Hard Cider Update

This evening, we racked our batch of hard cider that we’ve been brewing from Beardsley Orchard’s special heirloom batch of cider. We used a Weizen yeast and let it work for three weeks and two days. We probably would have racked it off a few days earlier, but we’ve been busy with other things. So, the yeast had pretty much stopped working.

As with most of our ciders, we start with a six gallon batch. When the fermentation has substantially slowed down, we rack off five gallons to a smaller carboy, and bottle the remaining cider. So, from this batch, we bottled three 22 ounce bottles and eight twelve ounce bottles. I like to keep three 22 ounce bottles from each batch as sort of a reserve. At some point, I’ll open some of them to see how they’ve aged. However, most of our cider gets drunk before it gets a chance to age. Other than the reserve, we have no bottles from last year and were down to three or four bottles from a few of our batches this year.

We also pour off a large glass to test the cider. This batch has a tart fruity taste; dry, with a touch of astringency, but nicely keeping the apple tastes. Some of this may be because of the Weizen yeast, and some of it may be because of the heirloom blend, which includes quince.

We’ll let the five gallon carboy bubble for a few days. Based on how it is looking, I suspect that we may be ready to bottle the rest of this batch by the weekend. Then, we will start off on our final special holiday batch.

We have special considerations for the yeast for this final batch. People have said that the sugar content of late season cider tends to be higher, so we’re looking for a yeast that can produce a higher alcohol content. Yet we also want one that can tolerate lower temperatures since we generally leave the heat down low in our house during the winter. Also, I tend to avoid yeast that ‘produce clean dry profiles with low ester formation’. I like to experiment with the different flavors the yeast can add.

From this I’m thinking that I’ll skip the Eau de vie yeast. It requires a warmer house, and comes out cleaner. Champagne yeast can tolerate a colder house, but also doesn’t leave a lot of flavor. Instead, I’m leaning towards various red wine yeasts, Zinfandel, Rudesheimer, Chianti, or Chateau Red all tend to tolerate lower temperatures, higher alcohol content and leave more of the flavors. We’ll see what the brewery store has in stock.

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