This was a question I was asked the other day. My instinct ( a hangover from my beer brewing days) has always been to use dark brown bottles which are specifically there to keep the sunlight levels down, but many supermarket brands put their cider in clear glass.Continue reading “Does cider need to be kept away from direct sunlight?”
How to restart a stuck fermentation
Ollie wrote to us to say the following:
I have just started my very first batch of cider, picked and pressed myself.
My question is, I did not use a fermenting bucket – instead I put the juice, yeast nutrient and yeast into a demijohn with an airlock.
The first few days I had lots of bubbles, but for the last three days nothing has happened, I read that there should be a steady ‘blip’ of bubbles, one every minute or so for a week or two.
Any advice would be great.
Hi Ollie and welcome to the fizzy, fruity and ocassionally headache inducing world of cidermaking.
We generally use a bucket or similar vessel at first because a good ferment will produce a heck of a lot of bubbles. The top of the bucket might look something like a kids bubble bath for a few days. If you start straight off in a demjohn you get tons of bubbles gunking up the top, pouring over and generally making a mess.
As you didn’t mention any of that I suspect or your fermentation never really got off the ground. Either that, or your bung has an air leak (unlikely).
So how do you restart a ‘stuck’ fermentation?
I suspect your yeast, so re-pitch with a fresh starter. Thats fancy talk for ‘throw in some more yeast’.
Fill a glass vessel with roughly 3/4 of a pint of water. Add 4 tablespoons of sugar and disolve. Get a fresh packet of yeast. Stir in the yeast and whisk thoroughly. Cover with cling film and leave in a nice warm spot for half an hour. The yeast should be vigourously working on the sugar by now and the top should have a good layer of bubbles.
Pitch the sugar/water/yeast mix into your demijohn. Make sure you have plenty of newspaper underneath as there should be a mess for few days.Do not replace the airlock. Just stuff a loose wad of kitchen roll paper in the top to keep the flies out. The fermenting juice will be putting out enough CO2 for the first few days to keep everything clean anyway.
Once the mess has subsided, replace the paper bung with your airlock and watch it blip merrily for a couple of weeks.
Sometimes a phrase really resonates. The new phrase for me is “Once you go conical you won’t go back.”
And seriously this is probably true for everyone who switches from flat bottomed to conical fermentation vessels. (If you are someone who proves me wrong, I would love to hear from you.)
What is conical fermentation?
So what’s the big deal? Well have you ever toured a brewery? All those big shiny fermenters have something in common with each other. They all have an ice cream cone shaped bottom.
why is that good? Well there are two huge reasons. One, it’s easier and two it produces a better brew.
when we brew in flat bottom vessels we have to siphon off from one vessel to another to take the brew off the “lees” that can spoil the flavour of our cider or beer.
With a conical fermenter you don’t need to do this. The dead yeast falls to the bottom of the cone where you can simply close a valve and unscrew and empty the lees leaving the brew happily working through its second fermentation. You don’t need a siphon, you don’t need a secondary fermentation vessel and there are no contamination concerns to keep you awake at night.
When you take the little pot of lees out of the system, you can use the yeast to start the next batch of brew.
so to sum up the benefits of conical fermenters:
You only need one so it’s cheaper
You only need one so it’s space saving
They are easy to use
They are less likely to lead so spoiled batches
For these reasons I think the phrase “On e you go conical you won’t go back” really is justified.
So I have been going around for years saying that there is no such thing as Pear Cider. It turns out that I was completely wrong. I falsely believed the term was just a marketing gimmick to rename Perry and boost sales on the back of the Cider sales resurgence of the last few years.
I was in Lidl this week and saw some Kentish grown Galmac apples for sale. I have never tasted Galmac before so I gave them a try and was very pleasantly surprised. As early apples go, these are a corker. A cross between Gala and Supermac, the variety was first cultivated in France and is popular in Europe. The flavour has a pear like quality.
Today (early September 2016) we went blackberry picking with friends and their kids. After half an hours wandering the local hedgerows we came across a large self seeded apple tree that was dripping with several hundredweight of fruits. We took a bite and found them sweet and delicious and in that moment decided that this was the weekend for our first cider making session of the year.
Andy F. has sent us the following email about fermentation temperatures:
“I want to make my own cider from scratch this year. I intend to use a sectioned off part of a timber workshop which is well insulated. I was thinking off standing the fermentation bin on a heated mat that winemakers stand their demijohns on. Please can you let me know what the ideal temperature I should keep the mix at?
Can you make cider from shop bought apples?
Quite simply, yes you can. However the cost of a big bucket of apples, which equates to a gallon of cider if you are lucky can be prohibitive. But if you are lucky enough to find the supermarket our your local greengrocer selling off old apples for a few pence a pound, snap them up and make some cider.
Joe Morgan wrote to ask if he had sufficient tannin in his recipe:
“I have a lovely old Bramley (4m tall) a small James Grieve (3-4 years) and a small Charles Ross (3 years).
My questions are…
Would I need to obtain some crab apples for tannin?
What is the best time to harvest each tree, early or late?
Well Joe, firstly your mix will be fine without additional apples, but would be even better with some apples with a high tannin content. Crab apples generally offer this, and they do seem to be everywhere, so just ask around. If you cannot find any you could (purists look away now) add some black teas or raisins to the brew. This will give you some of the flavour profile provided by crab apples. You might even consider adding oak chips.
As for the best time to harvest, I wait till the apples are falling naturally. Let the trees decide when its harvest time. If not all trees drop at the same time, that is no problem. After all, the fallen apples can sit for a week or two in a pile in the garden. This generally improves things in my opinion.