Day one…Crabapple Cider, Sparkling

Started my brewing experience yesterday with a basic purchase from American Brewmaster in Raleigh. (www.americanbrewmaster.com) The salesman there was very knowledgeable and helpful. It was painfully obvious that I am a complete novice, but he was very patient. I wound up buying a starter kit for brewing, $50, a case of flip-top 1/2 liter bottles, $31.75,a couple packets of Champagne Yeast, sanitizer, pectin enzyme, yeast nutrient, campden tablets and a small book…altogether $102.75, including tax.   The kit included the primary fermentation bucket, an airlock and stopper, a bottle capper, a hydrometer and a siphon/bottle filler.

Crabapples, picked and washed.

Crabapples, picked and washed.

Today, I picked about 10lbs of crabapples, washed them and weighed them. This is what prompted my brewing experiment. I have crabapple trees in a common area right by my house. I’ve made jelly (2nd prize at the 2012 NC State Fair) and apple butter and the trees are STILL loaded and the remaining crabapples are about to start rotting. I hate to see them wasted! I figure this year I will make a small batch of sparkling cider. If I like it, I can go bigger next year!

Next, I prepared the bucket, lid, and utensils for my first batch of cider by sanitizing everything with the Beer Brite sanitizer solution (1 tablespoon in 1 gallon of water). Then I used my electric juicer to extract the juice from 4-1/2lbs of crabapples. I used a half capful of bottled lemon juice to limit browning in the juice.

Juicing the Crabapples.

Juicing the Crabapples.

I strained the resulting approximately 4 cups of juice through cheesecloth into the primary fermentation bucket. To that juice, I added 7 pints of water, 1-3/4 lbs of white sugar, 1/2 t. pectin enzyme, 1 t. yeast nutrient, and 1 crushed campden tablet, I did not have a pound of light raisins or 1/2 pint of white grape juice concentrate, but I did have some previously extracted and clarified crabapple juice, about a 1/2 pint, so I added that. I really want to see how this turns out using all crabapple anyway. Finally, I removed the pulp from the juice extractor, made a bag of the cheesecloth, wrapped the pulp in it and tied it closed. In the bucket, I stirred everything and added the pulp bag.

Primary fermenting bucket with airlock.

Primary fermenting bucket with airlock.

Today’s final step is closing the lid tightly, filling the airlock halfway with water and installing it in the lid. Done! I probably don’t need the airlock yet, since I’m killing all the wild yeast with the campden tablet, but it just completes the sealing of the lid. Tomorrow, I pull out the bag of pulp, use the hydrometer to check the specific gravity  (S.G.) of the cider and add the yeast. Hopefully the starting S.G. will be between 1.090-1.095. Then I’ll have about a  week to wait, stirring every day and waiting for the S.G. to drop to 1.040 (3-5 days). Then I need to siphon off the cider into a sanitized container, clean and sanitize the fermenting bucket. Siphon the liquid back into the fermenting bucket for conditioning down to S.G. 1.000 (about 3 weeks) I could use a secondary separate glass jug and save some time. This conditioning step may be repeated and conditioned for 2 months, if needed to clarify for bottling.

To carbonate the cider, http://www.vermonthomebrew.com writes:

“If you want to carbonate your cider, then consider doing it the same way a beer brewer would do it.  I use 1/3-1/2 cup of dextrose boiled in a cup of water.  That is a priming solution that I pour into my bottling bucket and  I siphon the cider into it.  Then I rack into bottles, cap and leave them at room temperature for a month.  Fermenting and carbonating are done by the same yeast, so make sure the bottles are warm enough, long enough for the yeast to do its job.”

I could buy tablets and drop in one per bottle, make the dextrose, or figure out another priming sugar mixture and amount, such as white sugar, honey or…maybe investigate malted barley extract? Let’s get through tomorrow and go from there!

Tomorrow: Champagne yeast!

Tomorrow: Champagne yeast!



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