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Home Brewing – Progress Update #1

I wanted to post an update on my first attempt at home brewing hard cider. In my previous post My First Attempt at Home Brewing, I talked about the 5 batches I started. After 18 days of fermentation, I decided it was time to do some taste testing.

My First 5 Batches of Cider Fermenting

My First 5 Batches of Cider Fermenting

The results were interesting. I measured the specific gravity to estimate the alcohol content. All 5 batches measured at 5% ABV (alcohol by volume) or greater. This tells me that the fermentation process is fairly far along. Batch #5, which had the added agave nectar, should result in a higher ABV so it likely needs more time. Unfortunately, I failed to measure the specific gravity of that batch after adding the agave nectar, so I won’t be able to get a reliable measurement of ABV. Lesson learned.

I took samples from each batch with a sanitized wine thief. The taste test results are below. I’ve included the batch details for each followed by the results. Note that the results may be skewed on the later batches because I developed quite a buzz the more I sampled!

Results:
Batch 1:
• Whole Foods organic unfiltered pasteurized apple juice with 24 grams of sugar per 8 ounces ($9)
• 2.5 grams Red Star Montrachet champagne yeast
Taste Test Result and Observations: A bit of an off taste, and cloudy
ABV: 6.69%

Batch 2:
• Kirkland (Costco) fresh-pressed apple juice with 26 gm sugar per 8 ounces ($4.50)
• 2.5 grams Red Star Montrachet champagne yeast
Results: Very dry, tastes like a white wine, slightly cloudy
ABV: 6.56%

Batch 3:
• Kirkland (Costco) fresh-pressed apple juice with 26 gm sugar per 8 ounces ($4.50)
• 4 grams Safale S-04 dry ale yeast
Results: Slightly sweet, stronger flavor-a hint of apple, fairly clear
ABV: 6.30%

Batch 4:
• Motts apple juice from concentrate with 28 gm sugar per 8 ounces ($3.50)
• 4 grams Safale S-04 dry ale yeast
Results: Dry, milder flavor, cloudy
ABV: 5.78%

Batch 5:
• Motts apple juice from concentrate with 28 gm sugar per 8 ounces ($3.50)
• 4 grams Safale S-04 dry ale yeast
• ½ cup Agave nectar added (128 grams of additional sugar)
Results: Fairly dry, mild flavor, cloudy
ABV: I couldn’t measure this one. When I started the batch, I took the starting SG measurement before adding the agave nectar instead of after. So I can’t calculate the ABV.

Conclusions
None of the batches have cleared yet, so it seems to be too early to proceed to the next step. Most experts say to give them at least 3-4 weeks for the primary fermentation. I’m watching for them to get clear. Then the next step could be to rack them to a secondary fermentation vessel.

Or I could skip the secondary fermentation and go straight to bottling. I’m not brewing cider to sell – I just want to learn and make something good to drink. Plus I’m lazy, or as I like to call it, efficient. If it tastes good, I don’t care if it’s clear. So I will most likely move straight to bottling after the primary fermentation is done.

I don’t want to back-sweeten it. That is the process of adding sugar to sweeten it after fermentation has stopped. I want to break the addiction to sugar and this is a good place to start.

I do like a carbonated drink, so I will try bottle carbonating it with some added sugar. The procedure is to add a small amount of sugar (amount TBD) to the bottle before filling it. Then the bottle is capped and kept at room temperature for about a week to allow further fermentation. Finally it is refrigerated to stop the fermentation process. The end result should be a lightly carbonated cider.

My next update will be during the bottling process. I have no idea how this is going to turn out, but that’s what makes it interesting. These batches didn’t cost much to make. I expect the lessons learned from these first batches will be far more valuable than the cider I make.

Please share your thoughts and opinions in the Comments.
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