Monthly Archives: January 2015

Your Temperance Temperature in 1790

Can you measure your moral and physical health by reviewing what you imbibe? At least one eighteenth-century doctor thought so.

In 1790 Dr. Benjamin Rush, Founding Father, Surgeon General for the Continental Army during the Revolution, and later professor at the University of Pennsylvania, published An Inquiry into the Effects of Spirituous Liquors on the Human Body and the Mind. He included this thermometer to help his readers gauge their level of health through their drinking habits. Cider comes in midway up the temperance side of the thermometer, too low to engender happiness but high enough to cause cheerfulness.

Temperance Theremometer

What’s your temperature?

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For more Temperance art, check out this 1838 temperance map which suggested that cider was a gateway drink to harder beverages.

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Continuing My Cider Education

You know the thought you get when you visit a cidery, winery, or brewery, the one that says it would be so much fun to do that. You make a little at home already. How difficult could it be to just scale everything up a couple of thousand gallons. “Pshaw,” you say, “It’ll be easy!”

Cidermaking, like everything from circus performing to street sweeping, is a lot harder than it looks. While it’s easy to jump right into a little home hobby production, scaling that up to a sustainable business model takes a lot more than a good forward-spring. Fortunately the Penn State Extension offers lots of help. Last week they hosted an Introduction to Hard Cider Production workshop.

The workshop covered everything from budgeting to making to marketing. While nothing was covered in depth, every discussion was informative and candid. The talks included:

Assessment of Cider Market Potential in the Eastern U.S.

Evaluation of Traditional American & European Apple Varieties for Cider Fermentation

Cider Apple Budget Tools

Hard Cider Sensory Analysis & Networking Opportunity

Hard Cider Production—Fermentation, Sanitation, Stabilization

Design & Establishment of a Hard Cider Orchard

“Apple Entrepreneurship” & Long-term Prospects for Hard Ciders in the U.S.

I learned something in every session, for instance:

  • Even though cider is a growing market, there is still no objective or centralized source of cider market data. Much of the data presented was gleaned from general internet searches of cidermaker websites.
  • For all its recent growth, hard cider is still less than 1% of US beer market.
  • 95% of the cider market are industrial producers (think Woodchuck or Angry Orchard). 5% are craft makers.
  • It’s only been since 2012 that per capita cider consumption in the US has exceeded one gallon per year.
  • While the belief is that dwarf and semi-dwarf trees produce larger, more watery apples than standard apple trees, that’s not true. They produce the same fruit, but mature faster (I’m still looking for a few studies on this, but all the scientists there agreed on this).
  • You might make a great product, but if you can’t understand, create, and adhere to a budget, you will fail.

The workshop highlighted a few areas I’m particularly weak in and need to develop, including my appreciation of orcharding and its influence on cider, my understanding of the business of cidermaking, and my tasting sensitivity and vocabulary.

For instance, you’ll notice the glasses are full, but the page is empty.

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Single Varietals: The Lazy Man’s Cyder

The single-varietal cyders were racked into secondary earlier this week. Even this early in their development there’s a pleasant sharpness to them both.

Russett and Gravenstein Secondary January 2015

L – 3 gallons Golden Russett (natural yeast)
M & R- 1.5 gallons Gravenstein (cider yeast)

I’m as eager for these to finish as I was with any of my previous cyders, but I notice a difference with these. They’re both pretty straightforward juices with no added sugars or other ingredients (though one does have pitched yeast). Because they’re so simple, I’m feeling kind of lazy.

If only this is what lazy usually got me.

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Mystery of the Foggy Bottom Solved

The foggy bottom has finally been cleared up. You might remember that one of the 2014 cysers (using Trader Joe’s juice, honey, and ale yeast) developed a viscous layer of goo during secondary.

It looked like this.

It looked like this.

It’s called pectic gel, and it’s an extreme form of pectic haze. Pectic gel occurs at the end of fermentation (it requires alcohol) in juice with a lot of pectin in it. Trader Joe’s juice has lots of pectin and that explains why it happened in secondary.

The solution came from Claude Jolicoeur’s The New Cider Maker’s Handbook. He also said there’s nothing to be done when it happens. You just have to rack the clear cider off the gel, but then you can use the gel in the kitchen. I wonder if it would make a good bread spread?

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