Vanilla-Apple-Cinnamon Cider

At the Behest of My Love

While brewing the Belgian triple, my lovely girlfriend and I were talking about the new primary and secondary fermenters we had received for Christmas and what we wanted to do with them.  She indicated that she wanted to do another apple cider, though this time with cinnamon accents instead of mango.  I suggested vanilla as an additional accent and she agreed.  So, at the behest of my love, I finished up the brew in progress and took a trip to a 24 hour Walmart for additional supplies.

Brew Day (05Dec13)

Since we went full fruit last time we made a cider, I decided to try full juice this time.  Online research revealed that I could use any type of juice that I wanted so long as it didn't have preservatives in it.  Preservatives work by killing bacteria and other microorganisms, like yeast.  Several sources recommended cider as opposed to juice for the sake of taste.  Walmart sold 1 gallon jugs of apple cider for pretty cheap, so I picked up a couple gallons, a bunch of cinnamon sticks and some other odds and ended I needed.

Since my bucket could hold 2 gallons and I always end up loosing some with each racking/bottling, I started out with 1 gal of juice and planned to dilute to the correct SG with (what I hoped to be) about 2/3 gal of water.  For this one, the specific gravity was supposed to read 1.083 - 1.095.  However, the SG only read 1.060 with just juice, sugar and chemicals, so I had to be satisfied with what I had.  Adding water would just bring the SG closer to 1.000. Since I couldn't add water without diluting the sugars further, I ended up using an additional 2/3 of a jug of cider instead of an equivalent amount of water.

According the recipe book I have, the chemical mixes scale linearly, so adding the correct amounts wasn't hard. The chemicals (1 2/3 tablets of campden, 1 2/3 tsp of Pectic enzyme and yeast energizer) and sugar (1 2/3 tablets of campden, 1 2/3 tsp of Pectic enzyme and yeast energizer) were easy enough to scale up.  Also, reducing the amount of head space in the bucket will help the fermentation when it gets to the anaerobic stage.

During my research, I found another blog that talked about brewing cider, citing Musselman's specifically as a juice that had worked for them in the past.  Turns out, it was on sale, so why not?

My online research also showed me that cinnamon is an easy enough spice to add.  No need to sanitize as no bacteria that could compete with the yeast would survive in the spice.  Simply introduce it in the last 10 mins of a boil or into the secondary fermenter and allow it to soak.  I decided to put it in the primary fermenter in this case.  When I go to the homebrew store tomorrow to pick up some more EC-118 (champagne yeast), I'll also pick up some vanilla beans to add to the fermentation.

Like the triple, honey will have to rack the cider while I'm away at training.

Racking Day (14Dec13)

But wait?  Wasn't racking day supposed to be on 12Dec13?  Indeed it was, but my lovely girlfriend called me that day (I was out of town at training for my day job) and let me know that the airlock was still bubbling so loudly that she could hear it through the walls.  We decided to give the yeast a few more days to settle down before racking.  I ended up racking the cider the same day I racked the dunkelweizen on my way back through town.

Like the Belgian Tripel, there is a lot of head space in the top of one of the carboys.  During secondary fermentation, you want to reduce the head space in order to reduce the oxygen that is available to the remaining yeast.  This avoids funky flavors in the cider.  This will be an interesting experiment to see how much the flavor of the cider is actually affected by the extra space.

With a original SG of 1.060 and a final of 1.002, the ABV of this drink will be 7.6%.  Stiff, and I look forward to tasting it!  I thought I smelled something off about the cider when I opened the plastic jug, so I leaned over for a deep sniff.  It made me light headed!  It smelled better after the racking, so it must have been something in the trub.

I'm unsure if I want to kill the fermentation or go straight to bottling.  If I kill it, the cider will not carbonate, but I can bottle it in mason jars.  This batch bubbled like mad, so I'm not sure if the mason jars will be strong enough to not break if I do let the yeast keep going.  I'll put some thought into it and let y'all know.  The next step is to either kill the carbonation or bottle.  We'll figure it out then!

Bottling Day (25Dec13)

I'm excited to see how this brew ends up coming out.  We may (read: probably did) have made a mistake with how we bottled, so I'm interested to see what sort of effect that has.  When we went to our home brew store, they only had enough beer bottles to bottle our two batches of beer, so we decided to bottle in wine bottles instead.  Since my darling wanted to do wine anyways, we figured that buying a corker wouldn't go to waste.

We ended up mixing the two bottles together for easier bottling, but did a taste test before we did.  The two samples of cider looked and tasted the same, so I'm pretty pleased that the extra head space didn't appear to introduce any funk flavors.

The problem I mentioned earlier was the corks.  See how they don't fit flush with the bottles?  Well, I think that because we got the wrong size.  Ooops!  To be fair, we asked for advice as to which corks to get, but no one is perfect.  Second, we didn't sanitize the corks before we bottled.  I know, I say sanitize EVERYTHING.  Trust me, I wish I had ignored the advice now, but the online research I did turned up a lively debate as to whether or not it was wise to sanitize corks because of swelling and moisture induced mold.  The forums also suggested we use a lot of chemicals we didn't have, and because it was Christmas, the home brew supply store was closed.

One of the main reasons I went ahead without sanitizing was because the corks were in a heat sealed bag, and cork manufacturers will typically sanitize their corks before packaging with sulfur dioxide gas to help keep stuff from growing.  Turns out, the corks were actually repackaged by the home brew store, so any factory sanitization was likely ruined when that happened.  As such, I think we'll loose the wine bottles out of this batch, but he cider bottled in beer bottles should still be good!

I'm going to give this one a nice long ageing time to see what sort of flavors we can get.  I'll open the bottles one at a time and let y'all know how it goes!




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