Posts Tagged ‘cider’

applejack, ice concentration techniques

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013


as hinted in my earlier post, I decided to use my new freezer real estate to jack (fractionally freeze) my cider.

  • originally intended as a basque-style cider served in sagardotegis, after two years(!) in a keg my cider was dry and satisfying, but not significantly funky or complex, as I had hoped (I believe this has to do with apple selection, wild yeast availability, and the quick initial fermentation brought on by simple apple sugars).
  • as a result, with a little under four gallons of cider hogging one of my four house taps, I decided to free up space and simultaneously create some holiday-appropriate hooch by jacking the cider.
  • although my previous attempt at jacking/eising was successful, it was slow and involved significant oxygenation of the resulting product.  in fact, most online eising references suggest simply freezing your beer/wine/cider in a plastic gallon jug, inverting said jug over a receptacle, and letting the end result trickle out of the bottom over the course of a two hour period until the ice in the jug is clear.  although this technique would seem to maximize yield, it would do so at the expense of a higher proof (and oxygenates the hell out of the liquid as it drips out).
  • as a result, I decided to try a different technique for jacking my cider.  first, I transferred the cider from a 5 gal corny keg into a 2.5 gal corny keg (after purging the latter with CO2), leaving about a third of the keg empty to allow for expansion during freezing.  then I tossed the smaller keg into the freezer of my new kegerator for a 24hr period.  after removing the keg from the freezer, I knocked the bottom of the keg against the ground a few times to center the ice in the keg.
  • I then purged some sanitized bottles with CO2, tapped the keg, and began filling the bottles from the tap (my growler filling insert/tube didn’t fit my portable tap or I would have used that as well to further limit oxygen exposure while bottling).  at first, the tap yielded a small trickle of liquid (presumably from ice in the dip tube), but after a little pouring, shaking, and knocking, all the ice was dislodged and my bottles filled up in a matter of minutes.
  • after no more liquid could be poured from the keg I popped the lid and saw that at least 2/3 of the keg’s volume had turned to ice.  I dumped this ice in my sink, but it would be possible to use the drip method described above to wring out every last drop of cider and increase your yield.
  • now for the tasting notes:
    • applejack (sampled ice cold immediately after jacking)
    • appearance: straw gold, minimal carbonation, hazy (likely due to chill haze)
    • aroma: boozy, floral, apple esters
    • taste: palate coating and prickly, strong warm apple
    • overall: a great, easy drinking holiday alternative to standard cider
  • my 3.5-4 gal of 7%abv cider yielded approximately one gallon of applejack.  the results of my jacking method were great – compared to other drip methods, “keg jacking” is much faster (10 min vs. 2 hours+), results in a higher proof result (at the cost of a reduced yield), and minimizes oxygen exposure.  I’m definitely planning on repeating this process with my next cider.



IMG_3686               IMG_3696


beer critiques and recipe modifications

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only brewer out there who is a little biased while reviewing the fruits of their labor.

  • after spending hours milling, mashing, sparging, boiling, and cooling, results that taste anything close to beer are most likely celebrated.  in addition, friends and family who enjoy the fruits of the homebrewer’s labor may be reluctant to offer even the slightest criticism, as a result of politeness or perhaps a desire to maintain a steady stream of homemade libations.
  • however, constructive criticism resulting from accurate observations of a beer’s characteristics can only help to improve future incarnations of such beer.  even casual drinkers unfamiliar with the BJCP style guidelines can help by summarizing significant elements they observe in a neutral manner (e.g., “I smell a lot of grass and flowers,” “this beer tastes like bread,” “it smells like a dirty diaper,” etc.)
  • in my case, I was able to review some valuable criticism when I got my OC fair beer comp scoresheets back in the mail.  the reviews ran the gamut – some were written by BJCP certified judges, some by fellow homebrewers; some were thorough and offered suggestions, while others were painfully sparse and overly general (and frankly worthless).  scores ranged from a 9 (saison) to a 35 (golden strong).
  • reading these score sheets opened my eyes to some overlooked “defects” in my beers and prompted me to impartially review my current draft lineup.  in the interests of progress, I also made note of some potential modifications that could be used to overcome identified undesirables.


nightmare stout


dry irish stout


light coffee nose, thin body, slight tang in finish, poor head retention


mash higher for more malt/body, use a bigger starter, use 2-row instead of pils, longer boil




trappist weisse


belgian wit


dry finish, “delicate” floral/spice aroma


mash higher, higher fermentation temp for more phenols, use different yeast (german hef or belgian wit instead of trappist strain)




simple cider


dry apple cider


dry champagne nose, tart apple flavor with tart, dry finish, very champagne like


experiment with other yeast strains that are less dominant/highlight the apples more and don’t attenuate as much (beer strains, etc.)




house saison


saison/belgian specialty ale/sour ale


fruity/sour aroma, clean barnyard funk with smooth sourness, slight oxidation

modifications:enter in a more relevant judging category(even though fantome is an example of the BJCP saison category)/explain beer in notes, higher initial fermentation temps and more dregs earlier during fermentation, purge carboy with CO2 when adding dregs



  • hopefully objective tasting sessions like these will lead to an improved experience for everyone involved, even if I don’t brew with competitions specifically in mind.  constructive criticism shouldn’t hurt any brewer’s feelings!

white whales and wild yeast

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

on thursday the two APs and I headed over to meet up with ML at naja’s for russian river night.

over the weekend I also managed to keg my cider.

  • I blended the half-gallon batch from december (dry and somewhat vinous) with 2 gallons fermented in january (slightly sweet and tangy with great apple aroma).  it should be perfect for the greek easter picnic in about a month.
  • on the topic of cider, I also managed to score some bottles of isastegi sagardo, so expect a tasting update on that soon…

and finally, after reading pages of notes, experiments, and results, I finally decided to try my hand at wild yeast capturing.

  • I made a small starter, lightly hopped it, and let it cool in three small jars on my outside balcony overnight (mid 40F temps).  I covered the jars with paint straining material and took the jars in during the day.
  • after a couple of days with no results, I poured the samples into my erlenmeyer flask and let it sit out during part of a cold morning (mid 50F temps) under my orange tree near some flowers.  I took it back inside and when I checked on it this morning (24 hrs later), I finally spotted some yeast activity.
  • I’m planning on giving it another week in its current solution, then stepping it up and washing it.  with any luck, a truly local brew will be in the works soon!

simple cider

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

with the holidays looming and an AP-imposed kibosh on brewing until the new year, I had to find a way to satisfy my fermentation cravings.

  • adding staggered nutrient additions to my mead (now around 12-14 brix or so) wasn’t cutting it, so I decided to throw together a quick and easy cider.
  • how quick and easy?  this sucker took about five minutes start to finish:
    • 1. purchase preservative-free apple juice (I went with trader joe’s flash pasteurized refrigerated juice and let it warm up to about 70F)
    • 2. crack open the juice and pour yourself a small glass (this creates some head space for fermentation)
    • 3. add 1/4-1 packet of champagne yeast to the juice container, depending on volume (I added half a packet to 1/2 gallon of juice, which was actually a bit overboard)
    • 4. re-cap juice container and shake to aerate
    • 5. remove cap and secure sanitized foil to top of container with a rubber band (can optionally use an airlock if it fits).
  • I usually give the fermentation a few weeks before priming and bottling.  the champagne yeast ferments out completely (resulting in a dry cider), so if you would like any residual sweetness you could add in potassium sorbate or other inhibitors (or just drink the juice earlier).
  • this cider, although dead simple to make, is always a hit and is a great way for someone to get into home fermentation.  also, if you can score fresh unpasteurized juice, I recommend splitting the batch, adding yeast to only half, and letting the other half ferment out spontaneously (I have wanted to do this for a while).
  • HAPPY HOLIDAYS – be sure to treat yourself and pull something out from deep in the cellar this week!

weekend in review – baker beach

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

the coming of spring called for some celebration, so this last weekend AP and I rallied the troops for a homebrew-based cookout down at baker beach.

  • aside from some soda and water, all beverages present were homebrewed.  I brought down kegs of my IPA, kolsch, steam beer, and quad, as well as some bottles of my imperial espresso stout, belgian date barleywine, and a couple bombers of cider i threw together a while back.
  • I also grabbed a bomber of TB’s kolsch as well as his saison (which turned out to be one of the crowd favorites), and CB’s ’09 xmas ale and belgian strong.  JVG also brought out a growler of his red.  12 styles of homebrew in one location? it was definitely quite the lineup.
  • to top it off, AP and CB threw together some awesome eats.  AP manned the BBQ and CB fired up a great low-country boil in his turkey fryer.
  • it was a great event with a great turnout.  hopefully we can organize another one soon!

baby shower kölsch: results

Monday, September 21st, 2009

the setup

quite a few months ago it was brought to my attention that NB and PB were having a baby shower.  I offered to supply a keg for the occasion.

  • oysters and BBQ were on the menu, and the event was being held outside.  I had to figure out a beer that would fit the bill.
  • I chose to brew a kolsch.  not only is kolsch a great session beer, but it is light and crisp, perfect with most foods on a sunny day.
  • I had read somewhere that an initially sweeter kolsch dries out when aged, which is what I wanted.  in order to ensure that the kolsch was light, crisp, and clear, I kegged it in June and cold crashed it in my cool shed for over 3 months.
  • the strategy worked, and the beer came out dry, perfectly carbonated, and super drinkable.
  • in fact, I think “drinkable” was an understatement.  with about 30 people in attendance, and over 20 pouring, the keg was kicked in less than an hour!
  • the couple of bottles of tripel and cider that I brewed up were the next to go.  it’s a good thing I brought a case of lagunitas IPA as backup!
  • thanks again NB and PB, the setup was great!

kolsch pour

oyster shuck

party goers are satisfied

reflecting on the brew, anticipating the future

during the weekend I also managed a couple more beer-related accomplishments.

  • I kegged the single-hop pale on friday.  I’m thinking about letting it sit for a month max, and then breaking it out to enjoy some local hoppyness at its freshest.

single hop fresh hop pale ale

  • I also took down the vojvodina vine on sunday, completing the cycle.  I felt bad stuffing it in the trash, but I knew it would be back even stronger next year!

vojvodina in trash