I’ve been a bit slack on posting ( again ) but things are going well – I’ve split my apple juice into two batches – one for straight cider, one for cyser. The first ferment was done after about ten days – taking the S.G. from 1.045 to 1.002. I added a teaspoon of tannin per five litres and though it’s a little on the rough side at the moment, it’s a drinkable cider.
The next step for the cider part is simply to leave it somewhere cool for a long time. Secondary fermentation will convert the rather green apple sharp malic acid in the juice into lactic acid and will loose its harshness.
The cyser on the other hand has a long way to go – it needs one more ingredient.
To add the honey, I just weigh it out, add about half as much of the ferment and give it a really good stir before pitching. I made my first honey addition two weeks ago – 2.5 Kg into 15l juice. Yes that is a hell of a lot of honey!
I’ve just added a shed load of sugar to my brew and the yeast is going to go nuts. I’ve added lot of acid too – honey is as acidic as your average orange – so some care is going to be needed to get the balance right. Ten days later it had fermented back down to 1.005 so I added another 1.2Kg.
I’m aiming for something ever so slightly off dry so I’m trying go get the yeast to die of alcohol poisoning just before it runs out of sugar. This does have the side effect of making a drink somewhere North of 17% ABV. I don’t drink pints of it, well, not after the first time.
Want bubbles in your booze?
It’s not difficult to make a fizzy drink – beer brewers do it all the time, but there are two kinds of fizzy. There’s the cool refreshing Psssht of a frosty cold beer being opened and then there’s the considerably classier Pop of a cork rapidly escaping a champagne bottle.
Some of the difference is in the level of carbonation. Beers tend to be relatively lightly carbonated, ‘real ale’ achieves fizziness by allowing some fermentation to occur in the bottle. The yeast we need to do this is what makes up the sediment at the bottom of a bottle of good beer. As long as it’s not too fizzy the bubbles of escaping carbon dioxide don’t disturb the sediment you can pour off a clear pint with a little care ( Sensible and discerning drinkers of course don’t care and some styles are supposed to be cloudy ).
Fizzy wines on the other hand tend to have a hell of a lot more gas in them. If there’s sediment in the bottle a couple of things happen when you open it. First, bubbles disturb the sediment and the wine goes all cloudy, second the now floating sediment acts as nucleation sites for more bubbles to form and half the bottle ends as a foaming mess on the carpet. Sediment in a sparkling wine is not generally a great thing.
But sparkling wines – posh ones at any rate – use fermentation in the bottle to get their carbonation whilst remaining clear and crisp . If we want to achieve the same effect with our cyser ( insert other home brew of your choice) how do we do it?
You could decant the uncarbonated brew, load it into a soda siphon and let rip with a couple of soda bulbs. It’s quick, easy and will almost certainly work. But you know me better than that, why go for fast and reliable when you can try fiddly and difficult with no guarantee of success?
There’s a cunning way to get sediment out of the bottle whilst keeping ( most of) the drink in.
Let me introduce you to ‘le methode classique‘, formerly known as the “champagne method” but use that term and you’ll get your arse sued off by pedantic regional wine makers.
Despite what you may have been told by the aforementioned vintners, the technique isn’t particularly complicated, it does however take a certain amount of planning.
I’d suggest going for clip top bottles for this – it makes life so much easier.
Your need your brew in bottles and carbonated. The offical method calls for it to have sat in the bottle for quite some time ( it does have a significant effect on flavour), mine’s has nine months.
The chances are, you have your bottles the wrong way up – by which I mean the right way up. Keep the bottles neck downward so the sediment collects at the mouth. Every now and then, give them a twizzle to move anything stuck to the sides.
If you’re not using clip tops, you are going to need a way to close your bottles really really quickly. You might want to practise. I seriously doubt screw tops would work. Wineries use crown caps and reclose with corks.
You’re going to loose some of the liquid so you might need something to top up with – I used dry mead, it’s crossed my mind that brandy might be fun. Topping up is purely optional but you’ll be loosing the liquid in the neck so your bottles will look a bit empty without it
You’ll need a fair bit of ice and salt.
Here’s how it goes –
Crush your ice and add a load of salt to make a freezing bath – or cheat like a tory as I did and nick some dry ice ( doesn’t everyone have dry ice at work? ).
After half an hour or so ( or three minutes if you have dry ice) the sediment ( otherwise known as lees) should be nicely solid ( make damned sure it is ‘cos if you cock this up you’ll have to let it settle for another few weeks.).
Walk outside, aim the bottle away from you open the bottle. There should be a satisfying pop and plug of filthy mush will shoot halfway down the garden. Get the top up liquid in and get the top back on as soon as you hear the pop or most of the booze will end up on the lawn and what’s left will be flat.
You’re done! Look smug, chill it, chill out and have a glass!