Cider-apple juice for fermenting
Each Autumn we have customers coming to us asking if we can supply them with some good apple juice so that they can ferment their own cider at home. So to cater for this, we now press some apple juice each autumn specifically for home-cider-making. We sell it either in 5 litre containers or 20 litre containers.
We carefully choose a blend of different apple varieties which will give a cider all the flavour components which a good cider should have. This means we need to use some true bitter-sweet cider apples like Dabinett or Ashton Bitter, then some sweet apples like Katy or Worcester Pearmain, and also some apples with a bit of sharpness such as some Bramleys or a sharp dessert apple like Elstar.
The juice is fresh-pressed, and is not pasteurised, so the natural wild yeast present on the skins of the apples is alive and ready to ferment the juice. If desired, you can add your own wine-yeast to the juice, but this is not necessary, if you’d prefer to allow the wild fermentation to take place.
If you don’t have any home-brew or wine-making equipment, this is an ideal way to get started in cider-making. The 5 or 20 litre container which the juice comes in can be used as a fermentation vessel, and you do not even need an airlock because you can open or close the screw-top lid on the container as required to release the carbon dioxide produced during the fermentation, and to keep the container airtight once fermentation is completed.
You can get the cider-apple-juice from us at our Farmers’ Markets when we have it in season, or if you wish to get it from us at the orchard, contact us by phone. For anyone seriously interested in making their own cider, I highly recommend Andrew Lea’s very affordable book Craft Cider Making, and I recommend a visit to his very informative website, The Wittenham Hill Cider Portal.
Instructions for fermenting your 5-litre container of Cider-apple Juice
You have a container of fresh-pressed apple juice made from a special blend of apple varieties selected to make a nicely balanced cider. The hardest part of cidermaking is crushing and pressing the fruit. The hard work has been done for you and all you need to do is sit back and let the wild yeasts do their work to convert the juice to cider. But remember: This juice will turn into proper natural dry cider, which won’t bear the slightest resemblance to synthetic ciders like Bulmers and Kopparberg etc.
This juice is made from a blend of approximately:
25% Ashton Bitter – this is a bittersweet cider apple that provides tannin to the blend, giving bite and aroma to the cider.
50% Worcester Pearmain – a sweet dessert apple, low in acid, which will help the cider to be mild and not too acidic.
25% Discovery – a rather sweet/sour dessert apple which will provide the cider with a little acidity to give the right balance.
This blend of juice had a Specific Gravity of 1044 (SG 44), and this should result in 5.8% alcohol when fully fermented.
The juice has not been sulphited, and has had no yeast added, so a natural wild fermentation will take place within a few days.
You can allow the juice to ferment in the container provided.
* Leave the container at room temperature, in full view, so that you can observe the progress of the fermentation.
* Leave the cap slightly loose to allow CO2 to escape during fermentation. WARNING! If you close the cap tightly during fermentation, the container will swell very quickly, and may burst. The swelling could also cause the container to fall over and roll off the table, bursting on impact with the floor.
* Fermentation is normally complete in 10-14 days at room temperature. As the fermentation comes to an end, you could try closing the lid fully, and checking whether there is still any swelling after some time. If there is only slight swelling over the period of a few hours, you could leave the lid closed, but remember to release the CO2 periodically and then re-close the lid.
* During fermentation I encourage you to taste the cider periodically in order to add to your understanding of how juice transforms to cider. You can do this very easily by carefully opening the lid and just inserting a straw into the cider and sucking up a sip of cider.
* IMPORTANT: Once fermentation is complete, the cider should not be exposed to air. Leave the lid closed, do not open it unnecessarily. It is preferable to remove any airspace from the top of the container by loosening the lid, gently squeezing the container until the liquid is almost up to the lid, then re-tighten the lid.
* You can drink your cider at any stage, including when it is half fermented, if you choose! You can rack it off the lees a few weeks after fermentation stops, or you can delay racking off for a few months if you like. If you want it to clear, leave in a cold place and allow it to settle over a few months. You can then rack it off and either drink it as still cider, or bottle it. When racking off, or bottling, it is advisable to add sulphite. This can be done using camden tablets @ 1 per 5 litres cider. This is mainly to protect the cider from oxidation.
* If you bottle it, you can either bottle it as still cider, or induce a bottle fermentation to give a natural sparkle. To induce a bottle fermentation (bottle-conditioning), use a hydrometer to measure the SG, and ensure the SG is no more than 1005. Either add approx 6g/litre sugar, or about 5% (50ml per litre) unfermented apple juice. WARNING: Ensure that after sugar/juice addition, the SG is no more than 1005. If excess pressure builds up in a bottle it can explode, and in the case of glass bottles this is very dangerous.
ifyou are drinking your cider straight from the container without bottling it, use it up within a week of ‘opening’, because once you ‘open’ it and start using it, the remainder is being exposed to air. If you bottle the cider still/flat, it should be good for at least a couple of months. If you bottle-condition it, it should stay good for up to a few years (because the bottle fermentation results in the yeast using up the oxygen inside the bottle).
Finished cider should always be stored cool and dark, whether bottled or not bottled.
If you ever think you might be interested in learning hands-on how to make cider, with all the ins and outs of apple selection, crushing, pressing, fermenting, bottling etc etc etc, have a look at dates of my Autumn cider-making courses!