Almost immediately after writing about my Tart Cider from 2011, I went to work on the new batch for 2014. If you read my post about the original, you know it was not my recipe. As much as I liked it, I felt compelled to put my own twist on it for the new batch.
To start with, I got some top of the line, unfiltered all natural apple juice in place of the store brand, from concentrate stuff I used last time. That stuff is fine, but I decided to take a page from my Sweet Cider recipe and try to preserve more of the natural apple flavor instead of skimping on cheap juice and then covering it up so much.
As a result, probably the biggest change I made was skipping the grape juice concentrate. I want natural, fresh fruit flavor, so that seemed to be going in the wrong direction. That said, I still needed some tartness and something to balance the alcohol, so I upped the tannin addition a little bit. I also used a higher portion of brown sugar in place of white. The brown sugar should give a little bit more character and maybe even body to this very dry cider.
An unintentional change came when I realized I didn’t have enough tartaric acid. I only added half as much as the other recipe called for, but that was purely by mistake. This ingredient is mainly to aid in fermentation and I still had all the normal yeast nutrient and some healthy yeast, so hopefully it won’t be an issue.
Beyond the recipe changes, I decided to ferment this in a carboy instead of the bucket I used last time. That was only because I had a freshly emptied and sanitized carboy to use. I don’t normally ferment in buckets anymore, with the exception of my eight gallon bucket for bigger batches or those with tons of fruit. That turned out to be a mistake, though. Mixing all of the sugar in a bucket is much easier. I ended up having to mix about a pound at a time with a bit of juice in a pot and then dumping that into the carboy and repeating the process six times.
Once all the sugar was in, I shook it up good before adding the other ingredients and shaking it again. After that, I added the rest of the juice and took my second gravity reading. The first gravity reading was the first thing that I did, to see how much sugar was already in the juice and how much I’d have to add. The pre-sugar OG was around 1.045. My gravity last time was 1.083 and I wanted to get close to that this time, so I did the math and found that I’d need about six pounds of sugar. I knew that I wanted more brown sugar than white so I checked and realized that I had four pounds of brown sugar in unopened bags. For simplicity, I decided to use that and make up the difference in white sugar so I only had one thing to weigh.
So back to the second gravity reading. It ended up right on 1.080. The last batch was the only thing I’ve ever had finish at an apparent gravity under 1.000. Assuming this ends in the same range of around .998, this batch will be around 11% ABV. With that figured out, I added the yeast, gave the carboy one more good shake and added the airlock.
The plan is to rack it in a week and check the gravity, then give it another two weeks and check again. Assuming everything goes well, it should be down around 1.015 or lower when I rack it and just under 1.000 after three total weeks. If that is the case, It will be time to bottle. That is a really quick turn around for something of this strength, in beer terms anyway, but it will have to spend a bit more time in the bottle before it’s ready to drink. I hope to give it a month or so before opening one. It should continue improving for several months and even a year or more, though. Hopefully I can give fresh tasting notes in a couple months and then maybe follow up with a second set next year. Stay tuned.