a day ago, and uncertain if it was stuck or just was fermenting slowly, we decided to keep an eye on it. However, today my brother and I added another cup of sugar to the cider to start the fermenting process, and it sure worked. Once all the sugar was dumped in, a plume of something rose to the surface (maybe it was yeast) and once we got the lid on, the airlock was once again bubbling. So we are assuming it was stuck, but we are unsure how many times we are going to have to add sugar until the yeast ferments to completion.

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