Episode-1694- Small Batch Mead, Cider and Fruit Wine Q&A — 34 Comments

  1. I have been doing batches of cider and mead for a few years now, recently I purchased some liquid British dry cider yeast, I was wondering if there is a way to save that yeast for my batches next year. Can I take the leavings from the bottom after racking and put it into a bell jar and store it in the fridge till I get fresh cider next fall?

    Just wondering how I can save yeast instead of having to purchase every year.

  2. Another note on why using store bought juice is a good idea: you start from the same base each time. If you want to see the real impact of different yeasts, or what a certain type of sugar does compared to another, you need all of your other ingredients/steps to be the same. It’s really hard to get that kind of uniformity with small batch pressings. Even the same orchard can produce different raw ciders year after year. The larger commercial plants specialize in turning out the same product each and every batch. One less variable lets you concentrate on one aspect of your beverage at a time.
    On a related note: I took your advice Jack, and am brewing up a batch of dry cider to see what all the fuss is about. Never had one before and can’t find a place locally that has one of the brands you recommended. Hopefully this will let me see how the other half drink! 😉
    Thanks for this series of shows, it feels good to be brewing again.

  3. Thanks for these shows Jack. You inspired me to get back in to one of my favorite hobbies in a way that’s simple and not very time consuming at all.

  4. Jack-

    Eismead. Essentially applejack made with mead. I can’t recommend it because it’s technically illegal but I assume it could be good. One could even make 2 bottles and add honey to one for those with a sweet tooth.

    • Yea I talked about that today, what I said is you would have to do that rather than distill it.

  5. Thanks for both cider making shows Jack. This idea is simply contagious. The Kroger gallon jugs of 100% Apple juice were on sale for $3.25 ea. So now there are 5 separate gallons bubbling in the garage. My kids said the garage smells nice and they liked daddy’s new air freshener….

  6. Hi Jack….I have a suggestion for the person wanting to Make non alcohol mead…..just make Jun instead….Jun is a Tibetan form of kombucha that uses raw honey instead of sugar…it tastes fantastic. ….almost like a champagne version of kombucha and it can be made anaerobically using an airlock…you can buy a Jun scoby online…..I recommend kombucha camp. …..lots of people do make kombucha using just a regular scoby and that’s fine but the Jun scoby is different and more refined and more nuanced in my opinion….thanks for the great shows Jack….rock on

  7. Oops…I need to correct bad typing
    I meant to say…..lots of people make honey kombucha using a standard scoby

  8. Great show Jack! Just a quick note for the the person having difficulty with his fermentation ( small batches smelling bad). It could be something simple like soap residue, it only takes a little dish soap to kill your yeast. I only use sanitizer like Starsan around my firmmentation equipment.

    • You’re probably fine but if you’re worried about it there are several things you can do.

      – boil the balloon
      – soak in a starsan solution
      – soak in a bleach solution
      – soak in an iodine solution

      The only reason I think I would is if you were using a balloon that had been handled a lot and/or someone had put their mouth on it to blow it up.

  9. What about iodine for sanitation? When I first started brewing, I was told it was a no-rinse option and cheaper that starsan. I picked up a gallon from a well known tracker and feed store – it was dirt cheap and I have yet to need a second bottle. I had a calculation to use but now I just splash it in. I also usually rinse it since my splash is usually more than is necessary and I don’t know where the limit is where it will have negative impacts on the yeast or final flavor. I’ve only ever had one batch be infected and I’m sure it was more procedure than the iodine.

    Thanks for these shows Jack. As a beer brewer, this method never occurred to me – probably because of the simplicity. I was bottling my first cider last night while listening to this show and had about 8 oz left over after bottling. So I enjoyed a “still” glass of cider. It was awesome. Actually reminded me of a lambic. It was moderately sour with a slight sweetness from the juice I used as a priming sugar. I’m excited to see how the flavor changes with carbonation. In the first brewing episode you mentioned saving the juice you poured out for head space to use as a priming sugar. I don’t remember any numbers with it, do you have a rough guide? 2 oz? I’m leaving for a couple weeks so I have the bottles in a large bucket in case they become bottle bombs, haha!

    We’ve been slowly ditching grains from our diet so this has me really excited. I can keep brewing without the grain! Thanks again!

  10. One note that I had been meaning to put up here regarding the people who you said poo-pooed you not using the most pure, virgin apples, that were gracefully caught as they naturally fell and pressed in the ivory apple press that George Washington himself used…

    Your instructions are something that we can actually do and not feel intimidated to do. I heard your instructions, picked up a gallon of juice, bought $3 in yeast on Amazon, $3 in airlocks, and in 15 minutes had a batch going. I guarantee you that if you had said that I need to only use fresh pressed apple cider, and use a $100 glass carboy, and use exactly 5% bleach, but not 4% or 6% or you will kill yourself; I would have never tried it. And I’m willing to bet 90%+ of the rest of the thousands of people who have a batch going would be the same way.

    Now though, you have started the gateway… Next year when fresh pressed cider is available, I definitely will be trying it with that. Maybe I will get a carboy. Maybe in 10 years I will have a small orchard of ass-flavored apples that Jack said make great cider. But none of that would have happened if I immediately felt overwhelmed.

    I think in more general terms, that’s something that Jack does well, and Jack, if you are still reading these comments on an older episode, you should keep in mind is one of your strengths. You can give exact, actionable, steps to do something.

    Doing something small is the first step toward doing something huge. You very rarely can get someone to go from doing nothing to doing something huge. But you can get them to do something small, and allow that to snowball.

    • I was one of those mentally going WTF, but held my tongue to see where this went. I’m stoked to give this a try now, it is so labor intensive to get those apples through the press during the busiest time of the year for many of us. Went and bought a bunch of airlocks and yeast yesterday as I have 10 gallons of fresh juice in the fridge that I’ll be fermenting next week. I took half the day to set up the press, run 5 bushels that I didn’t pick, clean up, and put it back into storage. This year wasn’t even fun, doing it by myself in a cold drizzle.

  11. In the town i live in all i have to do is go to a restaurant / beer making wine making place so you might want to check out the some restaurant supplies stores they may also have a beer and wine making available equipment

  12. RE: Non alcoholic brew.
    A bit complicated, but do-able. Some specialized equipment is necessary, but if you plan to brew regularly, might be a valid investment.

    Brew in a glass carboy.After racking to a glass secondary, mark the liquid level on the outside. Now figure your alcohol content (I use 5% as a baseline for straight apple cider. If you have a medical / addiction issue, purchase and learn to use a good hydrometer). Make another mark at the zero alcohol point.

    Attach a vacuum pump to the sealed carboy, and pull about 10 inches of vacuum on your brew. Keep vacuum on until you brew level is at the zero point mark. You can speed this up by either pulling more vacuum, (test your carboy first) or heating the brew up. At 10 inches of vacuum, alcohol boils around 120 degrees F. (That’s a best guess, don’t beat me up on that one. Google failed me.)

    Add distilled water back to your full mark. There should still be enough yeast to bottle condition, but, again, if you have a medical / addiction issue I would force carbonate.

    You can make a fine vacuum pump from a compressor salvaged from an old refrigerator, or freezer.

  13. I threw about half a pack of Red Star Pasteur Blanc yeast in a gallon of Mott’s apple juice on 12/16 and installed an airlock in the lid. For two days I could hear it sizzling and see it bubbling in the jug but no movement in the airlock. Started to worry but then airlock started bubbling on the 18th. By the 21st though, no bubbles at all. I’m wondering if it could be done already? It’s only been 6 days. I don’t have a hydrometer yet so can’t test SG.

    • A hydrometer doesn’t do much good without a starting gravity to compare the current gravity to. Leave it 21 days and just relax, it will be nice and clear then.

      • Thanks Jack. I was thinking about borrowing one and testing the 2nd gallon I haven’t done anything with. Wouldn’t be exact but maybe a ball park.

  14. Thanks! I’m now trying a batch of cider. Kind of exciting, which is strange, because I don’t drink.

    Did I hear you mention something about how to get free bottles? Never caught how/where.

  15. Thanks for trying to answer the non-alcoholic question Jack. Unfortunately for me, sticking my dick in a bee’s nest would be better. I do drink the St. Paulies girl N/A occasionally but seeing all these craft IPAs (when I drank, I was a IPA nut) and Meads always looks and sounds tasty to me. I’ve read a few brewing forums where people say it is possible but come down along the same lines as you saying it’s kind of pointless. I think I’ll give it a shot though. I’ll let you know how it works. Thanks again Jack. Have a Merry Christmas.

  16. I have 5 small meads going, a small cider, and a small grape wine. The meads are all 1 gallon or less. I have a blueberry melomel, a rubamel, a metheglin (cinnamon and clove in this instance), a coffee mead, and a chocolate mead. The cider and wine are fermenting right in the juice bottles.

    Note: yeast LOVES coffee. No matter how much headspace you leave, it will get very frothy and expand well into whatever type of airlock you are using.

    • A little follow up on terminology here.

      A small mead is not a small batch. Never heard of a small cider or small wine. Don’t worry this is clearly my failure to be clear.

      You have small batches going.

      A “small mead” is one with a bit less honey so that it will finish faster than typical. A standard mead will use 12-15 pounds per 5 gallons. That is 2.5 – 3 pounds per gallon. Dropping to about 10 pounds in 5 gallons or 2 to the gallon creates a lighter bodied mead that can finish a lot faster to fully fermented and clear. Something you might consider a “session mead” a daily drinker sort of thing. Less expensive and faster to make. Less likely to get stuck on you. You are still looking at 9-11% ABV, depending on other adjuncts.

      They will also finish quite dry, which is nice. Hope that helps.