From: Ian Smith
Subject: Starting the fermentation process
I have filled two small metal beer barrels with apple juice and relied on the yeast on the apple skins to start the fermentation. Very little is happening after two days although there are signs of minor action. When I did a dummy run in an open container fermentation started quite quickly. What can I do to rescue the situation?
My thoughts on your dilemma are as follows.
You say that you have two barrels, so why not play safe with one and be brave with the other? You can keep the ‘wild yeast’ experiment going in one barrel and use the other to guarantee at least half a crop in case the other fails.
Add campden tablets to one barrel to kill off any yeast. Make a new starter using a sachet of purchased cider yeast and pitch it in 24 hours after the campden tablets have done their work. This is your backstop and should produce a standard cider.
As for the other, more interesting barrel. Well you say there are signs of ‘minor action’, so I would be tempted to help that get going. Nothing too drastic. Just wrap a couple of blankets around the barrel for added insulation and give it more time.
Good luck Ian, and do let us know how you get on.