Episode-1694- Small Batch Mead, Cider and Fruit Wine Q&A
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Today I am doing a follow up to Episode-1684- Making Dead Simple Ciders, Meads and Fruit Wines because I have been blown away by how many went out and gave it a shot. I have also gotten a lot of questions about it. I put out requests for questions on that episode and efforts so far and got a huge response, today I will attempt to answer most of those questions.
I do want to lead off with something to put everything here into context though. These quick simple small batches, especially the dump and pitch ciders are more like cooking a steak on the grill on a Wednesday night than say, making a fabulous full length roasted tenderloin, topped with onion and pepper oil along with an accompaniment fit for a Mongolian warlord! I’ll have to tell you guys how to do that some day.
The point is in one of those models you are just feeding yourself a damn good meal, you paid a fair price for a decent cut of meat, you grill it, done and you enjoy it that way. In the other you just dropped 200 bucks on one of the finest cuts of meat known to man. You are going to spend a lot more time and effort to make sure your meal comes out in a beyond blow your mind way.
These are simple quick ciders and wines, they serve two purposes…
- One – Daily drinkers, something to kick back on the porch with, enjoy the evening, or drink with buddies in the garage watching a game. Just like making burgers or steaks on the grill.
- Two – as ways to tweak a recipe, select a yeast, etc. before making a larger batch. Or to find an awesome recipe for yes, that very high end product. They key is with the same volume of ingredients that I could make a 5 gallon full run with I can make 5 test batches, in the very bottles they come in.
What this means is that making ciders and meads like this can either lead to full on bad ass to the bone home vinting, mead and cider making. Or a path to really easy and fast daily drinkers, either bottled or kegged. Or just be a fun way to make and enjoy a few batches a year. It is all up to you. Just understand that is the angle my answers come from today.
I have been brewing beers, ciders, fruit wines, meads and blends there of since 1994, so that is 21 years. I have even produced a few award winning beers in my time.
I rank my experience as a brewer at a 8 of 10, mainly only because I have never done full mash. Cider I would rank as a 8 as well, mainly because I have never worked up to proper blending or real cider apples, something very hard to even get today. I would also give myself an 8 as a mead maker, only because I have seen what a 10 is and that isn’t it.
The point of all this isn’t I am awesome, it is more that this level of making ciders, wines and meads doesn’t qualify to me anyway for some of the higher levels of concern as producing the very best you are capable does. Again think of it as grilling steaks or good burgers or say chicken, vs. cooking a full on gourmet blow you away meal for a dinner party.
Final note on real wines, as in made from pressed grapes that are grown for the purpose of making wine, I would rate myself perhaps a 4! I know what to do, but it doesn’t interest me so I don’t do it, never have done it, have no real plans to do it. Hence all the little tricks and adjustments you learn by actually doing this stuff, I have no experience with in the “proper” world of wine.
Join Me Today As I Answer Questions Like…
- Can you use frozen juice concentrate for cider
- What sugar to use for carbonation
- Can you use bread yeast, if so what happens
- What if fermentation never begins
- What effect does cold crashing have on bottle carboniation
- What about methanol – DON’T even worry about it
- How long is too long in a primary fermenter
- What is involved with racking off or fruit
- Is there such a thing as medicinal ciders and meads
- Flavoring ciders etc with extracts at bottling/kegging time
- Making a ginger beer or ginger cider
- Why is my fermentation bubbly but not foamy
- The good apple debate about fresh pressed juice and why it is over hyped
- Making wine from store bought grape juice
- What about store bought honey
- Why I hate back sweetening but why you should not care
- What is the difference between beer, wine, cider and mead
- Can you make an alcohol free mead
- How do you know when a fermentation is done
- Why some recipes call for raisins and what they do
- What is the difference between priming sugar and table sugar
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of staged fermentation
- What are some of my favorite yeasts for dry higher gravity cider
- How big should a balloon get during fermentation
- Where to get products like racking canes and yeast
- Why are my bottles not carbonating
Resources for today’s show…
- Join the Members Brigade
- The Year 1694
- Join Our Forum
- Walking To Freedom
- TSP Gear
- JM Bullion – (sponsor of the day)
- Harvest Eating – (sponsor of the day)
- Gold Info Graphic I Mentioned
- Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead
- Results of Juice, Yeast and Sugar Experiments
- Alcohol By Brad Paisley
- Full Sized Racking Cane for Large Batches
- Mini Racking Cane – Very Nice for One Gallon Batches
- Bottling Wand – Don’t skimp out on one of these, buy two – two is one – one is none
- Number Two Drilled Stopper Pre Drilled – You can use these to start yeast in a beer bottle, or drill a hole in a cap of a bottle of apple juice and shove it in and afix an airlock to make it into a fermenter. You can’t find these on Amazon.
- Number 6.5 Rubber Stopper – These fit standard glass one gallon jugs
- Twin Bubble Airlock – Looks cool but can be a bit noisy
- Three Piece Airlock – Less Fun to Watch but Quiet
- Big Mouth Bubbler – What I now use for full sized batches
- 5 and 6.5 Gallon Carboys – Buy online only if you have to shipping is a killer.
Bob Wells Plant of the Week – L.S.U. PURPLE FIG – The LSU Purple fig is adaptable from zone 7 to zone 9. It is very reliable, prolific producer of early to late delicious figs.
One of the best figs to come along for some time. Very acclimated to the fluctuating weather of the South. Very sweet, does not require a pollinator and best to pick a few days after the fruit turns purple.
Bob Wells Nursery specializes in edible landscape plants and trees including: Fruit Trees, Berry Plants, Vine Fruit, Nut Trees, as well as the hard to find Specialty Trees. Find this plant and more at BobWellsNursery.com
Remember to comment, chime in and tell us your thoughts, this podcast is one man’s opinion, not a lecture or sermon. Also please enter our listener appreciation contest and help spread the word about our show. Also remember you can call in your questions and comments to 866-65-THINK (866-658-4465) and you might hear yourself on the air.
Also remember we have an expert council that can answer you questions. If you have a question send it to jack at thesurvivalpodcast.com with TSPC Epert in the subject line. Ask your question in one to two sentences so it is clear then provide any additional details. Make sure to tell me what council member the question is for. You Meet the Expert Council at this Link.
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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.
Here is a beer video, but it is same process.
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.
Anyone who wants to download the Small Batch Hard Apple Cider recipe from episode 1684 can access the pdf here:
I ran it by Jack, he’s ok’d it…
Hey Les are you north of Atl. or south? I’m about a hour SW of Atl. So, howdy neighbor.
I’m in Tucker. Howdy!
Are you sure that link is correct? It sends me to a new word press page…
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.
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.
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….
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
Oops…I need to correct bad typing
I meant to say…..lots of people make honey kombucha using a standard scoby
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.
Do I need to sanitize the balloon? What’s the best way to do this?
I never have it is used during active fermentation and never contacts the must.
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.
Thanks! Yeast just arrived. Getting started right now!
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!
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.
For de-gassing red wine your vacuum food saver type system works great if you have one of the adapters for a mason jar. I have a video of it at http://www.my10acres.info/2012/01/de-gassing-homemade-wine-before-bottling/ (sorry about the V V S).
Further if you want to bottle carbonate and sweeten you can buy un-fermentable sugars from the home brew store. I haven’t tried it because I have a kegging system, but it should work
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
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.
It’s funny you mention Irish moss
PEI harvest this in a sustainable
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.
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.
No not really other than that buying things like fresh cider in a glass gallon jug will cost less than a glass gallon jug that is empty. Or a gallon of cheap jug wine is 12-13 bucks and a jug along is about 11. This way you get some one gallon glass carboys for your secondary ferments at no real cost.
You can buy Grolsch beer, 4-pack for around $8.50, and they’re in re-usable 15.2 oz swing top bottles. So thats 12 bottles for around $26, and you get to drink the beer!
See here: http://www.warrenbeer.com/warren/images/products/beer/millercoors/grolsch/btl_15.2oz_4pk.jpg
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.
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.