This was my first attempt at a cider. The “American” ciders I’ve tried in the past I haven’t cared for that much. There only seemed to be two kinds here in The States, one dryer and the other sweeter. However, I have recently discovered cider from Spain known as sidra. These ciders are mostly produced in the northern part of Spain in the Basque and Asturias regions. The fermentation process occurs naturally due to the native yeast that is already present on the skins of apples. Nothing is added, no sweeteners, and no additional yeast. They are often low in carbonation, or even flat, but with the proper pour known as escanciar, which involves pouring the cider from high above one’s head and allowing the free-flowing stream to plunge into the glass, any CO2 in the solution can be released (or at least some agitation at the very least).
I have had two sidras, and both were from Asturias. They both were indeed flat (I didn’t venture to try escanciar) and both were phenol bombs…massive smoke, Band-Aid, funk, leather, dirt, pig stall, burnt bag of poop, etc. While they were both more on the extreme side of the phenols, to the point some be considered off flavors, I fucking loved them. All these “off flavors” are unique to American commercial cider making commercially, but I hope at some point it can start to creep into more American versions. Then again, we can also be stubborn assholes with styles.
I had yet to make a natural fermented cider (except for this non-cider experiment), or even a “regular” cider, but I read about a way to do a quick cider in a BYO article where the author basically said to just take a jug of apple juice, pitch some yeast, and you’ll have cider. I will say from experience that most things new in the brewing world that seem too easy usually are. While I like the idea behind this simple recipe, doing American cider “right” requires other steps like back sweetening, sulfate usage, fining agents, or knowing what kind of apples or juice to use.
But first a 1 gallon jug of pasteurized organic Apple Juice from Whole Foods for me it is.
Batch Size: 1 Gallon
Target OG: 1.050?
Est ABV: 5%?
Boil Time: 5 Min
Ingredients based off the recipe in the article:
1 gallon jug of no preservative organic apple juice from Whole Foods.
1.25 cup 100% cranberry juice or simmer actual cranberrys for 15 minutes with water.
1/8 teastpoon of ground allspice
1 orange peel.
1/2 stick of cinnamon.
1/16 tsp of yeast nutrient.
Placed spices in a small bowl with 1/4 cup of cranberry juice. Covered with a small plate and microwaved on high for 45 seconds. Removed and steeped for 10 minutes.
Added a pinch of yeast nutrient and added just over 1 cup of cranberry juice to a 1 gallon apple juice jug bought from Whole Foods with some of the top poured out to make some headspace room.
Strained out the spices with a strainer and added flavored juice to the container and swirled some.
Pitched half a pack of US-04, put cap (sanitized) back on and shook to aerate, then put on an airlock and put it in my closet.
1/12/16: Fermentation has started in the morning. Put a blanket around it to keep it a bit warmer. It was 60F degrees in the morning.
1/16/16: Put it in the cold chest freezer to do some sort of crash. Very murky, ever so slight pink hue.
1/18/16: Smells sulfury and tastes like sweet apple juice still. No spice flavor, murky, and not red like it was in the beautiful Pinterest-esque photo. Gravity at 1.025. I needed the 1 gallon jug for something so I transferred some to a growler with an airlock on top, and whatever was left I just dumped.
1/30/16: The sulfur smell is gone. Gravity at 1.020 and it’s slightly carbonated. Took off the airlock and put tinfoil over the top to help aid in the release of CO2. I probably shouldn’t have done this as it can get oxidized.
1/31/16: Bottled (4 bottles) what was in the growler with some priming sugar and a little more of the spices: A pinch of allspice, cinnamon, and two cloves.
2/15/16 Tasting notes:
Tastes like a cider with the spices slightly there. It’s still a weird murky slight orange. Not bad if one likes ciders. It tastes like apple juice kinda, but to be honest this style is so far off my radar I can’t even say much more on it. I guess try it for yourself?