Last weekend we decided it would be kind of fun to make a “hard” cider. Given the overall simplicity of brewing a cider, we charged headlong into it. We already had some dry champagne yeast, and the ‘rick decided to to pick up some Apple Cider from the god-fearing grocery store and go to town. I cautioned that we should bring the entire mess to a boil before attempting to ferment, but like all good ideas I have the ‘rick choose to ignore me. (Sidenote, don’t the “intellectually superior” piss you off sometimes?) At any rate, five gallons of Apple Cider were dumped into the the carboy, along with the dry yeast and some spices we boiled into a pan of water, and we waited.
After waiting 48 hours it was determined that we needed to kick start this fermentation. I stopped by what suffices as a local homebrew store, and picked up a vial of White Labs Sweet Mead yeast to pitch into the cider. We also pulled out the reptile heat pad and placed that underneath the carboy to try and bring the temperature of the cider up to a point that our little aerobic buddies could start working. Within 12 hours we had a lovely even krausen across the top of the carboy and thought all was good in cider land.
Last night we decided to go ahead and rack the cider into secondary fermentation. Given that all current carboys were in use, and that our corny keg was still smelling of pepsi and rootbeer we decided to rack the cider into it. I dismantled the CO2 ball-lock hose to be open on the end that would normally attach to the CO2 pressure regulator, affixed it to the top of the keg (quick and dirty CO2 blow-off valve anyone?) and we submerged it into a jar full of water. We popped the fermentation lock off the carboy, and I inserted the auto-siphon and gave it a quick pump.
Then the odor started to waft up. Now, I like a little acidity on my subway sandwhich as it really helps the mustard stand out, but vinegar in my fruity drinks isn’t something I’m keen on. And, let me tell you, this cider has a strong vinegar odor. The ‘rick pulled off a small amount for a gravity reading and as is customary in the trailer started sipping the beverage after jotting down the gravity. I’ve never seen the ‘rick drink something so slowly. He attempted to convince me to try a bit of it as well, but my nose knows. Cider and Vinegar are not a pair of flavors I’m willing to try combined.
So, we’re now left with what I can only assume will turn out to be a very bad batch of Cider. The ‘rick is thinking we might be able to use five gallons of vinegar, but I’m thinking we’ll be better served by dumping it down the toilet and learning from our (his) mistakes. If nothing else, I highly doubt the corny is going to smell like pepsi and rootbeer after this. And, given the improved methods we’re using, I’m somewhat confident that a stuck/slow fermentation (which invariably led to the bacteria getting a foothold) won’t prove to be a problem in the future. And, I think the ‘rick has seen the light with regards to boiling. We’ll find out next time!