What with Christmas, and my sister being here, and us all going out of town 3 or 4 times I had completely forgotten that there were 20 bottles of cider conditioning down in the basement. So tonight I thought I’d crack one open – that’s 5 weeks in the bottle, so it should be drinkable.
Well, it has certainly gained some fizz in those 5 weeks – there is a satisfying amount of pshhht when I uncap it, and it pours pretty clear too. Excuse the Spanish lager glass, it was the closest (clean) receptacle to hand. There are a few little specks of ‘matter’ floating around but I’m not sure if this is yeast or undissolved lactose – anyway, they seem quite heavy so they sink to the bottom quite quickly.
And the taste? Damn, this is pretty good! The lactose has improved it no end. It’s definitely still a dry cider, but the dry ‘tang’ has disappeared and it is altogether a lot smoother. Very drinkable. I don’t know how much lactose you would need to put into it in order to get a sweet cider, but I’m not prepared to attempt it, as I seem to remember reading that too much of the stuff gives you the shits. It doesn’t taste as strong as my hydrometer readings had led me to believe it would be, but thanks to the good folks at Merck KGaA, I now have a reasonably scientific way of determining exactly how strong it is.
I was given, by a fellow brewer, half a packet of what look like litmus paper indicator strips. The label says Spezialindikator pH 4.0-7.0 and very little that isn’t in German (which I don’t speak) and they consist of little paper strips that you immerse in the liquid to be tested, and match the end to the colour chart on the packet to see how many alcohols you scored. A bit like a pregnancy testing kit I guess. They came from the Food Sciences department at the Uni, so I guess they must be considered reasonably ‘professional’ – Jesus Tap Dancin’ Christ, they are fucking revolutionary! According to these bad boys, this cider packs 4.4% which is much more realistic than the >7% my hydrometer readings were suggesting. My guess is that before fermentation there is too much fruit pulp in the juice to give a reliable SG using a hydrometer. So maybe I’ll stick to these guys from now on 🙂