As soon as you get your juice, you need to check the gravity and pH (if possible), e.g. 2013’s juice stats:
Gravity (hydrometer) = 1.051
Gravity (refractometer) = 1048
pH @ 13C = 3.80
As far as the gravity is concerned you can assume that the cider will ferment out to approx. 1.000.
So the above would yield typically 6% abv.
Either add extra sugar to boost the gravity and colour (if using dark sugar)
or do not add any sugar.
I chose not add sugar
Add Campden Tablets depending on the pH.
Why add the Campden Tablets? Firstly to boost the acidity and secondly to suppress the natural yeasts.
Recommended doses are:
> 3.7: 3 tablets per gallon
3.4 .. 3.6: 2 tablets per gallon
3.1 .. 3.3: 1 tablet per gallon
Based on the 3.80pH from 2013, I chose to add 2 tablets per gallon.
Don’t worry all the SO2 will be fermented out!
You can then leave the juice for a day or so with no risk of natural yeasts starting up!
Also if you can’t start fermenting make sure the juice is kept cold.
What yeast to use?
If you don’t add the Campden Tablets, then you can use the natural yeasts present.
If you don’t add the Campden Tablets, then you can also add commercial yeast so you have a mix of strains.
Commercial yeast you can use:
Youngs/Magnum Cider yeasts
Wine making yeasts like a chardonnay or a champagne yeast
Nottingham Ale yeast (recommended recently)
Or one I am testing at the moment: WLP-830 German lager (fermenting happily at 10C)
Last year I used the Chardonnay, this has the advantage that it usually comes with nutrient.
What additions if any?
You can add Yeast Nutrient to boost yeast growth
Pectic Enzyme (aka. Pectolase) in case there is any pectin present but this is less likey as there is no pulp (I think thats where the Pectin is)
Some blends may be a bit low on Malic acid so you can add some of that but it may be better to wait until blending in the spring.
We already mentioned sugar.
Initial ferment will be warm ( about 20C ) to get the yeast going.
Then will go cooler ( about 16C ) until most of the initial fermentation has subsided then it will be outside for the winter at whatever temps we get.
Last February I had a look and proceeded with the next stages.
By now the cider should be clear, bright, flat as a flat fool and probably as dry as a very dry thing.
How to get if from here to drinkability involves more options; Blending, Sweetening and Carbonation
You may have different batches of cider from this year or even previous years, if so you can experiment with blending the juices
Sweetening the juice:
You can use the artificial sweeteners – the downside is that they add no body and some of them can be detected on the palate.
Use more natural unfermentables like lactose or malto-dextrin – these add sweetness and body.
If use either or both of these, then you can bottle condition as you would a beer.
You can sweeten the cider by adding white sugar, brown sugar, fresh apple juice or reduced concentrated juice or fruit wines or extracts but then you MUST PASTEURISE the cider!
Heat your cider in a pot/burco or whatever to 70C, hold at 70C for 15 mins and then you have pasteurised the cider. ( Note you can also do this to the original juice if you want to store it for drinking or sweetening or making cider in the spring).
As the cider is warming up, I do the blending of the sugars and juices to the raw cider. The bit of warmth brings out the flavours nicely.
Cool it with a copper coil if you have one.
The cider can then be bottled as still sweet (to taste) cider.
If you want carbed pasteurised cider then read on:
Fill a corny keg, chill to about 2C and force carb it.
You can also fill bottles from it with a counter pressure filler.