Single-Varietal Cyders & the Workings of Wild Yeast

Sometimes my cydering experiments are guided as much by serendipity as intention. I had only started reading up on single-varietal ciders, thinking it was something I’d try next year, when a couple of single-variety juices suddenly became available. So I jumped right in.

A single-varietal cider comes from juice pressed from only one kind of apple. If you’ve had Woodchuck’s Granny Smith, or any number of imitators, you’ve had a single-varietal cider. They’re tough because one apple has to do all of the work – it has to be sweet enough, bittersweet enough, sharp enough, and bittersharp enough. Not many individual apple varieties are so well-rounded, which is why most ciders are made from a blend of apple types that balance each other out.

Thanks to the local homebrew shop, who imported some from an Upstate New York orchard, I was able to get  Golden Russet juice. Golden Russet cider seems to be universally acclaimed, so it seemed like a good place to begin. I started a batch last Thursday morning.

3 gallons Golden Russet, no added sugar or yeast. Potential ABV 9%.

Another popular single-varietal is Gravenstein. Whole Foods offers a Gravenstein-only juice (without preservatives). I know I’ve said in the past I wanted to avoid store-bought juice, but it’s tough to find raw Gravenstein locally. I started that going yesterday morning.

1.5 gallons of Gravenstein, no added sugar or yeast. Potential ABV 6.25%.

Yesterday was day four for the Golden Russet and wild yeast batch. I was starting to worry because nothing seemed to be happening. For most of Monday it looked unchanged, but by the early afternoon tiny bubbles started collecting on the surface:


Three hours after that it looked like this:


Yet another reminder that you work with wild yeast on its terms, not yours.


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