Brewing the first batch

Does one brew cider? Alright, making the first batch.

10 litres of juice looks like a lot when it’s stored in milk containers, but when you pour it into a 50L fermenter, it doesn’t look much. Still, it’s all I have, so I’d better make it work. I pour a cup of warm water containing a crushed Campden tablet in the juice (to kill any natural yeast and other potential contaminants) and leave it for 24hrs. This is sodium metabisulphite, which sounds like a nasty sort of a chemical. Not sure I can label my produce ‘organic’ if it contains this sort of shit, but I’m fairly sure no other chemicals will go into it. Unless you include the horrible purple chlorine based stuff I used to sanitise my gear first…

Using my cheap and probably innacurate hydrometer ($10, can’t go wrong) I measure the specific gravity to be 1.050 which, according to the instructions on the box, needs to be adjusted down to 1.0486 due to the temperature (16 deg). Using some calculation off the intertubes (that I can no longer find), I add 270g of brown sugar in an attempt to raise the SG by 0.010 to 1.0586. According to the copious notes I have written down at brew time, it’s “12-15g of sugar per litre of must per 5°“. These are cooking apples, so not naturally that sweet. I don’t particularly want to produce sweet cider, but the wee yeasties need something upon which to feed.

Next day I’m ready to put the yeasties in. Just open the sachet (Maisies Cider Yeast, 9g) and sprinkle on top of the must, the lady in Baylis said. So that’s what I do, no need to hydrate it first or anything. Put the lid on, some water in the airlock and bingo. Walk away.

72hrs later, in the cool basement, there is no sign of activity in the airlock, and the temperature  is reading 16 deg (on one of those crappy stick-on heat reactive things on the outside of the fermenter). So I turn on the heat mat and 24hrs later we’re bubbling away like Walter White’s meth lab. Temperature is 18 deg.

Fast forward 3 weeks and the bubbling has completely stopped, so off goes the heat. The specific gravity comes in at a nice plump 0, meaning there will be at least 6.5% alcohol. Result! I’ve purchased 750ml PET bottles with screw caps, as apparently cider can get too fizzy for crown cap bottles, and I don’t want exploding-bottle-syndrome on my hands. Using a bottling straw, which attaches directly to the tap on the fermenter, it takes me about 10 minutes to fill up 10 bottles. Into each one goes a couple of Mangrove Jack’s Priming Sugar drops (basically more sugar for the yeast to create carbon dioxide with, i.e. the ‘fizz’). The last couple of litres in the fermenter can’t be reached without tipping the damn thing, which will disturb the ‘trub’ (that’s the yeasty gunk on the bottom), so I decant it all out into a jug then filter it through some common or garden coffee filter paper to get the majority of the yeast out. It will all settle once in the bottle anyway. Then I put them back in the basement for a few weeks to condition.

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