So, my first cider came out good, though dry.
I wanted to see what other ciders I could make. I’d been to Hawaii this summer and drank many of Avery’s Liliko’i Kepolos in anticipation and later in post-celebration of the trip. I figured I could try a passion fruit cider.
I found a passion fruit juice and, having read that most ciders should still be largely apple, got an equal amount of unfiltered apple juice.
I also wanted to try some sort of backsweetening to make a less dry, more sweet cider. It’s possible to backsweeten a cider by serving it with some unfermented juice or other sugar, however, this must be done at serving time, or before packaging must be done to a hard cider that is no longer capable of fermenting (i.e. the yeast have been pasteurized) which then won’t carbonate naturally. This leads to your options being to either open a bottle, put some juice in a glass, and pour your cider on it, or to have a flat but sweet cider. I wanted a cider that you open, and is fizzy, and is slightly sweet, like the commercial stuff. I learned that most commercial cideries have to do this by either
- pasteurizing their cider, then force carbonating it (most bottled ciders)
- letting it ferment out, and then force carbonating it (basically the same thing but with the risk that it still has live yeast)
- serving it before it’s done fermenting all the sugars (many cideries with draft systems)
- adding artificial sweeteners
The last one is the only one really available to me. I didn’t like the idea of having to mix the sweetener in to my cider at the end, worrying about changing the suspended CO2 and having no way of guessing how much priming to add, plus the risk of stirring oxygen into the cider. So I began wondering how to get it in from the start of fermentation.
There are juices packaged as “lite” that have had part of the fructose removed and replaced with an artificial sweetener, usually sucralose (Splenda). I grabbed one bottle of “lite” apple juice which claimed it had “1/3 less calories” and grabbed a bottle of mango/peach juice that was pasteurized but didn’t contain preservatives. I figured this would mean that the mix of the two would be 1/6 artificial sweetener. The yeast wouldn’t ferment all the sugars to 100% attenuation, but based on how dry the apple cider came out, I figured it’d get most of them, so at most the cider would be 1/5th as sweet as full strength juice, which seemed about where I’d want a cider to be. To make up for the loss of alcohol, I dissolved 1/4c corn sugar in water and added this as well.
Both of these batches got the same treatment as the apple cider. Aeration, yeast, airlock.
Both kicked up a small krausen for a few days, then settled into a long, slow ferment.
The passion fruit kept a very slow and steady pace for five weeks before finally stopping. The mango/peach did the same for about three weeks then stalled. I’m not sure if the sucralose interfered or what happened but I had to give this cider a warm water bath every few days to kick it back into gear before it finally dropped clear at six weeks. During bottling, I used corn sugar for priming and bottled half of each batch by itself, and combined the rest into a cider I named “Training Wheels Cider”, as a joke that if you have a friend who doesn’t really drink, they could probably get started on this sweet, fruity, fizzy cider.
I popped open a passion fruit after about three weeks. The passion fruit flavor was good, but it had the sharp, too-young bite of acetaldehyde, so I decided that the yeast (which had taken twice as long as I’m used to beers taking) wasn’t done conditioning and gave it two more weeks.
All three turned out great. The passion fruit is crisp, tropical, and mineraly. The mango/peach is verrry sweet, despite my prediction that it should have 1/5th the sweetness of the apple cider, but it’s drinkable. The Training Wheels Cider is the best one. All three flavors meld well, the champagne yeast imparts bright little bubbles, and it’s a very quaffable brew. None of the three are likely to be taken very seriously by beer drinkers, and might be more popular amongst the Mike’s Hard/Smirnoff Ice crowd, but overall I am proud of them and really enjoy the end product.