Saturday, July 19, 2014

Les Vergers (French Cider) - "Brew" Day

I'll admit that the craft cider boom that I thought would happen...hasn't really happened.  Granted there are some small pockets of popularity in places like Vermont (and I assume other places with an abundance of trees/shrubbery), but for the most part, it hasn't gained as wide of an acceptance as the craft beer movement has attained.  I think this is unfortunate.

One of my favorite ciders is actually from one of the oldest cider makers in the world.  If you've never had an opportunity to try some of the offerings from Domaine Dupont, do yourself a favor and grab a bottle.  Recently, bottles of their Bouche Brut have been making into Philly and when I'm feeling like spending a ton of money on liquid, I'll get a bottle.  Bouche Brut is a very effervescent, somewhat sweet cider that's almost on a level with champagne.  It's a wonderfully refreshing drink.

Traditionally, the French cider producers in the Normandy area use a method known as keeving, whereby the apple pulp is left to sit overnight before pressing.  This allows the pectin to come out of the cell walls of the pulp and into the juice.  Then the juice is pressed moved into another vessel.  At this point, natural pectinase in the juice causes the pectin to precipitate and the liquid forms a brown cap (chapeau brun in French).  This is the pectin, some calcium and other nutrients coming out of solution.  Afterwards, the juice below the chapeau is carefully siphoned off and allowed to ferment naturally.  Whats left over though, is a juice that low in nutrients that causes fermentation to stop prematurely at a level that makes for a nice, sweet cider.  The cider is bottled in champagne bottles prior to complete fermentation and continues to develop in the bottle, dropping a few more gravity points and giving the cider a nice carbonation.

My goal is to make something approximating that -- albeit in a totally budget manner.  Domaine Dupont has acres of various apple varietals that are key in making their cider.  I'm using Motts.  I've done numerous ciders before with various levels of success so I'm hoping to refine my process a bit and experiment with some new ingredients.

I spent some time doing research on how various yeast strains and sugar additions effect the final flavor.  I ended up settling on doing a split fermentation with WY3068 and WLP300 in two different 3 gallon fermentors.  Apparently WLP300, when used as the sole fermenting yeast, will create a cider that borders on extreme tart/sourness.  However, several had noted that a WLP300-fermented cider, when blended with a WY3068 cider, left a wonderfully balanced, slightly tart cider with a decent bit of body.

For the sugar addition, several people I spoke with had great things to say about a mix of both light brown sugar along with corn sugar in a 2/3, 1/3 mix.  Commentors on also had noted that once the OG got above 1.065, the finished cider tended to lose some of its apple flavoring and take on much more noticeable alcohol notes.  Since my goal is to make a cider thats both apple tasting (duh) and refreshing, I figured I would try to hit that 1.065 mark.

The actual production only takes around 20 minutes to sanitize and mix everything together.  For the sugar additions, I felt it was helpful to measure them out into a glass and then pour the sugar into a funnel in the apple juice container and wash it down with some juice from a different container.  The sugars dissolved very rapidly -- much more so than when I used turbinado for an apfelwine and had to shake the shit out of it for 20 minutes.

Les Vergers (French Cider)
Est OG: 1.066
Est FG: 1.007
IBU: 0
ABV: 7.85%
SRM: 6.4

5 gallons Apple Juice
1.25lb Light Brown Sugar
0.75lb Corn Sugar

1pkg Weihenstephan Weizen Yeast WY3068
1pkg Hefeweizen Ale Yeast WLP300

1) This will be a split batch that will be blended prior to bottling.  Thoroughly mix the sugars together.
2) Open one gallon of apple juice and empty half into a fermentor.
3) Add one pound of the sugar mix to the apple juice container and shake until dissolved.  Add to fermentor.
4) Add another 1.5 gallons of straight apple juice to the fermentor.
5) Add yeast, airlock and shake to mix together
6) Repeat steps 2-5 for second fermentor.
7) After fermentation, blend both batches together in bottling bucket.  Carb to 2.8-3.0 volumes.

7/19/2014 -- Produced by myself.  Very easy, took 20 minutes.  Pitched a different yeast strain into each fermentor.

7/21/2014 -- As far as weizen yeasts go, this fermentation is rather subdued.  I attached blow-off tubes just in case (from bad experience with the 3068) but I doubt that they'll be needed.  Perhaps a lower prevalence of proteins in the AJ results in less krausen?  I'm sure this has been documented, I just don't really care enough to look it up...

7/23/2014 -- Yea, nevermind, these krausen'd up pretty well.  Not a ton of blowoff, but glad I affixed the tubes.

8/1/2014 -- Pulled a small taste from the 3068 half.  Surprisingly still quite sweet.  There's still some visible fermentation going on in both batches, but I was surprised how much residual sweetness is left  after fermenting for close to 2 weeks already.  I was afraid that these might both dry out a bunch, but that doesn't appear to be the case.  No gravity reading taken.

8/14/2014 -- Pretty crazy, but this is still fermenting.  Moving carboys to the new house.

9/3/2014 -- Blended both carboys into my bottling bucket in a 1:1 ratio.  Added a 3oz packet of grape tannin and 5tbsp of malic acid as it need a little bit more body and zip.  There was a significant off-gassing of C02 when I added the tannin.  Added 6oz corn sugar, aiming for 3.2vol, but I wouldnt be surprised if it comes out less due to the off-gassing.  Corked and caged.


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