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Beer Style: Cyser
Recipe Type: other
Yield: 5 US gallons
-Pleasant apple flavor and smell, for a true cider.
-There are hundreds of ways to make cider, but this is a recipe tailored to someone who is looking to do the best cider that can be done with the tools of a typical home brewer.
Original Gravity: 1.08
Final Gravity: 1.010
Alcohol by Vol: 9.17%
Recipe Type: other
Yield: 5.00 US Gallons
I want to talk quickly about cider problems. I have posted this recipe to help alleviate the starting cider makers concerns (how do I get it sweet? How do I carbonate? etc.). So let me talk about these some.
First, it's true that comercial ciders are sweet and easy drink... but it's very difficult to make them at home. You see, commercial makers pasteurize their cider to prevent them becoming to dry (bitter) and then they force carbonate the bottles. Force carbonating involves a kegging system, bottled gasses, and lots of expensive equipment. So, how do we get a sweet, carbonated, cider using typical homebrew techniques... we don't. But, we can make a damn good cider that tastes like an applely white wine.
Ok, some things to know before making this. First, and most important.. the major mistake with cider is thinking it will be done in a week. It will be done in months... not weeks. I'll talk more about this later, but it's good to know this upfront.
Second, we are going to spike up the alcohol content and make an "Apple-Honey Wine." The reason for this is because if we raise the alcohol content to 12% or higher (this is something of a magic number in the wine world) the cider no longer needs to be carbonated to avert contamination. The alcohol becomes a preservative. I've made many batches and stored the five gallons resulting in very full and sealed half gallon mason jars. In order to raise the alcohol, we will add honey (you can use sugar, but it's watery and thin and it doesn't fit the rule of "good ingredients make good product"). The addition of honey to cider creates a drink that's not a true cider... it's called a Cyser. This is an ancient name, and worth looking into its history, but I'll skip that for now.
Now, to the ingredients. We are only going to use a few things, as you can see. But, it's how we use them that will make the difference between a light and drinkable cider, or a funky sour batch.
First, boil a gallon or two of cider and pour in (while stirring) the honey. Yes, 5 lb. That will get the alcohol up to about 12%. The honey has to be boiled to kill toxins and it needs to be diluted so it will mix (no time limit on this, just till mixed and boiled, maybe 5-10 min). Add the boiled honey and cider to the carboy. Add the rest of the cool cider to make 5 gallons. Shake the carboy around to mix. Check the SG and the temp. Add the yeast when the temp is below 120.
Lets talk yeast, quickly. Avoid beer yeast with this recipe (it won't ferment all of the sugar). Only use a wine yeast that will leave residual sugars. Any home brew shop can tell you which ones will leave more apple aroma and sugars in the cyser. I use Montrachet. I never, ever, use Champagne.
Ok, here is where we start to get to the secret of this whole thing... the primary ferment of this is going to take 4 weeks. Maybe it will be shorter, maybe it will be longer... but plan for 4 weeks. When there is less than a bubble per minute, rack into a secondary (or back into your cleaned carboy). I like to rack back into the carboy because it's glass and it will bring us to our next important trick... when you have racked into your secondary, add a whole bunch of chopped apples, without the seeds, and then more juice to mostly fill the container (leave about 4-6 inches head space). The fresh apples in the secondary will add a -lot- of aroma and flavor, and the extra juice will reduce how much air the cyser is exposed to, which can ruin it. Put an airlock in, of course.
Important secret two... let this sit in the secondary for 2-3 months. Yes, months. This is where ciders tend to fail, and its a hard lesson to swallow, but cider, unlike beer, really needs a true "secondary fermenation" (google this, it's too much to explain the chemicals). This long period to finish will mellow the cider out greatly.
Now, rack and bottle. You don't have to carbonate, but you absolutely can, just like beer (5 oz priming sugar for 5 gallons) and bottle. Needless to say, if carbonated, don't use mason jars. Final secret... let this sit another 3 months or so. I know, it's a long time, but it will take forever to carbonate and even if not carbonated it will still need a long time to continue to mellow.
This will not produce a "commercial cider," but that's pretty impossible anyway. If you try to make one, you'll just end up with bottle bombs or a very dry carbonated cider.
This, on the other hand, this is good. Really good. And old. This recipe goes back hundreds of years. I pretty much plan, when I make cider in October from fresh apples, to be drinking it in April. (to be honest, it will be palatable by Feb., but just keep waiting. Make some beer in the interim). If you have made a bunch of cider batches so far, but nothing like this, I highly recommend you give this a shot and see what you can take from it!
Source: Kris Blouch