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Home Brewing – Progress Update #2

Today is another update on my first attempt at home brewing hard cider. In my previous posts My First Attempt at Home Brewing and Home Brewing – Progress Update #1, I talked about the 5 batches I started. The batches have been fermenting for 28 days now. It is time to do some more taste testing and possibly some bottling.

My First 5 Batches of Cider Fermenting

My First 5 Batches of Cider Fermenting

I did another round of taste testing. The results are below. This time I didn’t measure the specific gravity. It was high enough last time that I think the fermentation was mostly complete. I want to avoid turning a fun project into work, so I skipped this step. One results was similar – the buzz after the taste testing!

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: dry, cloudy

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
Taste Test Result and Observations: slightly sweet, clear

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
Taste Test Result and Observations: dry, clear

Batch 4:
• Motts apple juice from concentrate with 28 gm sugar per 8 ounces ($3.50)
• 4 grams Safale S-04 dry ale yeast
Taste Test Result and Observations: slightly sweet, clear

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)
Taste Test Result and Observations: dry, clouder

Conclusions
The only batch that hadn’t cleared fairly well was the one that made from unfiltered juice. It started out extremely cloudy, so I made the assumption that it might not ever clear.

Because most of the batches have cleared well and the taste has improved since last time, I decided it was time to bottle some of it. I didn’t want to get into any elaborate bottling equipment, so earlier in the week I ordered some 16-ounce flip-top bottles. These bottles allow you to easily bottle with any fancy equipment. The idea was to minimize the investment until I’m sure I’ll keep doing this, so I only got 12 of them. That’s enough to fill 2 16-ounce bottles from each batch.

That meant I would be leaving almost 75% of the batch in the original jug, which would risk the rest of the batch due to oxygen contamination. I was willing to sacrifice some of the cider while I learn which batches I like. In the future, I will narrow down the process the ones I like the most and of course bottle all of it in future batches. Eventually I’ll decide either to get more flip-top bottles or to move up to bottling equipment.

I used a racking cane to do the bottling. After sanitizing the racking cane in StarSan, I filled 2 bottles from each batch. One bottle was filled and put immediately into the refrigerator to cold crash, or stop any further fermentation. The second bottle had ½ teaspoon of brown sugar added before filling. It was capped and left on the shelf in the dark closet to prime, or bottle carbonate. The added sugar is fermented by remaining yeast to added some carbonation. After 7 days I moved these bottles to the refrigerator to cold crash.

Here are all of my test bottles in the fridge:

Cider Bottles

Cider Bottles

The crude labels are post-it notes taped on with the relevant details. Five of them are primed and five are not. Now I will be patient and wait a few weeks before trying them. I’m looking forward to doing some taste testing very soon.

Please share your thoughts and opinions in the Comments.
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