Saturday, April 19, 2014

Our 5 gallon home brew hard apple cider

So we've brewed 4 batches of hard apple cider now, each time starting with 5 gallons of Tree Top apple juice in a glass carboy, and just sticking it in the closet.  The thing that takes the most time by far is cleaning and prep, it's infinitely easier than brewing beer.  Because I don't have a fermentation chamber I use a closet, so in the winter I use a space heater to keep it a constant 65f.  We don't have air conditioning so in the spring & summer the temperatures bounce up and down daily, which probably isn't great for it.

After it's done fermenting I transfer the cider to a corny keg, drop it in the kegerator, hook it up to Co2, and then bleed it a bit to let out any oxygen.  It takes around a week to carb at 8psi (set it and forget it), and I take a taste of it every now and then to check on it.  I've never been in a big rush so I haven't bothered force carbing.

Each batch has been super active for about 4 days, requiring me to clean the airlock twice a day.  There is so much activity that it has "painted" the walls of the closet, so I've taken to hanging a ziplock back upside down to avoid repeating that.

Here's the first batch where I didn't clean the airlock for 24 hours, and we painted the walls of the closet.

Each batch has costed me roughly $30 (yeast + cider).

Batch 1: 
Duration: 3 weeks
Temperature: 65-70f daily
Yeast: US-A05 Yeast
Result: came out a little dry and awesome.  Never checked the ABV.
Life span: 3 months

Batch 2: 
Duration: 4 or 5 weeks,
Temperature: 70-75f daily
Yeast: Nottingham Dry Ale Yeast #235.
Result: came out tasting like paint thinner so I back sweetend it and waited.
ABV: 8 or 9%
Life span: tried to age it for 6 months and it improved but it was still pretty bad.  Down the drain.

I'm really not sure what went wrong here, probably a combination of higher temperatures, a longer duration, and a different yeast.  It'd be interesting to do this batch at 65f for 3 weeks to see how the yeast compares "apples to apples".  Pun intended :)

Batch 3: 
Duration: 3 weeks
Temperature: 65f
Yeast: US-A05
Result: came out with less flavor then batch #1 but still pretty good
ABV: 6%
Life span: 6 months, was quite good.

Batch 4:
Duration: 3 weeks
Temperature: 65f
Yeast: US-A05
Result: Has more flavor than previous batches but is very similar to batch 3.
ABV: A hair under 6%
Life span: Aged 4 months before tapping it last night, tastes pretty gooood.

Batch 5: 
Duration: 19 Days
Temperature: 70-74, avg 72?
Yeast: US-A05
FG: 1.012
ABV: 5-6%, didn't take OG.  Probably similar as before ~1..06
Result: tasted good straight out of the fermenter