Trader Joe’s Cyser, Take 3

It seems I can’t stop making this particular cyder. Not because it’s so good (though it is), but because I keep trying to solve puzzles it presents.

The first attempt was easy to solve – I should have added yeast. The second one wasn’t as easy – it fermented out nicely, but developed a thick, viscous layer at the bottom during secondary fermentation.

It was like hard cider jelly, which sounds better than it was.

I tried cold crashing it to see if it would settle out, but to no avail. The home brew forums were no help either. One respondent said this was normal for cider and I shouldn’t worry. It happens to his all the one time (he’d only done one batch of cider and that was still in process when he wrote). Another declared there was too much head space, but was unclear if that was the problem or he was just offering a helpful observation. Our friends at Blackledge Winery suggested it was due to the Nottingham ale yeast we used, which is highly flocculant (it causes a lot solids to drop to the bottom). That made the most sense.

I’m making the cyser again to see if I get the same foggy bottom and, if so, if a fining agent gets rid of it.

Originally, I was thinking of using isinglass. Isinglass is commonly referenced in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century professional cider manuals and a few receipt books, so I thought it would be  interesting to try it. However, as I’ve been researching early American home cider production I’m having a difficult time finding isinglass in the records. In fact, I’m having a hard time finding any fining agent.

My current thinking is that most farm families tried to produce cider as cheaply and easily as possible, which means their cidering process probably differed from what was suggested in the professional manuals. Isinglass would have to be purchased, but other fining agents like ox blood and egg whites would be readily and cheaply, if not freely, available. Now I’m debating using egg whites.

You didn’t really think I’d add ox blood, did you? Although I do know where to get some.

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7 Comments

Filed under Cider

7 responses to “Trader Joe’s Cyser, Take 3

  1. Mark, you may want to consult chapter 23 of Dufour’s book “The American Vine Dresser’s Guide” where he discusses the three best methods for fining wine: egg whites, isinglass and wood chips. In the case of the flocculant sediment from the cider yeast, (and in keeping with 18th century methods,) I would strain the wine first through cheese cloth or a course muslin bag, then put it back in the vessel for further fining with the egg whites, isinglass, etc. That way you’ll retain the most cider and give yourself a better starting point for final clearing.

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  2. Interesting read…

    Did you taste the jelly? Did it taste sweet? Perhaps it’s the unfermented sugars from the Honey falling with the lees. Honey is not 100% fermentable as it is a complex sugar. I had though it was just lees, until you said it was ‘jelly’. Then I thought perhaps it was a natural keeve until you said ‘secondary fermentation’. All points say that the jelly is probably the honey that has fallen and mixed with the yeast. I wouldn’t recommend adding any finnings if you want to keep it, ’19th Century’. They certainly wouldn’t have added any. However, if you are looking to have a clearer product post fermentation try adding a pectic enzyme prior to primary ferment….should help quite a bit.

    Cheers,

    Alex

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    • Honey as a complex sugar? It may be a “complex mix” of sugars but it is mainly glucose (roughly 30%, by weight) and fructose (40%) and it’s already in “invert” form thanks to the bees. All in all it’s about 75% fermentable sugar with the remainder being water, proteins, some minerals, etc. As for fining in the 18th and 19th century, please reference J J Dufour for contemporary methods. It was certainly done.

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  3. Alex,

    Thanks for taking a look at the site, the kind words, and the fermenting thoughts.

    I did taste the jelly and it was bitter, which is putting it nicely.

    Actually, I’m not trying to make a clearer cyser, I’m trying not to lose so much drinkable cyser to the foggy bottom. As I said above, I’ve recreated the batch to see what I get (and to get to drink the cyser again, which came out pretty well), see if there’s a way to solve it, and to learn a little more about cider making (which is the goal with everything I do). One of the reasons I’m contemplating using a fining agent is I haven’t used any yet and thought this was a good batch to experiment with.

    By the way, one of the solutions I’ve come up with so far is to make a larger batch, which means I’ll have a thicker foggy bottom but I’ll also have more cyser to drink.

    I am curious why you say the “historical they” wouldn’t have added finings?

    I’ve been enjoying Cider Monger.

    Thanks Again,

    Mark

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  4. Jeff Gier

    Mark, could this viscous layer be pectin? Cold crashing should settle it out. I don’t have any experience with this problem yet. I have read that pectin in suspension is a problem when the raw juice is heated to sterilize it before sale.

    I have only ever used cold pressed, unpasteurized fresh cider. I have also used pectin enzyme, but not on all my previous batches.

    Jeff G.

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