If you lived at any time prior to now, cidering would have been a strictly seasonal operation. You’d have to harvest, press, and ferment in September and early October, rack it off by December, and then let everything condition until April or May of the following year. While you can still get raw cider and ferment the old-fashioned way, today there are alternatives for those of us who want to experiment year-round.
Thanks to organic markets, like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, you can get unfiltered and (more importantly) preservative-free juice which can be fermentably improved. This past February I started three new batches with Whole Foods juice: one with just cider yeast, one with the cider yeast and a half pound of sugar, and a third with the cider yeast and pound of sugar. In March I started another three gallons using the same ingredients, but this time I fermented everything for three weeks instead of four.
I wanted to cold crash (chill the juice to stop fermentation and help the lees settle out) the March batches so I could compare the differences between those and the un-crashed February ciders.
After racking into secondary fermentation containers, I left everything to bulk age a little longer then my normal four months to see how well they’d clear up. Pasteurized juices tend to be very hazy even after they’ve fermented, unless you add a fining agent to drop the lees out or let them sit and condition a while.
I only cold crashed the ciders for 24 hours, so I wasn’t sure how much difference it would make all these months later. Before bottling, I noticed a slight color difference between them. The February batches are a little darker than the March ones, as you can (kinda) see here:
To test everything further, we tasted as we bottled. Apart from the color difference, the March batches tasted brighter, for lack of a better word. And they both were much clearer than an earlier Whole Foods batch I made.
While the pre-bottle sampling was rampant, there was still enough for all this…
After bottling, I racked off the Trader Joe’s juice I started last month. It will also sit for several months so it can clear. Now, with that done, I can turn my attention to acquiring some local raw juice for some old-fashioned fermenting.