Friday, January 8, 2016

The Cider Experiments - Part 2 - Berry Medley Cider

In the previous post, we looked at three different ciders I attempted to make after reading Mary Izett's book Speed Brewing: Techniques and Recipes for Fast-Fermenting Beers, Ciders, Meads, and More.While none of the recipes I did were actually in the book, it is fair to say that the book inspired me to try them.

Based on Izett's suggestion that American Ale Yeast would yield a sweeter, fruitier cider, I decided to try fermenting three different juice mixes with it.

Mixed Berry Sweet Cider

The first cider created in this way was made using Ocean Spray's Berry Medley flavor Wave Juice Drink.  According to the label, it contains filtered water, cane or beet sugar, apple juice from concentrate, white cranberry juice from concentrate, fumaric acid, malic acid, natural flavors, citric acid, ascorbic acid, and carrot extract for color.  It has 21 grams of sugar per 8 ounce serving.

The recipe on this is incredibly simple.  Since the juice isn't refrigerated, that tells us it's already been pasteurized and should contain no wild yeast or bacteria.  That means there's no need to boil, as there would be with fresh juice or beer.  All you need to do is:
  • Measure 1/8 teaspoon of yeast nutrient
  • Sanitize an airlock and a stopper that fits the 64-ounce bottle
  • Open the bottle
  • Drop in the yeast nutrient
  • Drop in a third of a packet of Safale S-05 American Ale yeast
  • Put the lid back on
  • Shake the bottle a bit to ensure mixing of the yeast and nutrient
  • Remove the lid and insert the airlock and stopper
  • Allow the cider to ferment for at least two weeks in 65-75F temperatures
  • If the airlock doesn't appear to be bubbling anymore, you're ready to drink or bottle
To bottle the cider and carbonate it:
  • Sanitize five 11-ounce or 12-ounce bottles and a funnel that fits in the bottle
  • Sanitize five bottle caps
  • Put a carbonation drop in each bottle (these can be found on or local homebrew supply stores)
  • Insert the funnel
  • Carefully pour cider from the jug into the funnel, trying not to disturb the layer of yeast on the bottom any more than absolutely necessary
  • When the bottle is full, use a capper and one of the sanitized caps to cap the bottle
  • Put the bottles inside a cooler or other sealed plastic container and leave them in room temperature (65-75F) for two weeks
  • After two weeks, refrigerate and serve
Tasting Notes and Post Mortem

The cider carbonates very well and retains a champagne-like level of carbonation as you drink it.  The color becomes a bright pink, similar to a white zinfandel wine.  There is no head, and no lacing is left behind on the glass.  The flavor is very sweet, and the berry flavors come through clearly in both the aroma and flavor.  It's extremely easy to drink and reminds me of a berry-flavored soft drink.

Ingredients for this batch will cost about $4 total at current retail pricing, though you'll have to buy more yeast and carbonation drops than you need if you don't have them on-hand already.  

Unfortunately, I didn't take gravity measurements on this one, so I can't calculate an alcohol percentage.

If I make this again, some changes I'll consider:

  • We have fresh mint growing at the house, so I might make a mint "tea" with some vodka or grain alcohol and add it to flavor the juice.
  • I might also consider adding cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, anise, ginger, coriander, clove, or vanilla to it to increase the complexity of the flavor.  Although it's very pleasant to drink as-is, it feels more like a soft drink than an adult beverage.
Given that I already have a the bottling, capping, and sanitizing items around as part of my beer brewing equipment, the cost of a batch of this cider is low enough that I could try several different flavor combinations until I worked out something I really liked.  I could then scale that up to a five gallon batch (which would cost about $20-25 to make).

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