Showing posts with label cider. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cider. Show all posts

How to make homebrew hard cider

Friday, November 3, 2023
Brewing apple cider at home can be a delightful journey back to the sweet nostalgia of orchard-laden landscapes and the simple joys of fruit harvesting. As someone who grew up amidst the 'fruit bowl of New Zealand,' the experience of apple cider brewing is not just about creating a beverage, but also about invoking the essence of Hastings, where apples are a staple in every facet of life.

To embark on this journey of crafting your own hard cider, you need to start with the right variety of apples. The essence of your cider will come from the delicate balance of sugar and acidity, which is best achieved through a mix of late-season apples, ideally a combination of dessert and cooking varieties. The sugary sweetness and the robust tartness will lay the foundational taste profile of your cider.

Preparing Your Apples

Your first hands-on step is to prepare your apples. After a thorough wash, you'll want to transform them into pomace. If you don't have access to a scratter, don't fret; a little bit of manual labor can go a long way. Whether you're using a clean wooden post or the end of a sturdy kitchen utensil, your goal is to crush the apples just enough to liberate the juices without turning them into a puree.

Remember, the pomace should still have texture, a reminder that the best things in life require a blend of finesse and effort.


Crushing and Pressing

Once you have your pomace ready, it's time to extract the juice. If you have a press, great; if not, there are still ways to get the job done, albeit with a bit more elbow grease. The pressing is an art—apply too much force, and you risk over-extracting; apply too little, and you miss out on precious juice. It's about finding that sweet spot where every twist and turn yields a satisfying trickle of potential.

Sanitation and Fermentation

Sanitation cannot be overstressed in home brewing. Every piece of equipment must be pristine to ensure that no unwelcome bacteria take residence in your precious juice. Once you've sanitized everything and have your juice ready, it's time to introduce a Campden tablet to the mix. This little tablet is your first defense against wild yeasts and bacteria that could turn your cider to vinegar.

After a 48-hour rest period for the juice to become acquainted with the Campden tablet, it's time to introduce the yeast. This is the pivotal moment where you, much like a conductor, set the tempo for the fermentation process. Stirring the mixture at regular intervals ensures that your cider develops a harmonious symphony of flavors.

The Waiting Game

As the yeast works its magic, the anticipation builds. Patience is key. This is not just about the final product, but about the journey. As the days pass and the juice slowly transforms, you're given a chance to reflect on the process, on the memories of those orchards, and on the knowledge that you're creating something that's uniquely yours.

The Final Touches

As a home brewer approaches the culmination of the fermentation process, the liquid alchemy that transforms apple juice into cider is almost complete. Yet, it's in these final stages where a brewer's skill and preferences can significantly influence the end product. The choices made here are not just functional; they're an expression of the brewer's artistry and intent.

Sweeter Cider Considerations

If a sweeter cider is desired, one might consider back-sweetening. This involves adding sugar or apple concentrate after fermentation has ceased, and the yeast has been neutralized or removed. This prevents the added sweetness from being converted into alcohol, retaining the desired sugary notes.
Another method is to halt fermentation early by chilling or using additives that stop the yeast activity, preserving some of the apple's natural sugars.

Crafting a Drier Cider

For those who prefer a drier cider, the key is to let fermentation run its full course, allowing the yeast to consume most of the sugars in the juice. The result is a cider with a more pronounced tartness and alcoholic strength, and less residual sweetness.

Aging the cider for a longer period can also enhance the dryness, as it allows more complex flavors to develop that can overshadow any lingering sweetness.

Each decision reflects the brewer's taste and the desired sensory experience. Do they want a cider that greets the palate with a sugary kiss or one that offers a crisp, tart handshake? Should it dance with bubbles or sit tranquilly in the glass? The answers to these questions aren't merely preferences—they're the brewer's signature on their creation, a testament to the nuanced craft of home brewing.

Using Campden tablets combat infection when brewing cider

Monday, October 23, 2023

The 'Old School' Secret to Better-Tasting Beer

In the world of brewing, Campden tablets have long been revered as an 'old school' method to enhance the quality of beer. But what makes these tablets so special? 

Let's delve deep into the fascinating world of Campden tablets and their multifaceted uses in brewing.

using cambden tablets with beer brewing

Understanding Campden Tablets: The Super Pill of Brewing

At first glance, one might wonder if Campden tablets are some kind of super pill. Their primary components are potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite. Their primary function? To react with chlorine (or chloramine) when added to beer, cider, or wine, effectively removing it from the solution.

The best part? This entire process takes place without imparting any unwanted flavors to the beverage.

  • Dosage and Application: How Many Campden Tablets Should I Use? For this purpose, 16 tablets per gallon are recommended.
  • Removing Chlorine from Water: Half a tablet for every 5 to 6 gallons is sufficient, breaking down the chlorine in under 10 minutes.
  • Stabilizing Apple Juice for Cider Production: One crushed tablet per gallon of juice is ideal. Remember to wait for approximately 24 hours before introducing the yeast.
  • Combatting Infection in Cider or Wine: In cases of infections, 1 or 2 crushed tablets can be dissolved in the product. It's worth noting that the success of this method can vary.

Safety Concerns: Are Campden Tablets Safe to Use?

Absolutely. Over the years, these tablets have proved to be safe for consumption. A common query revolves around the release of sulfur dioxide. While it's true that sulfur dioxide is introduced into the water, its concentration diminishes massively by the time the beer is consumed, ensuring that the beer remains safe to drink.

Campden Tablets and Cider Production: A Crucial Relationship

Cider producers are well-acquainted with the threat of acetobacter bacteria contamination. Fortunately, while yeast remains resistant to Campden tablets, acetobacter is not, making these tablets a vital tool in cider production.

The Role of Campden Tablets in Wine Production

Campden tablets serve dual purposes in wine production:
  • Preventing Bacterial Growth: They deter stray bacteria from affecting the wine.
  • Acting as an Anti-Oxidizing Agent: Especially useful when transferring wine between containers, ensuring that any oxygen introduced is effectively neutralized.

Debunking Myths: Can Campden Tablets Halt Fermentation?

Contrary to popular belief, Campden tablets cannot be used to stop the fermentation process in wine or beer. Attempting to do so would require an excessive amount of tablets, rendering the beverage undrinkable.

campden tables for brewin beer ph

A Glimpse into History: The Origins of Campden Tablets

The story of Campden tablets dates back to the 1920s when the solution was developed by the Fruit and Vegetable Preserving Research Station in 'Chipping Campden', England. Its popularity soared when the Boots UK pharmacy chain introduced it in tablet form.

To Use or Not to Use: Are Campden Tablets Essential for Brewing?

The decision to use Campden tablets is subjective and depends on individual preferences and regional water quality. In places with high chlorine content, like Havelock North, New Zealand, the tablets come highly recommended. However, there are alternative methods available for those who opt against them, such as active carbon filters for removing chlorine and chloramine, and other sanitizing agents like sodium percarbonate and Powdered Brewery Wash for equipment sterilization.

campden tablets for beer making

The Art and Science of Crafting Prison Hooch: Pruno

The world of prison hooch, often glamorized and brought to life by TV dramas like "Orange is the New Black," offers a fascinating glimpse into an ingenious realm of brewing pruno. 

When "Poussey," from "Orange is the New Black," masterfully weaves her brewing magic using rudimentary plastic bags filled with an eclectic array of fruits, viewers are left in awe and perhaps some a tinge of disgust...

The clandestine world of prison brewing is rife with captivating terminologies. Names like 'toilet wine' evoke images of covert operations and midnight brews. 'Raisin jack' paints a picture of inmates using available resources to the fullest.

The term pruno, one of the more popular names, pays homage to its primary ingredient, prunes, which lend their sugary essence to the mix.

how to make prison hooch pruno

Alchemy Behind Bars: The Intricacies of Brewing in Bondage

Confined within steel bars and surveillance, inmates' resilience shines as they repurpose available fruits—from tangy oranges to succulent apricots—into the foundation of their brew. While the outside world has the luxury of specific strains of yeast, inmates turn to the everyday slice of bread. What's astonishing is that yeast, resilient as ever, survives the baking ordeal, propelling bread to the forefront as a pivotal fermenting agent.

And nature, in her abundant wisdom, provides wild yeasts that spontaneously join the fermentative fiesta...

Enhancing the brew requires sugars, and inmates showcase their creativity here. From the tang of tomato sauce sachets to the sweet allure of hard candies, anything with fermentable sugars becomes a potential ingredient.

Outside prison confines, the brewing process is more refined: quality brewer's yeast is introduced to fresh, preservative-free juice, and a controlled environment ensures optimal fermentation.

Mastering the Craft: A Step-by-step Guide to Brewing Perfection

  1. The Ideal Vessel: In prisons, fruits undergo a transformation in sealable bags, finding warmth and solitude in hidden corners for about a week. For the home brewer, a sterilized glass bottle offers precision and cleanliness.
  2. The Dance of Bubbles: Fermentation is an active process, releasing CO2. Daily 'burping' ensures bags don't burst, while bottles can employ a venting system using pierced balloons.
  3. Flavor Profiles & Enhancements: Natural fermentation often results in a tart flavor profile. To balance this, lemon-lime sodas or calibrated sweeteners can be introduced.
  4. Patience & Precision: A week is the general benchmark for fermentation.

Unveiling the Strength: The Intricacies of Potency

Depending on various factors, hooch's ABV can range from a gentle 2% to a staggering 14%, standing shoulder to shoulder with some of the world's potent wines. The type and quantity of sugars introduced play a pivotal role in this alcoholic dance.

Safety First: Navigating the Brewing Waters

Tales of botulism linked to prison hooch have occasionally surfaced in the US, primarily due to unsanitary brewing conditions. However, with rigorous cleanliness standards and proper sanitization, these risks are minimized. Moreover, the urban legend of methanol poisoning from homebrews remains just that—a legend.

How to use carbonation drops for brewing beer and cider

Using Carbonation Drops for Efficient Beer Brewing

Carbonation drops have become a popular choice among brewers for secondary fermentation during the beer bottling process. Traditionally, brewers would add sugar to each beer or cider bottle using a spoon, or they would opt for batch priming.

In contrast, carbonation drops offer a quick, error-free alternative. By placing a carbonation drop inside each bottle before sealing, secondary fermentation is initiated. This occurs as the yeast consumes the sugar present in the drop.

One well-recognized brand in this domain is Coopers Carbonation Drops. Another commendable brand is Mangrove Jacks. Both have garnered popularity and trust in the brewing community.

Ingredients of Carbonation Drops

The primary ingredient in carbonation drops is sugar, specifically sucrose. Thus, fundamentally, there's no stark difference between using a carbonation drop and adding sugar. The key advantage of using these drops is their convenience, ensuring consistency in the sugar dosage for each bottle. This uniformity is pivotal in achieving a consistent brew and preventing 'gushers', which are over-carbonated beers that overflow upon opening.

using carbonation drops for bottle conditioning

How to use Carbonation Drops for secondary fermentation

The procedure to use these drops is straightforward. Once the beer is transferred to sanitized bottles, a carbonation drop is added to each. The bottle is then sealed, allowing carbonation to commence as the CO2 remains trapped.

The number of drops per bottle varies with the bottle size. Here are some general guidelines:
  • 1 drop for a 350 to 375 ml or 12 OZ bottle. This also covers bottles up to 500 ml.
  • 2 drops for a 750 ml bottle or 25 OZ.
  • For bottles larger than 1 liter, 2.5 to 3 drops are recommended. 
However, caution is advised to prevent over-carbonation.

Carbonation Tablets as an Alternative

Carbonation tablets, or conditioning tablets, serve as another route to achieve carbonation. Unlike carbonation drops which primarily contain sucrose, these tablets comprise dextrose, dry malt extract, and heading powder. They introduce additional flavor and body to the beer. The application depends on the desired carbonation level; for a 12-ounce bottle (350 ml), 3, 4, or 5 tablets are used for low, medium, or high carbonation, respectively.

carbonation drops

Valuable Insights for Using Carbonation Drops

  • Carbonation drops can be employed to carbonate apple cider, adhering to the same measurements as beer.
  • Over-priming should be avoided. Excessive sugar can result in over-carbonation, leading to 'gushers' upon opening the bottle.
  • The brewing environment, especially temperature, influences the carbonation process.
  • For those who prefer adding granulated sugar, using a kitchen funnel can be efficient and less messy.
  • Carbonation drops can also be used for ginger beer and possibly hard seltzer.
  • When purchasing drops online, consider buying in bulk to optimize delivery costs.
  • A Soda Stream machine can be used for carbonation, albeit with caution.

How do carbonation drops actually work?

Carbonation drops operate on the principle of priming sugar. During secondary fermentation, the yeast metabolizes the sugar, releasing carbon dioxide (CO2) as a byproduct. This CO2 dissolves in the beer, inducing carbonation. Each carbonation drop contains a calibrated amount of sugar that yields a specific carbonation level. As the yeast processes this sugar, it releases a predetermined volume of CO2, ensuring the desired level of carbonation in the beer.

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