Cider making is generally quite straight forward and a lovely tasting cider can be achieved with very little effort however here is a little advice if you need to alter the flavour of your brew. It is worth noting that most flavours will mature in the bottle so adjusting is not always necessary.
Acidity in your cider
The acidity is usually determined by the variety of apples used, acid gives cider it’s crisp taste so without it the cider would lack flavour it is essential to have some present for a good quality cider. It is also essential for fermentation as a cider with low acid and a high ph will make it susceptible to bacterial infections at the early stage of fermentation. The ph you are looking to achieve is between 3.2 – 3.8. The rule is that as the acidity goes up the ph goes down and vice versa.
Lowering the acidity
Precipitated chalk will lower the acidity add approximately 1 teaspoon per gallon, it will reduce the acidity by 1½ parts per thousand. Make sure you have enough head room in your fermenter as it froths up quite a bit when added. Be careful not to over do it and if you don’t have an acid testing kit keep tasting until you have the correct flavour, keep in mind that there should always be a slight flavour of the acid coming through. You can also blend your juice with another which is lower in acidity which should help to bring it down too.
Another method is not to add a campden tablet to high acid juice before fermentation, you can then progress with fermentation as normal and start racking off once the cider tastes palatable and the acidity has gone down. Fermenting it on further at this point means that the malolactic fermentation will take place which converts malic acid to the more palatable lactic acid. You can then commence the racking process after this which means transferring the brew off the sediment and into another vessel, before racking you can add a campden tablet to protect against oxidisation. Keep repeating this process until little or no sediment builds at the base of your fermenter. It will then be ready to bottle.
Malic acid is found naturally in apples and will increase the acidity. Add approximately one teaspoon per gallon and be careful not to over do it and keep tasting it or test it with an acid kit until the desired flavour/ph is reached.
Add one level teaspoon per gallon to increase the levels of tannin, tasting as you go so that you don’t add too much. To lower the level of tannin finings can be used as the tannin particles are usually negatively charged, adding particles that are positively charged results in them sticking together they then sink to the bottom of the fermenter. There is more information on using finings in your cider here:
Adjusting the sweetness
I like cider to be sweet in which case adding sweetener or apple juice to your brew at the end of fermentation will increase the sweet flavour. Rack the cider off into a secondary
fermenter and add the sweetener or apple juice until the desired flavour is achieved. The sweetener will not ferment but the apple juice will so it’s worth adding campden tablets to stop any vigorous ferment. The dosage is one crushed tablet per gallon, it is worth noting that this will not stop fermentation completely so before doing this you can also try the next method to create a sweet/medium cider.
You can slow the ferment down before all the fermentable sugars have been consumed. Use your hydrometer to track the progress of fermentation and once the reading is around 1025 to 1020 rack if off into a sterilised vessel then rack again once the reading has reached 1015. This should help to stabilise the cider don’t forget to add a campden tablet each time to protect against oxidisation and bacterial infection.
Keep in mind that fermentation could start again with this method so make sure your bottles/keg can handle the pressure. Because it has been racked a few times this will reduce the amount of yeast cells present so you shouldn’t have a vigorous ferment at this point.
This is a good option for producing sweet cider, pasteurising will stop any further fermentation and therefore maintain the flavour profile. Pasteurisers are expensive but if you’re planning on making a lot of cider and you like it to be sweet it’s a good investment.
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