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.

From: Lynn Hadley
Subject: Pulping the Apples

Message Body:
Can you use a magi mix to chop up the apples before you put them in the press

——

Hi Lynn

My very first foray into juicing apples was with a magi mix and it does work. The problem though is that it is just so slow. To chop enough apples for a gallon of cider will take from here to Christmas, and your kitchen will be a mess. Oh, and you will probably burn out the magi mix motor too.

A cheap and effective alternative is to buy a pulp master for around £15 ($20) . This is a lidded bucket with a blade built in to the lid. You attach a drill and can pulp an entire bucketful of apples in less than 20 seconds flat. You can do it outdoors and not concern yourself with ruining you kitchen gadgets. Let a pulp master be your first investment.

Best of luck

In the name of academic research we resolved to answer, once and for all the important question of what Drinking vessel produces the best cider drinking experience. Science is a dirty job but someone’s got to do it.

Each drinking vessel was to be scored on a scale of 0 to 10 for each of the following factors.

  • ease of use
  • Lip comfort
  • Hand friendliness
  • Atmospherics
  • Cool quotient
  • Flavour

We chose the following vessels for analysis.

Plastic (PET) bottle (2 litre)

Traditional handled and dimpled pint glass

Nonick Glass

Champagne flute

Tulip glass

Pewter tankard

Porcelain Stein

Methodology

In order to ensure the alisity of the experiment we used the same cider for each tasting. We chose a 2014 home brewed concoction that ran at about 8% and had been christened “The Destroyer” a couple of weekends ago.

The results

Starting with the PET bottle we rated this poorly for almost every factor except atmospherics. It turned out the reason the judges had it on the list in the first place was that they all remembered their formative cider experiences involving large bottles of white lightning down the park with their mates as teenagers.

When full, a 2 L PET bottle is too heavy; when half full it becomes unwieldy and when empty you probably have a headache. The shape of the bottle opening does nothing for the mouth and can (in one instance) even lead  to a chipped tooth.

Handled pint glass. This was the class that I assumed everybody would like best. The traditional dimpled and handled pint glass that was popular in pubs up until the 1990s. The glass that looks vaguely like a hand grenade has thick sides and the comforting weight. However one or two of the judges felt that this glass made them look uncool. I pointed out that they were drinking home brewed cider. Their and my understanding of the word ‘cool’ is clearly at odds.

Next we tried drinking cider from a nonick glass. I didn’t even know that these glasses had a name. We are talking about the standard pub glass with a slight bulge about two thirds of the way up the glass. The consensus of opinion was “meh”, “neither one thing nor the other” and “it’s fine”.

The team were starting to sway slightly at this point and I became worried for the efficacy of the experiment. Nonetheless we soldiered on.

Thankfully the next class was a standard champagne glass so only a small drink. Everybody enjoyed drinking their cider from the champagne glasses. The reason was that you could see the champagne (sorry, cider) very clearly and get a great idea Of its true colour and even watch the bubbles rise.  Using a flute  like this made the whole cider drinking experience seem a lot more upper-class and indeed more jovial. We all liked this. The only downside was that you have to keep refilling the flute every couple of minutes because it only holds a small amount of cider.

Next we moved on to tulip glasses. Please very popular in Europe but less so here in the UK. Luckily we had been to Belgium recently and come back with a number of branded (Leffe I think) tulip beer glasses. Basically these are bigger, more bulbous and more solidly built variants on champagne flutes. So you get all the benefits of a flute, I.e. bubbles and sophistication, and also you get more drink in the glass. So far, this was the clear favourite.

Next I pulled out the big guns, In the shape of some pewter tankards. Now these are traditional cider drinking vessels of the highest order. We all Enjoyed the coldness that seemed to be associated with pewter. We enjoyed the historic significance of drinking from those vessels that we all remember handing from shelves at the back of pubs. Above all, there is a sort of rustic charm that chimes beautifully with the rustic nature of cider itself.

One of the judges then spoiled the whole thing by telling us that pewter lead in it and we would poison ourselves to death if we didn’t stop drinking from them right away. At this point we were to far down the path of experimentation to focus on the iPad and check on google whether this was true or not.

So we switched to the final vessel a German porcelain stein with pewter lid. I think we declared it a winner, but my memories are pretty hazy from that part of the evening and my scribbled notes are unreadable.  Oh, well the only sensible option is to re-run the experiment next weekend.  All in the name of science of course.

Here we are just a few weeks from harvest(although some of you with early cropping apples will be closer even than that)  so it is a great time to get the equipment out of the shed for an inspection. 

Start with your scratter. The device that turns apples into apple pulp is one of the most important parts of cider making. Many are made from wood and wood doesn’t have an infinite life span. So check whether the whole thing is sound and solid. Next look at the teeth. Are any of them loose? Are any rusted? Most important of all, when you cleaned it at the end of last season did you miss any bits? Tiny pieces of apple that have been sitting on your scratter all year will harbour germs. Perhaps now is a good time to give the whole thing a thorough scrubbing. Once that is done put it together and insure the ends of the spindle are lubricated. Make sure the boxing has not become warped. Finally, make sure that iwhen you put it away after it’s good cleaning, it is thoroughly dry. If your scratter is going back in the shed, put it in a polythene bag so that you don’t need to do more than a simple wipe down in a few weeks time when you use it.

As for the Apple press it self, the most important part is the screw. Give it a good few turns and make sure the thread is running freely. Other than that it is a matter of cleaning much as you did the scratter.  Take the time to get into every corner. I have been known to work on my press with an old toothbrush. On a nice sunny weekend spending a few hours cleaning your press is therapeutic work. Enjoy making sure your kit is clean and ready for use and think of the amazing cider you are going to produce.

Next, make sure that all of the smaller pieces of equipment you use are still to be found. Four example, my long handled spoon has disappeared. Had I discovered this when I actually needed the spoon it might have been a minor disaster.  But because I took the time to check now, I still have a week or 2 to go shopping. While on the subject of shopping, have you bought yeast?

Unless you are one of those brave cider makers who lets the neutral Yeast take its course, you will want to purchase some good quality cider yeast.

And what about airlocks and bungs? Do you know where your hydrometer is? All of this planning now Will save you from heartache in the future.