2012 Cider

All of the raw honey used for these batches came from Heavenly Honey Farm.

The first pressing on August 31st was mostly Gravenstein apples with some Clapps pear.  This resulted in a 6 gallon carboy that was about 20% pear juice along with a 3 gallon and a one gallon carboy filled with 100% Gravenstein juice.

Batch #1: 6 Gallons – 80% Gravenstein, 20% Clapps pear

This batch had a SG of 1.046 which should create about 5.75% alcohol.  Allowed natural fermentation to start.  Primary fermentation took three weeks.

September 22nd, 2012

Fermentation was almost complete.  The SG 1.002 is, or 5.5% alcohol. Added approximately 1/2 gallon raw wildflower honey.  New SG reading 1.034, or 1.032 added SG.  This should be good for another 4%, meaning the finished total, when dry, should be 9.5% alcohol.  I intend to add more honey later with an eventual target of 12-15% alcohol.  Pitched a packet of Lalvin KV1-1116 yeast because I don’t trust the natural yeast to be capable of handling the higher alcohol and viscosity.

I’ve been curious about the pH of the cider – last years batch, in particular, seemed very acidic.  I got some pH test strips and tried one on this batch.  Unfortunately, I got the wrong pH test strips – these have a range of 1-14, and the color index only shows whole numbers.  It looks like the pH is around 3, possibly a touch higher.

October 16th, 2012

Added another quart of wildflower honey.  I did not check SG.  Based on previous readings, I estimate this will bring the ABV up to 11.5% alcohol.

I got different numbers when I started a batch of mead, which I did test the SG on.  That test showed 11% alcohol potential from 1 gallon of wildflower honey mixed with 5 gallons of water.  Based on that, 1/2 gallon should have added 5.5% instead of the 4% as tested above, while one quart should add 2.75%.  I am wondering if the honey/cider mixing process, as I am doing it, does not do a complete mix.  My goal, after all, is minimum handling and minimum additional oxygen.  For a few days after I mix the honey in I can clearly see visual banding, with more opacity in the liquid near the bottom of the carboy.  That would imply that some of the honey, which is heavier, is settling to the bottom.  That would also imply that my initial SG test might be too low, as the honey was probably settling even as I poured it in.  When I made the mead I was more vigorous with the mixing so maybe this is closer to the true reading.  In all cases I was using Heavenly Honey wildflower honey which was all collected this year.  I will have to confirm this with Gary Violette, but I would expect that all five of the gallon jars I purchased were drawn from the same container and should thus have the same ppppg rating (points per pound per gallon.)  Calculations based on the mead show that the ppppg rating for this honey is 44.  Given all of this, I am going to revise my estimate of the expected final ABV for this batch to 13.5% as it currently sits.

March 8th, 2013

Racked into a fresh carboy.  Fermentation quit a long time ago.  This is our second favorite of the three.  It also has good acidity and complexity but it just isn’t quite as nice in either category as batch #2.

March 15th, 2013

Added chai style spices:

  • 6 cardamom pods, discarded husks
  • 10 allspice berries, lightly crushed
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 vanilla bean

The vanilla bean was dry.  I am also going to add some fresh ginger but we didn’t have any in the house.  This is the same spice mix as I used in my chai-style spiced cyser batch in 2010 but with less vanilla.

March 17th, 2013

Added the missing chai spice:

  • fresh ginger – 6x 1/8″ thick slices, about 1″x3/4″ each

March 29th, 2013

Racked and bottled still in wine bottles.

Batch #2: 3 Gallons + 1 Gallon Gravenstein became 6 Gallons – 70% Gravenstien, 30% pear

These batches had a SG of 1.044 or 5.5% potential alcohol.  The one gallon started fermentation on its own.

September 8th, 2012

Pressed the rest of the pears.  Most of them were Clapp’s pear but a small amount (10%?) were Bartlett.  The 4 gallons of Gravenstein went into a 6 gallon carboy and then were topped off with pear juice, resulting in a mix that was about 30% pear.  (There was a little extra apple juice in the fridge, it went into the mix too.)  I did not check the resulting SG, but it should be around the same as the other batch.  We’ll call it 5.8% potential since pear typically has more sugar.

September 29th, 2012 (approximate)

Racked and added 1/2 gallon of wildflower honey.  Did not test SG.  Expected potential alcohol boost, based on other measurements, is 5.5% for a total potential of (rounding) 11.25%.

October 20th, 2012

Racked and added one quart of wildflower honey.  Expected potential alcohol boost is 2.75%, new estimated finish is 14% alcohol.  SG before racking was 1.004.

March 8th, 2013

Racked into a fresh carboy.  Fermentation quit a long time ago.  This is our favorite for this year.  It has a good acid balance and complexity.  This doesn’t meet the ridiculously high standards set by the 2011 apples but it is still a good cyser.

March 15th, 2013

Racked one more time and added about 10 fluid ounces of honey.  Pitched a fresh batch of Red Star Premier Cuvee yeast.  My friend (and neighbor) Barry helped me bottle it.  Tasting at the beginning and end of the bottling process showed that the honey settled to the bottom, so the first bottles will be much fizzier than the last.  I need to try to bottle while the yeast is still active instead – the yeast keeps liquid in motion so it the honey doesn’t settle as much.  Alternately, I can make a honey mixture and put a measured amount in each bottle.  That’s a lot more work.

Batch #3: 3 Gallons + 1 Gallon pear became 6 gallons – 66% pear, 33% apple

In addition to the above, the pears generated another 4 gallons of juice (well, more like 4.5 – a bit more than a half gallon went into the fridge.)  These are going to be good for about 6% alcohol.  Amber had plans for the 3 gallon batch but it looks like she isn’t going to have time.  They both started fermentation naturally, and like the failed pear batch last year, the fermentation soon became very brisk.  We want to avoid another disaster, so starting a week ago we moved the carboys outside each night to expose them to the 50-55 degree cold.  So far this seems to be keeping the fermentation under control.  It still gets going rapidly in the afternoon, but a taste test today showed that it is not yet developing any of the nasty ester-like flavors that killed the batch last year.  The plan is to press more apples this weekend and mix the pear with the fresh apple juice.  This has the added bonus of already including live natural yeast.

October 7th, 2012 (approximate)

Picked and pressed apples from our tree in the back pasture.  This is an unknown variety, but it tends to have a very nice, crisp flavor and a good acid balance.  (In fact, a pH test with my new winemaking test strips showed it as being between 3.0 and 3.2.  This kit has a range of 2.8 to 4.4 with a color chart that shows .2 intervals.)  The apples are green and medium sized.  Some apples get a slight reddish blush when fully ripe and the color tends more towards light yellow.  They are firm fleshed and are good pie apples.  They don’t produce as much juice as the other apples we usually collect but the flavor is excellent.  The SG for this juice was 1.066 or 8.25% alcohol potential.

The 4 gallons of pear juice was racked into a 6 gallon carboy.  One half gallon of wildflower honey was added and then the carboy was topped off with this apple juice.  I estimate that this combination will produce approximately 12.5% alcohol when fermented dry.

March 8th, 2013

Racked into a fresh carboy.  Fermentation quit a long time ago.  This is our least favorite for the year.  It is not bad, and it has a good initial flavor.  It has a slightly off after taste and is a little lacking in acid balance.  This is something that I could happily drink as-is but it isn’t up to my usual standards.

March 15th, 2013

Added chai style spices:

  • 6 cardamom pods, discarded husks
  • 10 allspice berries, lightly crushed
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 vanilla bean

The vanilla bean was dry.  I am also going to add some fresh ginger but we didn’t have any in the house.  This is the same spice mix as I used in my chai-style spiced cyser batch in 2010 but with less vanilla.

March 17th, 2013

Added the missing chai spice:

  • fresh ginger – 6x 1/8″ thick slices, about 1″x3/4″ each

March 29th, 2013

Racked and added two cups of honey.  Pitched Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast.  (I see I forgot to record which yeast I pitched when I added the first batch of honey.  Oops.  It was probably a Red Star variety, I’m trying to use those up.)  This should be enough honey to add about 2% residual sugar.  As soon as the fermentation gets going I will bottle this batch.  The extra honey is for bottle fermentation.  The intent is to allow it all to go dry before opening any of the bottles.  The end product should be about 13.8% alcohol.

May 9th, 2013

This one sat for weeks before fermentation started again.  It finally did start within the last week or two.  Tonight it was bottled with about 1.5% residual sugar remaining and a nice batch of happy live yeast.  The end product, when dry, should still reach about 13.8% alcohol.  As it sits right now it’s about 13% alcohol with 1.5% residual sugar.  Every bottle is a private universe now.  Some of them may develop some unique and interesting flavors.  This time I am confident about the SG readings because the yeast had stirred everything together.

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