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The Cider Experiments - Part 4 - CRAVE Cider

In the fourth installment of this series is my first unique cider recipe, loosely based on some of the ideas in Mary Izett's book Speed Brewing.  I'm calling it CRAVE, which stands for:
  • Cinnamon
  • Raisin
  • Apple
  • Vanilla Extract (actually it's bourbon vanilla bean paste, but CRAVBVBP didn't really roll off the tongue)
The recipe is:
  • Two 64-ounce jugs of pasteurized apple juice without preservatives
  • 1/2 cup of dark raisins, chopped up
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon of bourbon bean vanilla extract paste
  • 1/8 teaspoon of yeast nutrient
  • 1/3 packet of Safale S-05 American Ale Yeast
The process to brew it:
  • Put the raisins, vanilla bean paste, yeast nutrient, and cinnamon in a small pot with enough water to cover them.
  • Boil them for at least 5 minutes to extract flavors from all of them.
  • While they're boiling, sanitize a 1-gallon glass jug or other fermentation vessel, a funnel (if needed to get the liquids into the fermenter), and a strainer.
  • Strain the solids away from the liquids in the pot and discard them.
  • Chill the liquid to room temperature in an ice bath.
  • Sanitize the outside of the pot to avoid contamination.
  • Pour the liquid into the fermenter, using the funnel if necessary.
  • Pour the apple juice into the fermenter to fill it.
  • Sprinkle yeast into the fermenter.
  • Sanitize a stopper that fits the fermenter and an airlock.
  • Insert the stopper and airlock into the jug to seal it.
  • Ferment the cider for at least four weeks in a 65-75F temperature location.  If you still see activity in the airlock, even if it's a minute or two apart, keep fermenting.
  • When the airlock seems to have stopped bubbling, sanitize ten to twelve 11-ounce or 12-ounce bottles and caps.
  • Drop a carbonation drop in each bottle.
  • Using a sanitized funnel, carefully pour the cider into each bottle to fill it.
  • Cap the bottles.
  • Put the bottles inside a cooler or sealed plastic container in case they become overcarbonated and burst.  This will keep the mess inside the cooler or container and greatly simplify cleanup if a bottle explodes.
  • After two or more weeks, refrigerate and serve the cider.
Taste Test and Post-Mortem

Overall, the finished cider was relatively dry, with some tartness.  The raisin, cinnamon, and vanilla did NOT come through at all.  The worst part is that fermentation seems to have brought out a very mild but detectable vinegar-like flavor.  Although I could probably give the cider to a number of people and they wouldn't notice it, once I picked it out I couldn't taste anything else.  I ended up pouring it down the drain.

I don't recommend brewing this one.  The raisins, cinnamon, and vanilla added nothing to it.  The result was slightly vinegary, and not particularly appetizing.  I don't know if I would do this one again or not.  Either way, it doesn't live up to the name.

If I did do this again, I'd probably leave out the raisins and vanilla and try it with just the cinnamon.  That might work better. I'd probably also leave the cinnamon in the fermenter so that the cider had every opportunity to pick up the flavor.

UPDATE 2/16/2016:  After the very unpleasant initial tasting, I didn't touch the bottles again for another month.  They sat in my cellar, undisturbed.  Last weekend, I decided to dump the remaining bottles down the drain and re-use the empties.  I opened the first bottle and took a whiff of it.  No hint of vinegar.  I poured it into a glass carefully to avoid the sediment.  It looked much like the photo above.  Tentatively, I sipped it.  The cider was a little tart, but not sour.  There was no longer any hint of vinegar to it.  Unfortunately, no hint of the cinnamon or vanilla either.  I wound up drinking it and not dumping the remaining bottles.  It goes to show something I once read about brewing... There are few mistakes a brewer can make that time can't correct.  So it seems here.  I still have no intention of making this recipe again, but I don't plan to dump it, either.

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