HOMEBREW Digest #5726 Wed 01 September 2010

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  Re: Cider (Tim Bray)
  RE: Mmmm! Cider! (Joe Dunne)

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---------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Wed, 01 Sep 2010 09:44:21 -0700 From: Tim Bray <tbray at wildblue.net> Subject: Re: Cider When I make cider I go out of my way to make sure I get 'tart blend' fresh cider to start with. I find hard cider made from predominately sweet varieties of apples to be a pretty bland drink. All dessert varieties (table fruit) are predominantly sweet, but most of them also have acidity to balance the sugars, otherwise they taste insipid, like Red Delicious, which has very little acidity and also very little flavor. If you use juice from insipid apples you get an insipid cider. But most dessert apples (those you can eat out of hand) have enough acidity to make them taste good with all the sugar; when you ferment the sugar away, the resulting cider is over-acidic. For my taste, anyway. If you backsweeten, this is not the case - then you need more acid to balance the sugar again. I suspect the blandness you note is from lack of tannins and lack of flavor, rather than lack of tartness. Tannins give cider body and complexity, and are almost completely absent from most "apple cider" juices from modern orchards. In fact, traditionally, cider makers have blended in the juice of tart 'crabapple' varieties to achieve a good result for hard cider. The main reason to add crabs is to get tannin, which dessert apples lack; and to get complexity, which dessert apples also lack. If your juice has low acidity, crabs will definitely bump that up, but typically you can only add about 10% crabs before the acidity gets too high. I target around 0.3% to 0.5% titratable acidity. More than 0.5% and it gets too 'sharp' for my taste. Apple character comes through best at around 0.35%, but that may be partly because I also have significant tannins. (I grow cider apples to get tannin, but most people are going to have a hard time finding that kind of juice.) Using commercial apple juice you probably want about 0.5%, but much more than that and it will be quite sharp. In the end of course it boils down to one's personal taste. Indeed it does! Mine is for a cider with perceptible apple flavor and aroma, smooth mouthfeel, full body, and soft complex bitterness. I never got that back when I followed the oft-cited advice to use plenty of tart apples; all I got was thin, sharp ciders. After malo-lactic fermentation they got better, but it wasn't until I started measuring titratable acidity and using cider fruit that I started getting really great ciders. The best of these came from syrupy-sweet juices, with OG around 1060 and TA around 0.3%. But obviously not everyone shares my tastes, because there are commercial ciders made from Granny Smith apples, and I find that stuff undrinkable. Out here in California there is a commercial cider made from Gravensteins and I don't think it tastes very good, either, but a lot of people drink it. My taste runs with the long established tradition of using plenty of tart apples in the cider blend. Doing otherwise results, frankly, in a pretty lackluster cider. The long established traditions rely on apples cultivated specifically for cider production. These have very different haracteristics than table fruit - similar to the difference between table grapes and wine grapes. The traditional blending is a mix of sweet, bittersweet, and sharp (or bittersharp) apples. The sweet and bittersweet have very low acidity and are frequently all but inedible; the sharps allow adjustment of acidity while contributing complexity and flavor. Table fruit on the other hand is generally sweet/sharp with no detectable bitterness. Frankly I find all ciders made from table fruit lackluster, but I'm spoiled by my own product. Cheers, Tim in Albion, CA Return to table of contents
Date: Wed, 1 Sep 2010 12:18:48 -0500 From: Joe Dunne <jrdunne at hotmail.com> Subject: RE: Mmmm! Cider! BR and Pat mention reducing the volume before putting the cider in the rear of the fridge to ferment. Should I assume that you simply pour out a glass or two? I'm guessing this is not a "reduction" in the fashion of making a reduction sauce. Thanks, Joe Dunne Chicago, North Side Return to table of contents
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