Reduce cider tartness

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Reduce cider tartness

Postby MrBoy » Sat Jan 07, 2017 20:56

So the cider from cooking apples (16L juice + 1L tea for tannin) fermented down to 1000 or 6.3% ABV after 3 weeks ~ 20C. OG was 1048. As expected the unusually sweet cooking apples provided enough sugar though not enough to push up to 7-8% - which for me is preferred!

Racking today the cider was VERY clear - first time I'd opened the FV - the apple juice was very cloudy with some sludge after juicing but the cider was crystal, I could see to the bottom of the FV like it was (brown) water.

The taste is not bad, fairly sweet (I used generic ale yeast deliberately) but pretty tart. I've never brewed from fresh juice before and I know cider has a long maturation time and is expected to be pretty rough this early, but I don't know if sharpness is something that will mellow out or not?
My only pH test are some soil strips which are not too accurate but I'd guess it's .5 or a bit more lower than the ideal pH. When I searched online I found loads of results about adding cider to make cider MORE acidic, but none about how to do the opposite. Is there a standard addition people use in this situation, and if so roughly how much?
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Re: Reduce cider tartness

Postby oldbloke » Sat Jan 07, 2017 22:57

Brewshops sell a special form of chalk for this. I'd only be guessing if I tried to suggest how much to use.

Some of the tartness will go, with time, in any case. Even more if you get a secondary malolactic ferment.
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Re: Reduce cider tartness

Postby MrBoy » Sat Jan 07, 2017 23:04

I've heard people talk about that but I'm not sure what it is... When and how does it happen and is it something I control or just something that may occur?

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Re: Reduce cider tartness

Postby HTH1975 » Sun Jan 08, 2017 00:18

You can buy malolactic yeast (Wyeast). However, from what I've read, it's hit and miss whether you get (spontaneous) malolactic fermentation when the temperature increases after a period of cold storage.

I've left mine on the lees in demijohns and stored in my cold cellar. I'm just leaving it till the weather warms up and hoping for the best. It's my first attempt, so hopefully it will work out. Got two lots with yeast added (safale) and two with wild-yeast.

2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed (need to update this figure)
Drinking: Landlord clone
Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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Re: Reduce cider tartness

Postby oldbloke » Sun Jan 08, 2017 02:04

MrBoy wrote:I've heard people talk about that but I'm not sure what it is... When and how does it happen and is it something I control or just something that may occur?

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It's a conversion of malic acid to lactic acid, done by a bacillus. As well as reducing overall acidity, it brings some extra flavours, eg the farm-cider or scrumpy twang. You can get yeasts that carry the lactobacillus, or you can buy a culture of the bacillus, or you can get lucky with a wild one. But be warned it looks like an infection - because it sort of is, it's a bacillus. A pellicle grows and eventually sinks. Takes ages though. As it's unlikely you've deliberately introduced it, I'd try the chalk. A lot of googling ought to find some suggestions for how much to use - maybe in wine making forums more than cider ones, they like to play with acid levels
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Re: Reduce cider tartness

Postby MrBoy » Sun Jan 08, 2017 02:09

Cheers. I think for a first go I'm better keeping it simple without the malo!

I tested it again cold and the first taste is not bad... Very appley which is unexpected even if that sounds weird. But it's like someone took cider and poured lemon juice in it. Adding sugar helped but I think that's just masking it.

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Re: Reduce cider tartness

Postby AltonAnt » Mon Jan 09, 2017 13:14

Normally you'd have stopped the fermentation before it got that low to get the taste you wanted but then you'd have to keg and force carb or drink it flat. You can backsweeten with Spenda which is non-fermentable or apple/fruit juice when you serve it.
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Re: Reduce cider tartness

Postby MrBoy » Mon Jan 09, 2017 13:27

Is sweetening the best option? It might fool your mouth but it won't reduced the acidity just mask it so your insides won't be fooled. My wife's quite sensitive to acid for instance so if I can reduce the acidity a bit that'd be preferable I think.
It also tastes fairly sweet already, to hide the acidity it might end up TOO sweet.

Speaking of wine-makers knowing about this stuff, I was rather hoping Tony Hibbett might pop by this thread ;)
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Re: Reduce cider tartness

Postby AltonAnt » Tue Jan 10, 2017 09:08

Are you sure it is acidic or just over attenuated? I have had Saisons that have attenuated down to 1.004 and below and initially they taste very thin and acidic. They are obviously no more acidic than any other beer and after a while conditioning, the body fills out. It does take at least three months and six is better.
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Re: Reduce cider tartness

Postby MrBoy » Tue Jan 10, 2017 10:30

I've ordered a better pH meter to measure but I think so. It actually still tastes quite sweet - and as I say very fresh and appley - no astringency. It's mainly as you swallow that you get that acid hit. I think 1000 is not too attenuated for cider, is it - I used an ale yeast to stop it going all the way down to 995 for instance.

I'll report back when I get a pH reading...
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Re: Reduce cider tartness

Postby Crastney » Tue Jan 10, 2017 13:16

I normally leave cider for many months, and the flavours do mellow out, and get less acidic. especially if you have MLF - I've never introduced it on purpose but almost all of my cider has had it happen to some degree - even my elderberry wine has had it.
personally I'd avoid any artificial sweeteners.
it might just be that you learn from this year, and adjust your apple variety balance next year so that the initial juice is a lot less acidic.

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Re: Reduce cider tartness

Postby MrBoy » Tue Jan 10, 2017 13:32

Is there any harm leaving it a few months before making any decisions, or would tinkering with pH be better done early so it has time to mature afterwards?

I'm thinking if I measure the pH as being under 3 for example I might want to tweak it at least a little bit then leave until summer before testing.


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Re: Reduce cider tartness

Postby HTH1975 » Tue Jan 10, 2017 13:45

Following this thread with interest as I have three DJs of cider on the go and one perry. I was planning on leaving them to bulk age till summer.

2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed (need to update this figure)
Drinking: Landlord clone
Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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Re: Reduce cider tartness

Postby MrBoy » Thu Jan 12, 2017 16:54

My pH meter came today and as I was transferring the cider to DJs I saved some to test.

Initially I got a reading of 3.35. I wasn't sure if temperature affects the reading and since it was stored in the garage ~5C left my sample in a glass in the kitchen. A couple of hours later I now get a reading of 3.2... should I adjust pH for temperature like hydrometer readings?

Anyway how does this level of acidity sound? What would I be aiming for, 3.something? I'm trying to recall basic chemsitry if pH is logarithmic e.g. 3.2 - 3.5 is a big difference or not?
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Re: Reduce cider tartness

Postby oldbloke » Thu Jan 12, 2017 19:01

Dunno how big the difference is, but the recommended range is 3.2 to 3.8 so you're right at the acid end. And that's pre-ferment, some acid probably gets lost during the process. Can you juice some really bland apples and chuck the juice in, maybe? Or try chalk. Or live with it, this time.
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Re: Reduce cider tartness

Postby tonyhibbett » Fri Jan 13, 2017 19:42

PH 3.3 is about right for a crisp wine (eg sauvignon blanc), and most cheap apple juice is about 3.6. Cooking apples contain up to 50% more acid than dessert ones. The simplest way to reduce acidity is dilution with water. You can add an alkaline such as sodium bicarbonate, which is cheap and readily available but brewers prefer precipitated chalk. My personal preference is potassium carbonate, but this is hard to come by. When an alkaline is mixed with acid, a reaction takes place, producing carbon dioxide gas and the acidity is reduced. Add 5 g per gallon then check the taste. If it's still too acidic, add another 5 g.
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Re: Reduce cider tartness

Postby jkp » Mon Nov 13, 2017 04:11

I've used Chalk a few times now to soften a sharp bite in a cider. I tend to use 1tsp in a 5 US gal keg. Of course how much you use will depend on the ph and acid level of your cider and your target levels. My cider tends to be about 3.6-3.8ph so doesn't need a lot of adjusting. Take a few small samples, adjust those until you get it about right and scale up.

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Re: Reduce cider tartness

Postby tonyhibbett » Tue Nov 14, 2017 13:38

I have found pH can be a somewhat misleading measurement of acidity. If something tastes too acidic, that's all you need to know. Precipitated chalk is easy to come by and does the job of reducing acidity. Even more readily available and cheaper is sodium bicarbonate. I ordered potassium carbonate from Amazon and got potassium bicarbonate instead, but it's just as good.
As long as the fresh apple juice was not treated with sulphite, there is a good chance that malolactic fermentation may naturally occur, although ironically the bacteria that cause it don't like high acidity, so your best bet is to use the aforementioned alkaloids to neutralise some of the acid.
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Re: Reduce cider tartness

Postby jkp » Tue Nov 14, 2017 18:53

Tony, what would be the difference between using chalk and Potassium bicarbonate?

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Re: Reduce cider tartness

Postby MrBoy » Tue Nov 14, 2017 19:02

Presumably you get different resultant chemicals as a byproduct of reactions - these could have different flavours and different behaviour. Tony may know specifics, this is school chemistry but that was long ago ;)
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Re: Reduce cider tartness

Postby tonyhibbett » Thu Nov 16, 2017 14:10

Large amounts of precipitated chalk can adversely affect the flavour, but I have had no problems with it. Potassium carbonate temporarily darkens the brew, but potassium bicarbonate does not. The chemistry is about the only thing I remember from school: acid + base (alkaline) = salt 9not common salt) + water. My best memory of a chemistry lesson was when the teacher (a particularly nasty sadistic bloke) set up a demonstration to produce water and asked us how to test it. His stock test was 'suck it and see', but the other was the acid test, using litmus paper. However he had forgotten to bring some. I saw a used strip on my desk and offered it to him. It was blue. When he used it, it turned red, indicating that his pure water was in fact acidic, at which point he also turned bright red and accused me of making some sort of practical joke! It was more likely that his equipment had not been properly cleaned by his his lab technician and had traces of an acid from a previous experiment.
Simply put, if you mix equal amounts of acid and alkaline solutions, they react together (giving off carbon dioxide) and the solution becomes neither acidic or alkaline but neutral. This principle is used in baking powder (citric acid and bicarbonate of soda) and self raising flour to make a cake mix rise and become light due to the gas produced.
Acidity is best measured by titration (wine acid test kit) which gives the results in parts per thousand in terms either of sulphuric acid, which is used in the test. However, there is no sulphuric acid in wine or cider, so it makes more sense to express this in terms of tartaric acid, which is present in grapes (but not apples or any other fruit). The recommended amount for wine is between 3 and 4 ppt (as sulphuric, 4.5 and 6 as tartaric). The higher acidity is best for sparkling and dessert (sweet) wines and cider. The instructions on Young's precipitated chalk state that 7 g per gallon will reduce the ppt by 1.5, but does not say whether this is in terms of sulphuric or tartaric acid. Malic acid is not the same as tartaric. Although they are technically similar in strength, malic acid will linger on the back of the throat and therefore is somewhat less palatable than tartaric. Unripe grapes have a higher proportion of malic acid than tartaric, hence the expression 'sour grapes'. 90% of the acid in apples is malic and there is significantly more (up to double) of it in cooking apples than dessert ones. I recently made cyser (apple and honey wine). The recipe was 4 pints of cooking apple juice, made up to 1 gallon with honey and water. I used 50% dessert apple juice instead and the resulting dry wine was still too acidic, so I used potassium bicarbonate to reduce it and added a little honey to make it semi-dry.
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Re: Reduce cider tartness

Postby jkp » Thu Nov 16, 2017 19:14

Thanks for the very informative reply Tony!

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