Skip to main content

The Cider Experiments - Part 1

Years ago, I purchased a kit called "Spike Your Juice" from  The kit included packets of yeast, instructions, labels, and an airlock with stopper.  The instructions suggested buying a pasteurized (non-refrigerated) 100% juice with a high sugar content, then pitching the dry yeast into it and popping on the airlock.  In a few days, the yeast would produce an alcoholic wine or cider.  The results from these fermentations always seemed to range from sour to dry in flavor profile, often tasting like an unripe version of the fruit the juice was made from.  It's not too surprising that I stopped using the kit before I used up all the yeast.

While reading online about that kit, I saw some people suggest that Champagne Yeast would be a good substitute for the stuff the kit included, as it would ferment more of the sugars and give the finished product a bit more fizz.  I tried this with some juices a couple of months ago.  The results were tart and mildly carbonated.  The best of them was a peach mango juice blend which kept the peach aroma and much of the fruit flavors. It was also more dry than the others, and less tart.  It was an interesting experiment but I decided not to repeat it.

I recently picked up a copy of Mary Izett's Speed Brewing: Techniques and Recipes for Fast-Fermenting Beers, Ciders, Meads, and More for my Kindle.  As of this writing in early December, I am still working my way through the book but enjoying it.  Izett has done a nice job organizing the material and explaining what to do.  As the title suggests, it provides information and recipes for brisk beer, short mead, cider, boozy buch and kefir beer, spirited soda, and more.

While reading the chapter on ciders, I saw Izett's table of the different yeast types and how they affect the flavor of an apple cider.  I'll summarize the chart here because I think it's useful stuff.

  • Champagne Yeast:  Gives a tart, clean, almost apple-free aroma.  The flavor is tart with low to medium apple flavor, dry, and clean.
  • American Ale:  Gives a strong apple aroma, hints of candy apple and other fruit.  The flavor is fruity, sweet, and definitely retains the apple.
  • English Ale: The aroma is green apple, bright, fruity, and slightly bubble gum like.  The flavor is bright, clean apple with some green apple and mineral notes.
  • German Wheat Ale Yeast:  Aroma is sulfury, with low to medium apple aroma, and maybe some honey or spice.  The flavor is phenolic, earthy, and applesauce like.
  • Belgian Ale Yeast:  Aroma is sulfury, funky, floral, and lightly apple-like.  The flavor is sulfury, floral, dry, funky, and a little tart.
  • Saison Yeast:  A light apple aroma with some mineral, floral, and herbal elements.  The flavor is balanced, slightly tart, floral, dry, and medium levels of apple.
My experimentation with the Spike Your Juice kit and the Champagne yeast told me that the best result I'd gotten was from the Peach Mango juice blend and apple juice, with a berry blend having a great aroma but simply being too tart.  I wanted something sweet, or at least not so tart.

Izett's chart suggested that American Ale yeast would yield a sweeter cider, and probably a sweeter version of the peach mango blend and berry blend.  When I visited a nearby grocery, I picked up a gallon of 100% apple juice, an Ocean Spray Wave Berry Medley with White Cranberries, and a bottle of peach mango juice blend.

Berry Medley fermenting on the left, Peach Mango in the middle, and a custom recipe cider on the right

Over a week later, the yeast had settled out of the Berry Medley jug.  I put that in five 12-ounce bottles along with a carbonation drop in each to hopefully carbonate the finished product.  I tasted some of the "trub" in the bottle and it was still very sweet.  At this point I don't know if that means the yeast didn't ferment the juice at all, or if Izett is right and the American Ale yeast does leave the cider sweet.  We'll know on December 17 when the stuff is ready to open.

The Welch's Peach Mango stopped bubbling next, and was bottled on December 7.  A sample of the trub showed that it, too, was sweet but also slightly tart.  It was a nice flavor and I'm looking forward to seeing what it's like when it's tested on December 21.

The two plastic jugs in the photo received only Safale S-05 American Ale yeast, sprinkled right on top of the juice in the jug.  A sanitized airlock was immediately placed on each.

The glass jug on the right has a recipe of my own concoction.

I'm tentatively calling it "CRAVE Cider" based on the ingredients (Cinnamon, Raisin, Apple, Vanilla Extract).  The recipe is:

  • 1/2 cup of raisins, chopped into pieces
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon of bourbon bean vanilla extract
  • 1 gallon of pasteurized apple juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon of yeast nutrient

The raisins, cinnamon, yeast nutrient, and vanilla were covered with tap water and boiled for 5-10 minutes on the kitchen stove to sanitize them and release their flavors (and great aroma).  The liquid was strained off of the other ingredients and poured into the sanitized gallon jug.  The jug was then filled with the gallon of pasteurized apple juice and capped with the stopper and airlock you see in the photo.  This was done on approximately November 23, 2015.  As of this writing on December 12, some 19 days later, there are still bubbles going through the airlock about every 45 seconds.  I'm planning to let it ferment until the bubbles seem to have stopped completely, then bottle it.  It remains to be seen/tasted if the concoction lives up to its name.

I'll share tasting notes on these when they're ready to drink.


Popular posts from this blog

Yellow Label Angel Yeast vs. Typical Brewing Yeast

I currently have my second batch of rice wine fermenting with the "magical" yellow-label Angel Yeast from China, and wanted to share some of the more unusual aspects of using it.  If you've never seen or used this yeast, I suspect you're not alone.  It ships in a 500 gram package that looks like this: What makes it "yellow label" is that yellow box you see in the upper left corner of the package.  This implies that it's yeast for distilling (though you do not need to have a still or distill the output to use it).  As I understand it, inside the package is a mix of yeast and other materials which will convert starch into sugar and directly ferment it, without the need for a traditional mash step.  This can radically shorten your brewing time.  For my most-recent batch of rice wine, I heated 3 gallons of water to 155F, poured it over 13+ pounds of uncooked rice straight out of the bag, let that soak for an hour, rehydrated some of this yeast in warm water,

2021 Batch 1 - Rice Wine made with Yellow Label Angel Yeast

I've become a big fan of the Still It channel on YouTube.  About a month ago, Jesse posted a video about how he made rice wine using nothing more than water, rice, and a purported "magic" yeast from China called Yellow Label Angel Yeast. Perhaps even more amazing was the fact that he was able to make the rice wine without gelatinizing or mashing the rice.  He shows three batches in the video.  One was made by cooking the rice before adding the yeast mixture. Another was made by adding uncooked rice to boiling water.  The last was made by adding uncooked rice to room temperature water.  All three fermented out to roughly the same amount of alcohol in about two weeks. He was amazed by this, as was I. I resolved to buy some of this magical yeast from and try it out. In the Still It video, the rice is ground up in the grain mill into smaller chunks to make it easier for the enzymes in the yellow label yeast to convert and ferment.  I'm changing this up s

Making Alton Brown's Immersion Cooker Fennel Cardamon Cordial

Alton Brown's "Good Eats" series is my favorite cooking show.  I love the way he explains the "why" and "how" of a recipe in detail, which helps you understand (if things don't go right) where you may have gone wrong.  In his episode on immersion cooking (also known as sous vide), he shows you how to make a cordial in an hour using an immersion cooker. It took me a while to locate all the ingredients here in Columbus.  I ended up getting the fennel and vodka at Giant Eagle. The cardamom seeds, pods, and anise stars came from Amazon.  The Fennel fronds and bulb came from Trader Joe's at Easton. Ingredients 32 ounces of 80-proof vodka 2 cups of fennel fronds 10 green cardamom pods 3 ounces granulated sugar 1 tablespoon fennel seeds 1 teaspoon black cardamom seeds 1 whole star anise Begin by loading your sous vide vessel with hot water and set your immersion cooker to 140F. While the cooker is getting up to that temperature, meas