Pulled it out early (I don't mind the slightly sour apple taste, it's really not so bad, especially after the first bottle)
Just started from a juice, added 2.4kg of corn sugar, used Wyeast cider yeast. Aerated with my aquarium pump and a dedicated wort nozzle. I've read you don't need to aerate for a pasteurized cider, but I've also been told you cannot over-aerate a wort with just air.
Day 1-2 I was worried there may have been something in the juice as it wasn't fermenting very fast at all. Day 3 it was bubbling like a shaken & freshly opened 2L of sprite. By day 5 it had gone from 1.070 to 1.005 and was ready for secondary.
Sat in secondary for 1 week before it had finished fermenting at .996, left it in for a second week.
Drew off a liter to play around with the back sweetening.
Back-sweetened, then bottled with:
6tbsp truvia (stevia)
181g corn sugar (to prime, might do 210g next time, was worried about blowing caps)
500mL of crown apple (cause....wait why do I have to explain this)
and 4 star anise
-Stevia can give you a REAL good start on a sweet back, BUT it's really easy to put WAY too much.
I've since wiped my "per liter" notes, but kept the 5gal notes. Worked out to about 1tsp per liter and had a pretty good taste, really took some of the edge off what was now starting to qualify as an apple wine at the now ~10% abv. At 1.5tsp per liter, we've reached critical BLEGH. Was just undrinkable due to the overpowering stevia taste.
-Lactose is fairly weak in the sweetness department but still makes a difference. However, more importantly, it added a wonderful thicker body to the cider. Downside being you're adding lactose if you're intolerant of it. I had done my test batch with the equivalent of 3/4lb per 5gal, but used the full lb, because I didn't feel that TOO much lactose would be a possibility.
**I'd recommend adding lactose, because that thicker body is great, but if you're carbonating it by means other than yeast, I'd recommend not using stevia. Or if you want a lower calorie semi-sweet cider, stick to 1tsp per liter or less.
-Concentrate, because being Sahara in dryness and high in alcohol, most of the apple taste had turned into chardonnay, and I also didn't give it a chance to mellow out.
-Crown apple....Just love the stuff. It is my nectar.
-Star anise was there for 2 reasons, firstly I like to chew black licorice with my cider so it seemed fitting. Second, it was to take a bit more edge off the dryness and harshness of the high ABV.
-Priming sugar: I had used the handy priming calculator to do 3.0 volumes of CO2 by corn sugar as I was concerned it might end up fermenting some of the copious amount of back-sweetener. However, I've been proven paranoid and next time I'm going to shoot for 4.0 volumes because I'd like the carbonation to force slower drinking and also help blend out that higher ABV.
**I didn't use a pectic enzyme as I really didn't care about the clarity of this batch. Once it got to 1.005 and was racked into secondary it was a translucent pasty yellow. After 2 weeks in fermentation it was MUCH clearer, now a slightly hazy golden color. I think the pectic enzyme would have made it crystal clear in this time span, but sitting 2 months in secondary may very well accomplish the same thing from pasteurized juice. Let me know if I'm wrong on that one.
**With 6 bottles I threw a stick of cinnamon in, BUT having tried one yesterday I'm concerned the cinnamon may have messed things up, but highly likely my fault as I didn't sterilize them before adding them. It was getting a bit too sour. I was concerned boiling them might sap out all the cinnamon goodness, and was hoping the ~10% abv would just sterilize them for me lol
Things to change for next time:
-Gonna get at least 3 more carboys and run 3 batches. Then pull them out at 2mo, 3mo, and 4mo and see how they mature.
-Gonna go with 5tbsp truvia
-Do primary in the carboy because there was no head to speak of, just an incredible volume of CO2
-Split 1 pack of Wyeast 4677 between the 3 batches, I thought I blew by primary way too fast. I'm a noob, but I hear some complex tastes are developed from slower fermentation. And if not, yeast be damned if it doesn't flourish in that environment anyway.
-Gonna dissolve the back-sweetening sugars in 1L of water instead of 750mL, cause holy crap was a sugary soup.
Otherwise, if you like black licorice, wow what a taste. Powerful though. I shall be examining the hangover characteristics of it this weekend.
I'm a brand new brewer but WOW is this ever exciting. Why wasn't I doing this 10 years ago??
If you're priming in bottle, I wanna hear what you're back-sweetening with!
Doing primary in carboy
Using Wyeast 4184 instead of 4677 (didn't have it in stock this time)
Two 5 gallon batches, one has 3 star anise boiled in for 15min
Just over 2 weeks in, took a gravity reading today and WOW does it ever taste amazing. No licorice back to speak of on the licorice batch, and it still has another 2 weeks to go before it's eaten all the sugar. It's so darn smooth, you'd never know this was sitting at 8% right now.
It's not dominantly sour or vinegar tasting, but also doesn't taste like green apples. Tastes more like a dry white wine than anything else. It's not apple-y and crisp like a dry cider, either.
I'm suspecting fusel alcohols. Unfortunately, fermentation temperature was riding the 72-75 degree range due to a chinook. Next batch I need to do in the basement.
It did spent 2-3 days on the yeast at the final SG, and now it's racked and aging. Hopefully it's something that mellows out over time... Still smells like apples and alcohol for now.
Could be some acetaldehyde in there. The batch did go very cloudy during primary and it's clearing up now. However, could also be from pectin, as this is pasteurized juice.
Also, the yeast used was Wyeast 4632 dry mead, NOT the 4184. I remember googling it at the store and it having an 18%abv tolerance. The 11%abv tolerance of the 4184 is far too close to the 10-10.5%abv I plan to finish at, as I want to reduce the risk factors of having unfermented sugar and acetaldehyde present when racking, since it can easily blow up into a bacterial infection.
Bought a pH tester for next time to make sure the pH is within proper limits: 3.2-3.5 is the goal. Also curious to see what I'm sitting at now.
Only saving grave about the first batches, at 10-10.5%abv, the second bottle doesn't taste bad at all! LOL
What I'm gathering right now, as this rings true with beer as well, is to just let it age. Like....like a lot. Anywhere from 3mo to a year.
SOOOOO since I'll have long since run out of alcohol by then, I think I'll do a more modest and quickly palatable 5-6%abv cider, since I have an empty carboy and all....
And the wife can go empty another case of smirnoff ice bottles for me!
Oh and also I had split the single pack of yeast between two 5 gallon batches as I thought the first batch had fermented WAY the heck too fast. Fermentation was much slower this time, took about 15 days to reach final gravity from 1.072 to .996. Took just over 2 days before it really got going, but activity was present after 4 hours of pitching. Very weird thing, though; it was producing a head on and off about every 20 minutes or so. I'd come downstairs, it had a head on it, do something for 5 minutes, turn around and no evidence of head left. Not sure if this was due to the higher fermentation temperature, different yeast, or different juice used. Either way, still tasted amazing at 1.016SG, so I doubt it had any bearing on the flavor.
So yeah. Good news; the harsh tastes are subsiding already and it's turning into a very palatable wine. I'm well within the yeast's alcohol tolerance, so I could very well make a sparkling wine....
Curious though, the SG seems to be going UP. from .996 up to 1.000 now..... Acetaldehyde has a specific gravity of .780, ethanol has an SG of .787. If i had LOTS of acetaldehyde in there, maybe it's conversion to ethanol has raised the SG slightly?
Anyway, I'm happy it's turning out into *something* well.
Just finished a 5gal batch, fermented at 12 degrees the whole time. Would have liked to have left it longer than 2 months, but the basement is warming up so I had to jug it.
Turned out really well, none of that harsh turpentine taste.