Well, I started off by sanitizing all my utensils with “Beer Brite”, including my hands. I removed the bag of crabapple pulp from my juice mixture, after squeezing out the juice. I tried checking the starting S.G. right in the fermentation bucket, since I didn’t buy a testing tube/beaker. Unfortunately, the hydrometer went to the bottom and balanced, but did not float, so I don’t know what the S.G. is! I tested the hydrometer in the tallest, narrowest thing I could think of: a 32 oz spray bottle body, filled with tap water. It floated and read about 1.000, so that’s good. But I don’t want to waste 32 oz of my cider to test it!!! I only have about 2 gallons of cider total.
I went ahead and dissolved my packet of Champagne Yeast in 1/4 cup of water at 100F and pitched it in, sealed the lid and set up the air lock. Crossing my fingers. I may have to find a narrow beaker and a secondary glass carboy for conditioning/clarification.
I don’t fear the process so much as making sure all the steps go smoothly…and this one did not. I am a bit intimidated by instrumentation until I have used it and had clear results. Then the process makes sense and the next time I am more confident. When it doesn’t go as expected and I don’t understand why, my confidence drops until I get an answer!
Now, I’m supposed to stir daily, watch for fermentation signs in the airlock and let it go until the S.G. drops to 1.040. That’s supposed to take 3-5 days…but, um…how will I figure THAT out?! Then, I’m supposed to “rack” that to a glass carboy (jug) with an airlock and continue the fermentation until the S.G. is 1.000 (again, how will I check it, if I don’t have the beaker?). I believe I was told I didn’t really need to do this step, just go for 1.000 in the primary fermentation bucket, but everything I read says it really improves the flavor and clarity. Then the recipe calls for another stage of conditioning for 2 months(!) to further clarify and improve the flavors. Then it gets “primed” (sweetener added to reactivate fermentation) and bottled. Finally, it’s a minimum of 4 weeks in the bottle to carbonate, but will last up to a year. I think this will be properly aged and ready to drink by my birthday, March 1, 2014. That’s a long time to wait to see if you screwed something up in October! But I would rather go for the best I can do, than to skip steps, rush it and have an inferior, cloudy cider that doesn’t taste right. Let’s see what it looks like tomorrow and think about a beaker and carboys.