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!