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.

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Conditioning: choc-coffee oatmeal wheat stout, various ciders, cherry 'brett' brown ale, imperial Pilsner.
Fermenting: Bock (6.5%), IPA (5.5%), Pale Ale (4.5)
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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
Drinking: store-bought beer as my bar is dry
Conditioning: choc-coffee oatmeal wheat stout, various ciders, cherry 'brett' brown ale, imperial Pilsner.
Fermenting: Bock (6.5%), IPA (5.5%), Pale Ale (4.5)
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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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