View Full Version : Fruit juice and cider

28-11-16, 23:11
I've been trying my hand at making cider out of the many apples we have growing, but it's not nice at all. Has anyone here made cider successfully?

My first batch, a few years ago, was palatable (just), my second years turned into rather nice ACV, last year's batch was particularly horrible and the process got off to a bad start with a stained ceiling when an airlock got blocked and caused the cork to pop under the pressure...

I'm thinking maybe I should give up on cider, and juice my apples instead. But they are very sour, one of the trees is a cider apple tree, and also I'd have to throw away a lot of apples.

29-11-16, 08:35
I have absolutely no experience with making cider from raw materials - in fact the cider that I made wasn't even that good from shop-bought kits (my opinion).

Instead of throwing away the fruit, maybe contact a 'microbrewery'. They may be grateful of your offer, and might even give you some 'freebies' in return.

29-11-16, 12:10
The sourer apples, even down to crab apples, are usually best for making sauce, jams or jellies. Don't forget apple pies.

Dry cider is also an option, I'm not sure why yours is being so variable.
Could simply be down to the weather we have had any particular year. (always affects wine grapes as well).

Remember there are lots of yeasts and other moulds/blooms growing on the skins, again just what will depend on the weather.
Unless you are relying on these yeasts to do natural fermentation then you need to wash these off well before pressing.
I would also look at how you are pressing and straining the apples, are you getting the impurities out?

I've goy to say it's a while since I've done cider but I never used an airlock setup.
Just fermented it in lidded barrels like you would beer (using a bottom yeast) and then bottled it with half a teaspoon of sugar.
Lost a few exploding bottles due to too much sugar but that's part of the fun.

When it comes to jams one of my favourites to make was apple and blackberry jam, the blackberry helped to counter the sourness of the crab apples used.
Even better all the apples and blackberrys were free, picked from the hedegrows, only had to pay for the sugar and a jar of pectin.

If you can manage to do cider from scratch then jams and jellies should be fairly easy for you as well.

29-11-16, 12:54
The teen and I had mulled cider a couple of days ago
A great way to leep the cold out!

29-11-16, 18:43
Yummy, deebee. Did you brew it, mull it or buy it?

29-11-16, 19:44
Marks and spencer I am afraid,just came home and warmed it slowly after crimbo shopping

29-11-16, 19:46
Nuke, what is bottom yeast? I used champagne yeast for its alcohol tolerance, and I have added sugar one year, but I still got horrible cider, only with more alcohol. Problem with all these things is that they are all so very apple flavoured, as well as chock full of sugar! Though we do make good apple & custard and apple & other fruit jam, I must say.

29-11-16, 19:48
I love a crumble!........

29-11-16, 20:02
Nuke, what is bottom yeast?
In beer brewing there are top yeasts, usually used for ales and darker brews.

There are also bottom yeasts, usually used for lighter brews, lagers, etc. which work at slightly lower tempratures.

The names come from where the yeast sits in the barrel, top yeasts float on top - bottom yeasts sink to the bottom.


I'm not sure what a champagne yeast would be classed as, that's more wine brewing than beer brewing.
Having said that, as wines are usually made in warmer climates I suspect that they would use top yeasts?

From what you said before about airlocks it suggests that you have been using wine making methods, maybe you might do better using beer making methods?

It seems that these days you can buy yeasts specificaly for cider, I always used to use a lager yeast.

29-11-16, 20:06
Here's my guideline, if anyone wants to try brewing. I got a book from the library and followed it slavishly at first, but these days I do it by guesswork and memory. About 2 big (20 litre) buckets of apples makes about a gallon of juice. It's a 2-person effort for us. We both pick up windfalls or sometimes pick the apples (though the previous resident here cut off all the easily-reached branches, which makes things difficult) and wash them. Then I sterilise all the equipment while my mother does a lot of cutting up and cleaning up the apples, she discard any brown marks, codling worms, bruises, black skin etc. so we're left with basically perfect apple, which I feed, skin, pips and all through our long-suffering masticating juicer. Then, juice poured into demijohns, I measure the sugar level, nod wisely at the result, add yeast, wait some hours for the crazy fermentation to settle, put in bungs with airlocks half full of vodka to keep the bacteria out, and leave it in the dark for a couple of weeks until it goes clear.

Then it's time to rack it off, that is, siphon the cider off the sediment and gunk in the old demijohns into new demijohns to carry on fermenting. I test the sugar again and once imore nod wisely at the result. You're meant to start with a certain specific gravity and end with a lower amount as the yeast converts the sugar into alcohol, but I don't do that control. But my cider making book says I must test the sugar, so I do. Then I leave it for a few weeks in the new demijohn, then either rack it again or bottle it.

Racking is a horrible, messy process (so is bottling) and it causes arguments in our house. You put a siphon tube down into the demijohn as far as the layer of gunk. You hold the tube absolutely still so the gunk doesn't swirl up into your nice clear liquid. You get ready to put the other end of the tube in the bottom of a sterile demijohn. You complain at your assistant for allowing the first end to move and swirl up the sediment. You suck the end of the tube to prime it (yuck) and as soon as it's primed you put it in the new demijohn. You have to exclude air as best you can to prevent bacteria getting into it because the bacteria gives it “off flavours”. (Apparently it's possible to have cider that tastes worse than mine.) To exclude air, the siphon tube ends must always be at the bottom of the bottles or demijohns, not the top. And always, from the outset, you have to make sure the fruit flies never, ever touch the cider or it will turn into vinegar.

After I've gone through one or two fermentation cycles in the demijohns and my sugar measuring gadget says it's fermented enough, it's time to bottle it into sterilized bottles, which is the same as racking only more fiddly. I leave it in the bottles until I am afraid the bottles might explode. I don't put in chemicals to halt the fermentation, but fermentation generally slows down gradually and the yeast dies when the alcohol gets too much for it, so there's not really much risk of exploding bottles. I was advised by my neighbor to leave it in the bottles until spring to mature if I wanted better flavour. I tried that one year, but the flavour was no better. So ours is normally polished off by the end of January.

Year before last I decided to try making a batch of cider made out of season with apple juice from Asda. It was a complete failure as the juice killed my yeast and went rotten. And I discovered I can get handy bits of equipment to help with racking and bottling, I've bought self priming siphons and all sorts of things, but racking is still a pain and the cider is no better for all the extras. If I've forgotten to write key things here, I probably always forget it, so it might be another reason for my cider not being delicious! But it's always magical to see cloudy, ugly juice transformed into clear, golden cider.

30-11-16, 09:47
You can find places that will juice your apples for you and you buy the cider from them......

30-11-16, 10:24
We send our apples, usually a couple of hundred KG to a cider maker.. Crates of cider in the past..

What we have made quite well is a myrobel (cherry plum) wine (tastes a bit like sherry) and not half bad in small amounts.

Some years are better than others but it did get a prize in the local show:)

30-11-16, 16:30

That is definitely the wine making way, with the demijohns and air traps.
I guess that would be used to make a high strength, still (not fizzy), cider 15-20 ABV.

For a fizzy, beer strength (OK a bit stronger, 6-10 ABV), cider we used to do it this way:

soak the apples overnight in a big barrel of water. (Gets the worms and bugs out).
throw that water (and bugs) away and wash the skins in fresh water.
cut out any bad bits, stalks etc.
chop up, either by hand or using a macerating machine.
layer the chunks between two or more boards. (usually as a stack of boards).
you could use cloths between the boards and apples, don't forget to wring the juice out of them later.
press the juice out. (we had a homemade gadget that used a couple of hydraulic car jacks).
filter through a seive.

That's got the jucie got out of the apples.
You could buy juice (not the supermarket stuff in a box), or concentrate in a cider making kit if you dont have access to apples.

put the juice in a big fermentation bucket, and measure the sugar content (specific gravity).
add some brewers (invert) sugar if you want a higher initial SG. (higher alcohol at the end).
sprinkle on the yeast of your choice. (yes the yeast can make a difference).
put the, airtight, lid on.
sit it in a cool place for a few weeks to ferment. (how long depends on the temperature, the sugar content, etc.)
check the Specific Gravity (sugar content) now and again. (This also means taking the lid off, letting more air (oxygen) get to the yeast so it keeps working).
once the sugar content is down to zero, or just above, it's ready to bottle.
you may want to filter it through muslin at this stage if its still got bits in.
syphon into bottles, leaving a 25-32mm (1"-1.5") gap (depends on the bottle shape).
add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar to each bottle, and seal. (not too much sugar unless you want exploding bottles).
(the sugar at this stage is to restart fermentation in the bottle. This consumes the oxygen trapped in that gap when you seal and adds pressure and fizz to the finished cider).
put away for a couple of months at least. (one or two bottles may explode as the fermentation raises the pressure).

If you scroll down to the bottom of this webpage you will see that all the cider brewing kits they sell there use this 'bucket' method like you would for beer - not a demijon in sight.
(Interestingly I see that their fermentation buckets do have airlocks- wusses, just opening the lid now and again to check the SG lets the pressure out).
I also notice that the last kit there even includes a mini-press for pressing your own apples.

If you use plastic (PET) bottles like they have in one of those brewing kits then they won't explode, they are way stronger than glass at containing pressure. (Old pop bottles that have been sterilised will do the job).

30-11-16, 21:12
I was on a health and environment kick the year I started brewing, so plastic and sugar were a no-no at that time. Hence I got some glass demijohns and I bottled into reused glass bottles (I don't recommend Stella bottles for that, by the way, the capper seems to struggle with them).

This year I'm not being such a fusspot and also not quite as eco-friendly. I've got a couple of plastic fermenting buckets with grommets for airlocks and a tap for bottling, and I have got some PET bottles. And cider yeast is currently on order. I will try them for ease of use. I suspect my apple varieties and impatience have been combining to make my cider too sour for me. As for crushing the fruit, I'll stick to my juicer as it sounds easier and besides, I own it already. Also I'll clarify my cider by racking it once or twice during fermentation. And now that I have PET bottles I'll be putting a bit of sugar in them to make my cider fizzy. I never thought of the oxygen in the bottles -another reason for sugar in the bottles. I'll see how it goes this time.