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Brewing Cider December 24, 2009

Posted by GuySoft in Crictor, diy, Hamakor, Uncategorized.
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My cider (we call it Chateau la Sheffer)

Hey all,

During the semester break, I brewed alcoholic Cider (not to mix with apple juice, which is no-alcoholic). My cider has 7.2% alcohol.

Although some readers might think that making alcohol out of plain apple juice might involve black magic, its actually quite simple. The only thing it really takes is time – about 3 months total to start drinking, but if you wait 5 months, you will get something that tastes much better. Its quite fun, and one can create unique flavors.

What do you need?

To brew cider, or any other alcohol with this method, you will need to pay a visit to a brewery shop near you, because there is some equipment you are unlikely to find anywhere else. I found in Israel a shop called homebrewing.co.il in Hulon (Hebrew only), and another called The Winemaker, both were really nice and recommended.

The equipment you will need:

A Tank

I used a 25 liters Tank. Although I only used 20 liters of it. It should be possible to do the same process with a smaller batch, but since it takes time and preparation, I preferred to do one that lasts me most of the year. Note that you must get a tank that is hermetically sealed and should be built to contain food products, don’t use just any tank, it might contain toxic products. I got mine at homebrewing, and it also has a tap at the bottom of it, so I can move the cider easily to bottles when ready. If you are doing a smaller batch, you might be able to use some big glass jug or something similar.

An Airlock

An airlock, or fermentation lock, is one of the essential parts to brewing. It lets out the carbon dioxide that is generated from the yeast , but also does not let air back in. You should be able to get them in any brewer shop, you will need one of those.

Brewers Yeast

The yeast (or eukaryotic micro-organisms classified in the magical kingdom Fungi), are the key ingredient that do all the work, they turn sugar to gold alcohol in a process called fermentation. For the chemists around they are basically doing this:  C6H12O6 → 2C2H5OH + 2CO2  (or to translate: 1 sugar molecule → 2 alcohol molecules + 2 carbon dioxide molecules).

These wonderful organisms come in easy to use packs, I used 5 grams for my 20L batch. You should get brewers yeast, there are many kinds, and they effect have a significant effect on the beverage, from taste to amount of alcohol. For example, champagne yeast will last in higher PH (acidity), so it will live longer and produce more alcohol, unlike beer yeast that would die much sooner. In my first batch I used beer yeast, but in my second found that champagne was more to my taste.

Sanitizer

This is really important, YOU MUST sanitize anything that comes in to contact with the liquid you are brewing. If any organism gets in, it can take over and you will end up with vinegar (useful too, but it’s not alcohol). To avoid this, use a sanitizer, mostly chlorine in powder form. You can get this too at a brewer shop. After sanitizing with chlorine you have to rinse and wash with water all the equipment, if any sanitizer remains it will kill the yeast.

Hydrometer (optional)

A hydrometer is a useful tool, it will tell you how much alcohol you actually have in the beverage by measuring its relative density. All you have to do is measure the gravity before and after fermentation. With this you can calculate the amount of alcohol. The principle that a hydrometer works on is the Archimedes principle, which is actually quite fun to know, because I have been learning about it and using it the past year as a physics student in the first year.

Once you have the gravity before and after, just use an alcohol by volume (ABV) Calculator. The equation is:

(\rho_{Inital\: gravity}-\rho_{final\: gravity})\times131=ABV\%
In my case:
(1.00-1.055)\times131=7.2\%

So I am quite happy, it’s between a light wine or dry beer.

Yeast nutrient (optional)

The yeast nutrient gives  more food for your yeast, so it should make them thrive better. I don’t know how much it affects the batch since in all the times I did this so far I added nutrient.

Apple Juice

You will also need to get about 20 liter of all natural apple juice  from your local supermarket (or you can go pick apples). This is actually harder than you might think, because they don’t always keep that much on the shelf. So go to a big supermarket!

Recipe

  1. Get the equipment – for first stage

    1. Fermentation tank about 20-25L
    2. Air lock
    3. 5 grams of champagne yeast
    4. Sanitizer, chlorine usually, about 1.5 tbsp fer 20L of water per sanitation for my powder.
    5. Apple juice, 20 Liters – they are all 50% water and 50% apples. Make sure its all natural juice with nothing else in it.
    6. White sugar (optional, according to taste) – Add for more alcohol, it will not make it sweeter, it turns all to alcohol.
    7. Yeast nutrient  (optional, recommended) – There are many kinds, I just picked one, but you can consult the shop owner.
    8. Hydrometer (optional, recommended) – Careful they break!
  2. Get the equipment – for second stage

    1. bottles that can hold pressure – glass soda bottles or mineral water bottles with good caps, NOT wine bottles, they will burst.
    2. A tube to help you move the alcohol from the tank to bottles (recommended)
    3. I added in this stage things for flavor, frozen fruit, vanilla sticks, even a bit of chilli in some bottles! Just make sure anything you add is sanitized! (I placed the vanilla for a day in vodka to kill germs, and frozen fruit is sanitized. The chilli actually killed most of the yeast.  See other recipes for ideas! However for a first batch I’d recommend to try just simple plain apple juice.
  3. First fermentation stage

    1. Sanitize everything – tank, airlock and everything you are going to use! To do this I added 1.5 tbsp of chlorine to the fermentation tank and 25L warm water (hot means reactions happen faster).  Immerse in water the airlock and any other tools inside the tank and let it stay there for about 20 minutes. This is actually the longest part of the first stage.
    2. Rinse everything – The phrase “rinse the hell out of everything” is what was told to me in the IRC channel of #homebrewtalk . This is quite right, because if any sanitizer is left, it will kill the yeast. So make sure you do wash everything really well (just with plain water).
    3. Fill the tank up with apple juice – simple as that
    4. Add the Yeast – Again, simple.
    5. (optional) Add sugar - I might point out again at this point, that any sugar you put in will turn in to alcohol, so don’t think that sugar will make the beverage sweeter, it won’t. I added about 11 tbsp of white sugar (about 1 per 2 liters), and my cider is sour.
    6. (optional) Measure gravity of the liquid – I had to use a long container I got at a chemist shop, because the hydrometer sank in quite a lot, it was deeper than a 1.5 liter bottle.
    7. Close tight and let it sit for about a month – it should be sealed, with only the airlock controlling the air flow. Make sure your airlock has a bit of water in it.
  4. Second Fermentation – after about a month (you can wait even 2 weeks more)

    1. Sanitize everything – yet again, everything needs to be sanitized. This is again quite long process because you need to immerse and wash every bottle. It takes time.
    2. Open your tank – at last you can open the tank. You should be able to smell alcohol at this phase (if it smells like vinegar you have a problem). Don’t worry if it tastes bitter, its ok, it will get flavor in the second fermentation.
    3. Bottling - this part was fun, the fact that I have a small tap at the bottom of my tank really helped. Move the liquid to bottles (if you are using a tube, make sure its sanitized too).
    4. (optional, not for a first batch) Add more things! – I also added in this phase to some bottles blueberries, black currant, vanilla sticks and chilli (to separate bottles). I really don’t recommend this for a first batch. I did it in my second. Note that fruit adds more sugar, and will increase the pressure in the bottles.
    5. Add sugar – If you like your drinks carbonated (fizzy) then add sugar in this phase. I really recommend you do! I added about 7 tsp (note its tea-spoons now)  of white sugar per liter. But I think this was too much (few bottles busted, but it was also due to the fruit), I think next time I’ll about 5 tsp per 2 liter.
    6. Let it age, at least 2 months - the more you wait, the better it gets, you can start drinking from about two months. Plastic bottles will puff up as they fill with carbon (makes it easier to monitor than glass),I found that after half a year it becomes really good! Some bottles even tasted like apple wine. It is interesting how the flavor varies from bottle to bottle, and gets better over time. Best served cold.
  5. Have a party :-)

This is about it. I hope to do this at the end of this year too. It was a lot of work, and the price after two batches is about like cheap beer. The taste really nice, it’s also cool because in Israel they don’t sell any cider that I know of.

For further reading you can read mostly just by googling and asking around in forums. I used a lot the IRC chat and forum of homebrewtalk, but there are others. I am a newbie to this so would love to hear comments.

Finally, although this blog has mostly about software, this post comes to show that Homebrew is not only for software!

There are selected photos below of the process. You can see the complete album here:  stage 1 and stage 2.

Bottling

Filling up a bottle

Measureing with the hydrometer

Opening the tank for bottling

Opening the tank for bottling

Bottles ready and sanitized

Sanitizing bottles

A hydrometer is an instrument used to measure the specific gravity

Comments»

1. Dima - December 25, 2009

I remember my dad used to do something very similar when I was a kid back in Russia. We grew our own apples and made our own apple juice, but since sometimes there was too much of it, we would also brew cider (we called it “apple wine”). However, my father used less sophisticated methods as far as i remember. For example, the airlock was a simple folded tube attached to the container’s cover with play dough and filled with water. And instead of yeast he would throw in raisins (I think). Anyhow, thanks for the post!

GuySoft - January 3, 2010

I should bring a bottle to your father next time I come :-)
We could exchange recipes!

2. Samuel - January 3, 2010

Are you guys serious? Wow.. what else can you guys do..? this is some amazing stuff man!!

3. Jerry - January 4, 2010

This is the second time I have attempted homebrew cider, first turned to vinegar, since then I have used better equipment and now I feel I have the makings of a proper brew, my brew has now finished the first fermentation period and I believe I am ready to bottle, is it as simple as cleaning, bottling + spoons of sugar and drinking in the spring? I have used a sweet apple so do I need to add sugar?
I would value your comments
Jerry

GuySoft - January 4, 2010

Jerry,
Make sure you sanitize. Sanitizing is not just cleaning!
You need to use a chemical that will kill microbes (I used chlorine). Consult your brewer shop near you.

Adding sugar will give bubbles, it will not make it any sweeter.
I got advice from someone that honey (that ferments slower than sugar) will add sweetness, but did not try that.

4. Tashi - March 27, 2010

All rounder Guy! great work…ll read more often..interesting stuffs here


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