My cider stopped bubbling a few days ago, indicating that the yeast had produced so much alcohol that the cider was now too alcoholic for the yeast to survive. Rather careless and short sighted of the yeast, really. I gave it a few more days to sit still without bubbling to let as much of the dead yeast and cider sediment settle to the bottom of the jugs as possible and this evening Chris helped me siphon off the liquid into a glass jar, add some more sugar and then put it into bottles.We measured the alcohol content while we had it in the glass jug and it looks like its 7-8% alcohol. Hard cider is normally around 4%…oops! Before starting Christ and I had a disagreement about the type of yeast to use. I had read to use wine yeast (which is what I ended up using) but he thought it would be better to use beer yeast. Now I understand why– beer yeast is killed off at a lower alcohol content so it stops fermenting sooner resulting in a lower alcohol content and more sugars left in the cider. Due to the wine yeast used, this batch will end up being very strong and also very dry because so much of the sugar (both naturally occurring in the cider and added at the beginning of the process) was turned into alcohol. For my next batch I may try a beer yeast so that I’ll have a sweeter and less alcoholic cider. Generally, I like drier ciders though so I’m not displeased by these results!
While a lot of dead yeast was left behind, there should still be a bit of live, active yeast left – somehow managing to survive its its newly alcoholic environment- to eat up the sugar we added. Since the cider is now in capped bottles rather than air-locked (i.e. air can escape but can’t get back in and cause contamination) this second round of fermentation will result in bubbles trapped inside the bottles– i.e. carbonation! We just added a little bit of sugar- 1oz for a gallon of cider- because we don’t want too much carbonation or else the bottles will explode. Most of the carbonation fermenting should occur within the first three days so I’m planning to pop the top on a bottle Saturday evening and see what its like. If its done, the rest will go in the fridge to halt any further fermenting and if it needs a bit more bubble then I’ll leave the bottles out for a bit longer.
Now I just need to find a good source of inexpensive fresh cider. The cider I used is REALLY yummy but not inexpensive. I’d like to try a batch with a less expensive cider and see how different the resulting hard cider is. Cider is easy to make and there is some satisfaction in knowing you did it yourself, but with angry orchard on the shelves for $9 for a 6 pack, spending $7+ plus sugar and yeast for 9 bottles isn’t saving me much money. If only apple trees didn’t take years to grow…or maybe I could just find a friend with an orchard!
p.s. Out of curiosity, I tried making hard cider out of some cider I got from the grocery store. It wasn’t very expensive but it tasted good. Unlike the fresh, local cider it had some preservatives in it. I put in the same yeast and sugar as the first batch, let it sit, and guess what? no bubbles. The preservatives totally killed my yeast. While we were bottling today I checked the alcohol content on the grocery store jug and, as suspected, there was none. Now I just have a jug of cider with dead yeast floating in it that has been on the counter for a week. Oddly enough, it still tastes the same as it did when I bought it…