12 noon: Okay, here we go! Spent another $50 on three 1 gal carboys, another primary fermentation bucket, airlocks for all, a wine thief (for removing test liquid) and a test beaker. I also bought a package of Munton’s brand carbonation tablets to prime the bottles. I’m passing on the idea of using malt syrup, for now. It’s about measuring and accuracy for this first batch.
So, I sanitized everything very carefully and tested my cider’s S.G. and got 1.014, if I’m reading that correctly. That appears to be in the “BEER” range on the scale. (The hydrometer is calibrated for 60 degrees F…temp in the house is about 72 degrees, so I need to go do the math on that.) My recipe said to rack to a carboy at 1.04, so I’m behind schedule on that. I hope that wasn’t a dire mistake! So, price-wise, it was much cheaper to do gallon 1 carboys, instead of 3 gallon and the brew store guy, John, recommended going that route. I probably have about 2 gallons of cider, so I bought 3 carboys, just to be safe.
After I tested the S.G., There were a few drops that I could taste. It was very assertive on the alcohol! It also had a very fresh/raw apple flavor. I imagine people with more knowledge on the subject might describe it as “crude” and obviously in need of continued conditioning. The color is is a light sort of green/gold color. Very pretty, but definitely not transparent yet, So, on to racking! Let’s see how I do with getting the cider and leaving behind the sediment.
12:45 pm: It took awhile for the siphon to get going. I’m not sure what I did wrong, but it just didn’t seem to pressurize until close to the end. So much for the “one stroke” siphon! As it turns out, I only had about a gallon and a half of cider. I had thought it would be 2 gallons or a little more. Since I didn’t want to leave too much room for oxidation in the second carboy,
I sanitized two of my flip-top bottles and had enough to fill them (1/2 liter each).
That brought me pretty low in the bucket. I’m hoping the second bottle didn’t get any sediment!
Luckily, I have stoppers to fit them and I popped on airlocks. Maybe I’ll rack the contents of one bottle to a new bottle at the next stage and then go ahead and prime it. Then I can see what the difference is between that one and the rest of the batch that I condition for a longer period. I had a little cider still in the siphon, so I put it in a glass and sampled it. Slightly effervescent and pretty strong on the alcohol. It is VERY dry at this point.
The carboy and both bottles are already bubbling again. I think this next step is going to be about three weeks. I think I’ll start another batch soon…if I have another stopper for a primary fermentation bucket!
7:00 pm A conflict. To carbonate, I have to be careful not to add any sugar other than the primer or the bottles could explode! So, it’s either a very dry cider or I have to “backsweeten” it, but have to use a “non-fermenting” sugar. The other option is pasteurizing the bottles to kill the yeast when the cider is sufficiently carbonated…a trickier thing to gauge and I’m afraid it might affect the flavor too much. I may just go for dry on the first batch. I think I will prefer it that way, but I’m not sure everyone else will, I have some time to decide.
10:00 pm Realizing that the two small stoppers I have in the flip-top bottles are the ones that fit the primary fermentation buckets and that I don’t have any extras that size and don’t want to drive 15 miles to the brew store for a 40 cent rubber stopper…I decided to sanitize a growler that I had on hand and that a larger stopper I have fits, transfer the two smaller bottles’ contents into it and free up the smaller stoppers. For some reason though, being the Liberal Arts kind of guy that I am, metrics vs. ounces can easily mess with my head! So, those two smaller bottles only HALF filled the growler. Evidently, two 500 ml bottles do NOT equal a liter? The bottles are also marked 16 oz and the growler is also marked 64 oz. I’m thinking the bottles are not 500 ml. 16×2=32, not 64. Arrrgh! My brain! Ah well, I hope the excess space in the growler doesn’t cause oxidation or anything funky to happen! If it does, I *think* I’m wasting 32 oz of cider…or two bottles…or half of a growler.