Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Cider Experiments - Part 3 - Peach Mango Cider

In parts 1 and 2 of this series, I talked about my experiment to try making a sweet cider.  In Part 2, we talked about how to turn Ocean Spray Berry Medley Wave Juice Drink into a cider using a little yeast nutrient and some dry American Ale yeast.  In Part 3, we'll do the same thing with Welch's Essentials Peach Mango Juice Cocktail.  (It's the one in the middle below.)

Peach Mango Cider Recipe

Here's what you'll need to reproduce this experiment:
  • One 64-ounce jug of Welch's Essentials Peach Mango Juice Cocktail
  • 1 packet of Safale S-05 American Ale Yeast
  • Yeast nutrient (optional)
  • Sanitizer (Star San or similar)
  • A drilled stopper that fits the opening on top of the juice jug
  • An airlock that fits into the stopper
  • A measuring spoon you can estimate or measure 1/8 teaspoon with (optional)
If you want to bottle and carbonate the cider as I did, you'll also need:
  • 5 carbonation drops
  • 5 unused bottle caps (sanitized)
  • 5 empty 11.2 or 12-ounce bottles
  • A bottle capper
  • Funnel that fits in the top of the bottle
Follow this process:
  • Sanitize the drilled stopper and airlock
  • Fill the airlock to the appropriate level with sanitizer
  • Measure 1/8 teaspoon of yeast nutrient (if using it)
  • Open the juice
  • Put the yeast nutrient measured earlier into the juice bottle
  • Sanitize and open the yeast packet
  • Pour about a third of the yeast into the juice bottle
  • Put the lid back on and gently shake the bottle to mix the yeast and nutrient into the juice
  • Remove the lid again
  • Insert the sanitized airlock and stopper into the bottle, pressing it in firmly without damaging the bottle
  • Leave the bottle in a location that is typically in the 65-75F temperature range for at least two weeks, but preferably four
  • If not bottling and carbonating, refrigerate and drink.
  • If bottling and carbonating, sanitize five 11 or 12 ounce bottles and caps, and the funnel
  • Drop a carbonation drop into each bottle
  • Remove the airlock from the juice bottle and carefully pour it into the funnel, filling up the bottle.  Try not to disturb the layer of yeast on the bottom of the juice jug.
  • Cap the bottle
  • Repeat until all that's left in the bottle is the milky, yeasty bit.  Discard the yeasty bit.
  • Place the bottles inside a cooler or other plastic container with a lid and leave them for at least two weeks in a location that is typically in the 65-75F temperature range. (The point of the cooler or plastic container is to ensure that if one of the bottles explodes due to overcarbonation or a weakness in the glass that the broken glass and cider are contained in something you can clean easily.  The point of being in the room temperature range is to ensure that the yeast can consume the carbonation drop and carbonate the cider.)
At the end of the fermenting or carbonating period, the cider is ready to drink.

Tasting Notes and Post-Mortem

The finished cider maintains the very pale yellow color of the original juice product.  It has an aroma of peach, mango, and green apple which is very enticing.  The flavor is a mixture of a Granny Smith apple-like tartness combined with a hint of sweet peach and mango flavors.  It would be fair to say it's pretty tart, similar to a Jolly Rancher green apple candy.  It is less sweet than the Berry Medley cider, but not dry like EdWort's Apfelwein.  The flavor is pretty simple and soda-like in nature.

In my case, I probably didn't ferment the juice long enough (even at 3-4 weeks).  Some bottles had a tendency to gush when opened.  The rest, like the one in the photo below, had a very champagne-like carbonation which created a finger-thick white head that vanished almost immediately.

It's a much less dry and less tart beverage than the same juice fermented with champagne yeast, so overall I like it much better.  

If I brew this again, here are some changes I'm considering:
  • Increase the size of the batch to 5 gallons instead of a half-gallon, and use the whole yeast packet and a scaled-up quantity of yeast nutrient.  This will also mean using a 5-gallon fermenter.
  • Consider adding brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, and/or nutmeg to it, to increase the complexity of the flavor a bit.  Adding the spices would probably be done by creating a "tea" using vodka or grain alcohol to soak the spices and extract their flavors.
  • Increase the fermentation time to six weeks to see if that dries it out a little bit and solve the "gushing" problem.
  • Sanitize a chunk of bourbon barrel and place that in the fermenter to add complexity.
A nice thing about this recipe is that it's relatively inexpensive to tinker with.  Each 64-ounce jug of juice costs approximately $2.  A $5 packet of yeast is good for at least three batches, and if you harvest it, could go further.  So for about $4 you can make a half-gallon test batch, flavoring it as described above, and 

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