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Questions about Hard Cider

A friend of mine suggested that using pasturized, unfiltered apple juice or so-called "fresh cider" would be preferable to buying or otherwise procuring unpasturized apple juice (if at all possible). His reasoning was that I could then introduce or otherwise control the yeasts that would produce a better product. To be clear about this, I'm not referring to apple concentrate or Motts off the shelf, I am talking about the gallon jugs of cloudy, unfiltered farm-stand apple juice that is always (or often) labeled "lightly pasturized.

Can I make hard cider with this?

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  1. I don't see why not. Yeast eats sugar, and pasteurization doesn't affect sugar at all.

    However I will say that the ciders I've had made from unpasturized juice are far, far superior to any other. The bacteria introduce a range of aromas and flavors that make for a much more interesting beverage. I find most commercial cider to be pretty boring and one-dimensional. A great Normandy cider though, unfiltered and unpasteurized, is a marvel of flavor.

    Of course, I'm not sure what you need to worry about in terms of bad bugs in there. There must be a book on the subject.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Josh

      There are a few titles out there, including a couple of editions of a cidermaking book by Annie Proulx, who went on to write The Shipping News IIRC. And Paul Correnty also has a good book on the subject.

      1. re: Josh

        Any such ciders available in the states (specifically, LA)?

          1. re: Jim Dorsch

            That's the exact one I was going to recommend, Jim. That stuff is incredible.

          2. re: Pei

            http://www.westcountycider.com/ciders...

            these guys make some truly excellent ciders, available in new england, not so sure about la.

            1. re: andytee

              I've seen their stuff at least one place here in CA. Wasn't all that into it - kind of boring. Normandy cider is where it's at, IMO.

        1. I have made hard cider for many years both at home and for a commercial cider company.

          The unpasteurized farm stand juice is definately the stuff to use. It has a much better flavor than the pasteurized stuff. You do have to use camden tablets to sterilize it overnight to kill any bacteria or wild yeasts. Then you add a yeast formulated specifically for hard cider.

          The stuff in supermarkets sometimes/usually has a small amount of preservatives that will kill your cider yeast and it won't ferment.

          9 Replies
          1. re: JMF

            Some ciders (such as the one I mention above) are fermented with the unpasteurized juice, no yeast pitched. Do you not recommend that?

            1. re: Jim Dorsch

              Some brewers are scared of the naturally occuring bugs and they deliberately sterilize the product so they have complete control of the end result. This gives you predictable flavors that you can count on. The Dupont is not made this way. The Dupont production is similar to Belgian lambic, allowing the fermentation to take place with the bacteria intact, which gives a much more interesting, if unpredictable, flavor.

              Each style has its place. The kind of folks who enjoy chugging Wyders or Woodchuck would probably find the Dupont unappealing.

              1. re: Josh

                One has to keep in mind that in reality the yeast isn't really wild anymore with long term producers. Yeast always escapes with each batch and they become part of the wild yeasts available in an area. The newer yeasts are the ones that grew the best in the cider, wine, etc. and so by natural selection are better suited to the fermentation. This is why the Belgian lambic producers never clean their facilities because the wild yeasts and lactic bacteria are so well suited for that type of fermentation.

              2. re: Jim Dorsch

                Using wild yeast/spontaneous fermentation means that you have many variables beyond your control. It depends upon your region whether the wild yeast will make a tasty product or one that has undesirable flavors.

                I made some very interesting tasting ciders and fruit wines with wild yeast when I was in college out on Long Island, NY. Something about the region produced great local wild yeasts. Where I am currently, in Westchester, NY. The few times I tried to ferment with wild yeasts every item came out with a sour off taste. For the beginner I recommend sterilizing your juice and using a commercial cider yeast strain. These are yeasts that have been grown to give the cider (or beer, wine, mead, etc.) certain flavor profiles and the yeast is adapted to growng well in a specific product. Using a bread yeast or an ale yeast will make your cider taste unusual. After a few sucessful batches then try using wild yeast. Although they won't be totally wild since you sometimes introduce yeasts to an area just from the tiny amount that escapes from home brewing. As in cooking it is always better to start with a proven recipe until you know how to make it and what it should taste like, then you can start changing one item at a time to create your own version. The secret to great brewing is sanitation, control, and keeping detailed records of every single thing you do to your product from start to finish. Creativity is great but you have to know what you did that created a new great or lousy product so you can repeat it or prevent it the next time you brew.

              3. re: JMF

                If i choose to use the camden tablets to sterilize the cider, will they alter the flavor in any way? I am about to brew my first batch with a few friends so any help would be great. What type of yeast has worked best for you? I have heard a lot of good things about the L1118 strain.

                1. re: maritimer95gt

                  The camden tablets won't change the flavor profile in any way. I don't like the L1118 strain which is a champagne yeast. They don't add anything to the flavor profile because they are neutral, but you can end up with a cider so dry it can be sour. I would use a decent white wine yeast, say for a Riesling style, or a specific cider or sweet mead yeast. I like to have some residual sugars there so that the cider has a hint of body, and isn't mouth puckeringly sour. I would also try to get as many different types of apples into your initial cider. They more complex the blend, the better the hard cider will be.

                  1. re: JMF

                    Yes, you want to get some good, tannic apples in there, and other types. Find a copy of Paul Correnty's book, or the one by Proulx and Nichols. They discuss types of apples to mix into a cider.

                  2. re: maritimer95gt

                    Be careful, though to allow the cider to rest for at least 24 hours after adding the camden tablets. They release a sulfurous smell that does clear off but is not something that you want lingering.

                    After my first batch, I stopped doing the camden and always got good results. It's up to you. I agree 100% with JMF on the L1118 strain. My results from that yeast were good, though quite dry and somewhat tart.

                    1. re: Ernie Diamond

                      If you use a good commercial yeast, and the cider is very fresh, then you don't have to camden. Only do so if the cider is more than a few days old.

                2. While I prefer unpasteurized to drink, I think the preservatives would keep your yeast activity down. Pasteurized might ferment better, if it doesn't also have preservatives. It is probably hard to find unpasteurized, unpreserved cider and you'd probably have to know someone in the biz and give him a waiver to get it. Frozen concentrate might work if it isn't loaded with preservatives. My background is from having a little home brewing and wine making experience and enjoying cider from the area orchards. Let us know when your first batch comes out and we'll come over and try it. It is very popular in UK.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: dijon

                    In my area, NYC and Hudson Valley, NY there are many local cider makers who offer unpasteurized, no preservative sweet ciders for sale that they make themselves. Every fall I buy 5-10 gallons and make hard cider. Then in the late winter I use whatever is left over to make my own cider vinegar from the dregs of the hard cider.

                    1. re: JMF

                      JMF

                      That's terrific, I have never been able to find unpasteurized, unpreserved in the midwest. The occasional cider borne microorganism illness has everyone scared about liability. I think it is something like the unpasteurized milk biz, very spotty availability.

                      1. re: dijon

                        Unpasturized cider is very easy to come by in Michigan, especially here in Traverse City.

                  2. Great discussion. I have beer brewing experience, cider looks straight forward. Looking to get a batch working. Any suggestions in getting close tastes to Magners and then the one listed here - Dupont?

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: patdrennan

                      The Dupont cider website notes that its product is unpasteurized & unfiltered...which means you could culture the yeasts/bacteria from a bottle of Dupont & use them to ferment your own cider. (As long as that bottle has been treated fairly well in transit)

                      I've done that many times for various beer yeasts. Two caveats - pay attention to sanitation (ie, flame the lip of the source bottle before pouring off the liquid). The exposed lip of the Dupont bottle will likely be heavily contaminated with undesirable yeasts & bacteria...you don't want those carried along with the good stuff. Also, sometimes the yeast used for bottling a beverage is not exactly the same one used to ferment it...but they are usually close relatives.

                      1. re: liegey

                        Im agree about culturing the yeast. That is probably the only way you will get a similar tasting cider.

                      2. I have never made hard cider and I am wondering how difficult it is to make? My father and uncle made beer and wine when I was younger, but I have never tried to use yeast for anything other than bread dough.

                        I was buying fall produce at a local orchard the other day, and they are staring to press their own cider. The owner said that he would sell me fresh (unpasteurized) cider straight from the press for $1.00 a gallon if I supplied the containers. Would this be the best starting point, or should I have it pasteurized it with the cider that they sell?

                        What kind of yeast is used to make hard cider?

                        How long (approx time) is the ferment?

                        I have my fathers 5 gallon glass carboy and a bubbler cap, will that work?

                        Thanks in advance, and I hope I didn't hi-jack the thread.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Kelli2006

                          It's very easy. Order special cider yeast. Primary fermentation is anywhere from 1-3 weeks depending upon the temp. The warmer, the faster, the worse tasting. The colder the slower, the better tasting. Secondary fermentation of 1-2 months for best taste. Do a cider making search online for tons of directions.

                          1. re: Kelli2006

                            Anyone else no where to get cider for $1.00 a gallon...If I could get a steady supply at that price I would be VERY interested...great that you have a source....Hold onto it with both hands.