- Musselman’s: 100% Juice Apple Cider
- Light Brown Sugar
- R.W. Knudsen Just Black Cherry Juice
- Red Star Pasteur Blanc Yeast
- Yeast Nutrient
I want to start out by saying this is not a “how to” post, this is a documentation of what I did during my cider experiments, what worked and what didn’t. If you’re interested in doing this yourself, check out my Getting Started post for some tips and equipment. Otherwise use my experiments as a reference for what I did and hopefully learn a bit in the process. So to start out this third experiment I decided to try something different. I was fairly pleased with the results of Experiment # 2 so I began with the same base apple cider and brown sugar. I was browsing cider forums and came across a recipe for, what the post author called “Unicorn Blood” and it sounded delicious. The post author gave his recipe of 3 1/2 gallons apple juice and 1 1/2 gallons of black cherry juice (which I was able to find at Publix). So converting the recipe for a 1 gallon batch I determined I needed approx 38 oz of Black Cherry Juice, unfortunately the jar I bought was only 32 oz so it was going to have to do. I poured out approximately 32 oz of the cider into a pitcher and saved it, (for my family to drink) to make room for the addition of the black cherry juice. Heated the remaining cider to 120ºF and added in the brown sugar. I decided to cut the brown sugar from what I used in the last batch an appropriate amount to equal the cider I was using. (I divided the sugar grams by the cider ounces ~ 453 g ÷ 128 oz = 3.54 g per ounce. Since I was using 94 oz of cider I used 340 g of brown sugar). I let this sugary concoction cool and added it to the 32 oz of black cherry juice, but saved 1/4 cup of the cider for rehydration of the yeast. Heated this 1/4 cup of cider in the microwave to 100ºF – added 1 packet of yeast and 1 Tsp of yeast nutrient and allowed to sit for 20 minutes. While I was waiting I tested the gravity of the new mixture which came out to 1.078 @ 75ºF adjusted to 1.079 @ 60ºF. After 20 minutes I Pitched the yeast and set the airlock… I want to try and control the fermentation a bit better than last time so I am attempting to lower the temperature to between 60-65ºF during fermentation using a water bath and ice packs.
Update March 6, 0216: I pulled the batch to test the gravity and taste of the brew. I want to try and catch this brew before all the sugar ferments out and leaves me with another dry, bitter drink. Plus I am concerned I will not be able to backsweeten properly if I let it get too dry. The gravity proved difficult because fermentation was still occurring and the bubbles would adhere to the Hydrometer making it rise soon after it settled. The reading I was able to repeat after several tries was 1.060 @ 67ºF adjusted to 1.061 @ 60ºF which tells me the brew is only 2.36% ABV at this point in the process. Took a small sample in a cup and set in the freezer to cold crash and taste.
Update March 7, 2016: (110 hours) into the brew, last night before I went to bed I took a sample and placed it in the fridge to cold crash. I wanted to get a stable gravity reading. The reading this morning was 1.001 @ 48ºF adjusted to 1.000 @ 60ºF giving me an ABV of 10.37% – Perhaps I should have checked the gravity this way yesterday because this is a bit beyond what I wanted. The taste was strong and slightly bitter. Not terrible but I am hoping the alcohol will mature with age. I placed the entire jug in the fridge to cold crash and perhaps will entertain several different methods of backsweetening. I am concerned that adding sugar may kill the dynamic apple cider / black cherry flavor.
Update March 10, 2016: After 2 days in the fridge I racked the brew into a 1 gallon carboy with 1/2 TSP of Potassium Sorbate and approximately 20 oz of Black Cherry Juice for flavor bringing the entire brew back up to around 1 full gallon. Tested the gravity and it was 1.040 @ 47ºF adjusted to 1.039 @ 60ºF giving me a new ABV of 5.12%. The taste was good, not what I expected, a bit tart but overall good. The brew is green, so the alcohol taste is a bit strong, I am hoping that will burn off with age. I bottled the brew in six 16 oz flip top bottles and 1 old champagne bottle I had. The quantity I had fit exactly in the 7 bottles I had so it worked out swimmingly. Since I don’t have a corker I used a wine saver top that I already had. Before closing the tops of these I used a baking soda and vinegar mixture to produce CO2 to fill the top, flushing out the oxygen from the bottles before sealing. Then placed them in a mini-fridge I have in the garage set to 50ºF for aging. I am anxious to see how the aged cider turns out. Since the ABV is low I may not have to age this brew long before it’s ready.