A few weeks ago, my friend and former colleague did me a favor by picking up six gallons of apple juice from Costco, and finally I got the time to put it all into a carboy and dump the yeast in. The yeast, by the way, is Wyeast 4766, a common cider yeast. I call it the “Old Thin Man” because it’s not fortified, just apple juice and yeast. I don’t think that’s a mistake: I want to see what pure apple juice fermented tastes like. Well, as pure as commercial apple juice ever is, anyway. I don’t need it to be high-alcohol, and in fact, I’m kind of concentrating on lower-alcohol, session-type brews these days anyway! (Well, if 6% or less is “session”.)
One of the reasons I ended up having to wait was because Miss Jiwaku’s beers have been taking up space in the cooler in which beers go these days while fermenting. Her Old Ale is pretty much ready to move to a bigger carboy, and place elsewhere in a water-filled bucket with a towel on it and a fan blowing on it, to free up space for something that needs to be immersed in cooler water. And cooler water it will be, since I’ve read that fermenting cider at a lower temperature allows more of the fine aromas and flavors to be preserved. I’m shooting for 15-16°C but realistically I expect the tub to rise up to 17°C sometimes. Still, if I can keep it under 18°C I’ll be happy, and the more often it’s at the lower end, the better I expect the results to be.
I may add some lemon juice or other acid later, as well as maybe putting some cinnamon sticks into the mix once it’s finished with most or all of the primary fermentation. I’m really excited to see how this one turns out!
That said, I’m also kicking myself for not having gotten around to making one of these until now… I won’t have much time to age it before winter, and unlike some beers, cider really does need some bulk aging. Ah well, six months is a tolerable amount of time, so I guess we’ll just have to see how it turns out. On the plus side, it will be carbonated without any trouble — I’ll just keg it and force carb it!
UPDATE (18 AUG 2011): Well, I just kegged this, and I was surprised at how strong the apple flavor is right now: I suspect fermenting it at a relatively low temperature did exactly what I’d read. When I tasted some from a cup into which I’d dumped what was left in the siphon and hose, I found it had a bit of sourness and aftertaste, but now I only taste the sourness, and it’s very mild — the sort one expects in a nice, very-appley cider. I hope the sourness softens a bit over the next few months, but I think either way, served cold and carbed, it will be very enjoyable. Indeed, Miss Jiwaku says it rivals the apple ciders she’s tried in Seoul — Strongbow and whatever they have on tap at the Wolfhound pub… and that was when it was tepid and uncarbonated!
In any case, the gravity reading I took today came out to 1.000, which means it’s dry, but not as some apple ciders come out. (My last attempt, which featured champagne yeast, was far different, and except to one of Miss Jiwaku’s friends, quite undrinkably sour and weird.)
Anyway, there’s an update on it. I expect the next update to come in October or so. Hopefully this cider will be peaking by fall, as that’s the perfect time to enjoy this sort of drink.
UPDATE (7 Sept. 2011): What do you know… immediately after fermentation, as I reported above, this was extremely appley both in flavor and aroma. I assumed that, stuck in an airtight keg, that would remain, but strangely enough, though only three weeks or so later, there’s very little apple character in the cider. I tasted some, but not much at all. I imagine if I’d burned through the five gallons in a week or so, I wouldn’t have known how big a flavor dropoff awaited the cider; but in any case, I am going to leave this alone as much as possible, at least until December, by which point I hope a certain amount of the apple flavor and aroma will have come back.