One benefit from writing this blog is that I learn a lot of useful things from leaders in their field. OK, maybe that’s just a charitable way to say I steal people’s ideas, but the fact is, I probably would’ve never make a decent cider unless I talked to Mike Faul of Red Branch Cidery. About a month before I interviewed him for an article, I tried to make cider for the first time, but the result tasted like apple flavored cleaning fluid. As I explained how things went wrong, all of sudden Mike exclaimed, “I bet it got really hot overnight when the fermentation got going. The temperature could’ve risen up to 90 degrees F, and at those temperatures yeasts start creating all sorts of volatile alcohols that create those kind of off-flavors.” Red Branch keeps their cider at controlled temperatures to prevent the very problems plaguing my cider. I filed that fact to the back of my brain for future use.
Nearly two years later, I decided to make a holiday cider for all my relatives visiting for Thanksgiving. This time, I kept it cool by pitching the yeast in the late evening and then putting it in my garage where the 50 degree night time temperatures would keep the temperature down as the yeasts did their thing. After about 24 hours in 50-60 degree weather, I brought the two 1-gallon jugs inside to the pantry finish out the fermentation as forecasts called for warmer temperatures. (This is Northern California, after all.) I also used Belgian Saison yeast instead of the Champagne yeast I used the first time. I like a dry cider and while Champagne yeast is very attenuative, I feared it was creating a little too “hot” a cider. In addition, the Saison yeast added some light additional light fruity esters to the underlying apple juice. The carbonation level was on the tingly side as I like it for cider. And everyone else seemed to like it too.
Maybe the start of a new holiday tradition. And my mind is already thinking about brewing a winter California Common letting the yeast do their thing cool spaces on my garage next month.
The Recipe: 2 gallons of organic apple juice and pitch Belgian Saison Yeast. After 10 days of fermentation, take 2/3 cups of water and dissolve six table spoons of honey. Bring to a boil and then let cool. Add to the cider and bottle.