Monthly Archives: November 2013

Updates On Our “Compleat” Cider & Trader Joe’s Cyser

Last week I racked off the “Compleat” cider, which consists of raisins, sugar, and natural yeast. When it started it was dark brown (as you can see here). After a month in primary fermentation, it cleared out and now looks like this

IMG_0454Unfortunately, while I was putting the stopper in the new jug, I pushed it through the neck and down into the juice.

IMG_0466I transferred the juice to a new bottle for secondary fermentation and was able to get the stopper out. It’s not the end of the world or anything, but I was, at that very moment, explaining to J that you need to put the stopper in carefully.  Rather than laugh at me, she looked appropriately shocked.

The Trader Joe’s cyser started back in September has been sitting in secondary fermentation, clearing nicely. Nicely, that is, except for a thick, cloudy layer at the bottom of the carboy. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not solid like lees would be.

I put it in the fridge to cold crash it and see if it will get everything to settle out more. This layer might be nothing, but it’s probably not something I want to bottle. That means getting less cider from this batch, which would be a shame.

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Cidering Makes the House Smell

All I’ve been thinking about since starting my first cider batches last fall is expanding the cydery. Of course, these thoughts focused on the drinking, not the fermenting. The first few days of primary fermentation produces a lot of CO2 gas. As the juice bubbles away, it releases this gas into the room, as you can see in this video

This gaseous release is about as pleasant as the phrase “gaseous release” sounds. When I started nine gallons going this past Tuesday, I didn’t consider that more fermenting cider produces more gas. Currently, the house smells strongly of apples and yeast. As I keep telling J, it’ll get better. Next week.

The source of these fumes includes:

6 gallons of November blend* raw juice, 3 lbs of white sugar, raisins, and White Labs English cider yeast (all in our new 6.5 gallon carboy).


I also started three test batches. They are l-r:
– November blend juice, 1/2 lb light brown sugar, and WL English cider yeast
– Trader Joe’s unfiltered juice, 1/2 lb light brown sugar, and WL English cider yeast
– Pear juice and WL English cider yeast

Fermented pear juice  is called perry. It’s a flat, very dry drink. I decided to experiment making a simple perry based on what one might call a whim, figuring what’s the worst that could happen. I found this pear juice at Whole Foods.


Next time I want to try making perry using this



*Solebury Orchard‘s November blend consists of:

25% Honey Crisp
25% Stayman Winesap
25% Gala
5% Sun Crisp
10% Empire
5% Golden Delicious
5% Keepsake, Fuji, Braeburn

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Bugs In the Works

Cider making in art always looks like a pleasant way to pass the time. Although cidering was done outdoors in mid to late- autumn when the weather can be questionable, it’s usually depicted happening during sunny and warm days.

Cider Making. William Sidney Mount, 1840-41. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Unless the weather is cool, however, outdoor cider making can also mean bugs. Lots of bugs. Particularly, the stinging kind.

During a recent pressing on a pleasant mid-October day, our press was swarmed with hundreds of yellow jackets. They were everywhere, inside the grinder and the press, which means yellow jacket bits wound up in the juice. Even after everything was strained, a few of the more persistent ones found their way into the juice.

Floating (and dead) yellow jackets are often ignored by artists.

But it seems yellow jackets are a common part of cider making. Fortunately, some people’s cider memories include the less-than picturesque, as this piece, from the  Pittsburgh Press (October 20, 1991), p. W2., explains:

Click image to enlarge.

Next time you run across a cider or apple wine with a name like Yellow Jacket, or Stinger, or Yellow & Black, you might want to ask where they got the name from. They’ll probably have a story no painter could ever capture.

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