Failure To Launch or Trader Joe’s Trial & a New Toy, er, Tool

It’s not a little disappointing to begin this blog with my first true failure, but I am because that’s where I’m at for the moment.

Last Tuesday, August 27th, I started a new galllon of cyser (cider made using honey) consisting of Trader Joe’s Organic cider and their clover honey.

Based on what I’d found on the cider forums it sounded like the TJ juice would be good. And based on past batches, I decided to see where nature would take this one and not add yeast. I warmed a small amount of juice, stirred in the honey, let it cool, filled the carboy, put on an air lock (filled with cheap vodka), and waited.

I was excited to work on this batch for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which was to try using a hydrometer for the first time. I didn’t measure the alcohol of my previous ciders, but they felt pretty strong (strong being more than the typical 5% found in most mass-produced ciders).

Hydrometers are an easy way to measure the alcohol content of your cider (or any other alcoholic beverage). Float the hydrometer in a tube of unfermented juice and take the potential alcohol reading. Then, once it’s fermented out, take another reading. Subtract the second reading from the first, and that is your alcohol by volume (ABV).

My reading came out to a potential alcohol of 10.5%. All I needed to do was wait and see what this wound up being.

Unfortunately, I’ll never know. After almost a week of waiting nothing has happened. There’s been no fermentation. However, there is mold.

You can see the mold floating on top of the must, inside the carboy.

You can see the kidney-shaped mold floating on top of the must inside the carboy.

All I can guess is that it’s the juice. The previous batch of cyser used raw juice, right from the press which had enough natural yeast present to get everything going. The TJ juice said it didn’t have any preservatives, which would inhibit fermentation, but I wonder if they heated pasteurized it and killed any yeast present. Next time I’ll include a yeast when using Trader Joe’s juice. It seems odd since I successfully fermented a pasteurized Whole Foods juice without yeast. I’m missing something here, but I haven’t been able to find anything on the forums.

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