I’ve been meaning to write about our apple cider making experience for weeks now, but it’s late on a Sunday evening and I had part of a beer with dinner, so the complete writeup will have to wait at least for another day, but I’ll share something cool with you now.
In our kitchen, we have two 5-gallon jugs (“carboys”) filled with cider. As the cider ferments, it throws off tiny bubbles of gas. For the first several weeks, those bubbles came out of the tops of the carboys, through rubber tubes, and into a bucket of water. We’d hear little bubbling sounds all day long.
This weekend, Michael “racked off” the cider in the carboys, which means he siphoned off the cider into clean containers so as to separate the cider from the “lees” (the residual particles from the apples that had collected at the bottom of the carboys). After that, he replaced the rubber tubes with little gas traps attached to the carboy caps. Since fermentation is slowing down, these little gas traps are now sufficient for letting the little bubbles escape.
We check the carboys every day to watch the bubbles, anxious to see continuous activity because we really want 10 gallons of hard cider, not cider vinegar, at the end of the fermentation process. So, now that we can’t hear the bubbling the way we could when the gas was escaping into the bucket of water, we just stand and watch — and smile when we see that little bubble escape. It’s alive!
We just bottled our cider last night, and I helped a friend bottle hers this morning. Now for the hard part!!
The waiting? Yes… argh!
Have you done this before? If so, how’d it go? This is our first attempt.
I’m curious how you determine when fermentation is complete…? Did you take a gravity reading when you first pressed?
Does sunlight “skunk” the cider like it can with fermenting beer? (My carboys always wear a t-shirt to keep out the sunlight)
Yes, Michael’s been monitoring the gravity with a hydrometer. When the reading got to about 1.01, it was time to end the primary fermentation. As for sunlight, that’s a good point and I have no idea at all. I’ll have to ask Michael about that one. Love the t-shirt idea!
Update: I just checked with Michael and he says sunlight isn’t a problem with cider. From a brewer’s forum he found:
“Photons hit the iso-humulone compounds that are formed from the hops, and transform them into thiol compounds, which are very similar to the odor components in skunk exudate.”
cider: no hops, ergo no skunk
I just read this on my homebrewing forum:
“Cider doesn’t skunk. (Unless you’re one of the weirdos that hop your cider.)”