It is that time of the year again, to start the preparations for our home made cider. One year on, one year more experience.
A few things we have learned from last year's efforts is to forget about Ph value, alcohol percentage or adding yeast. just get on with it seems to be the best way. We didn't bother with any of that last year and our cider turned out really nice. One difference with last year is that I will have to do everything on my own this year; Clarkie is pregnant! :-)
08-10-2008: The beginning. I am getting ready for my first day of apple picking for next year's cider. The crop seems a bit later this year, but the trees look full of apples. I take with me 4 empty crates and an 7 feet pole to shake the branches I can not reach. Some people say you should only take windfalls, but I find that 7 feet pole falls taste just the same!
Apart from the 7 feet pole (pictured on the left and in previous picture) I used last year I also made a 12 feet pole (pictured on the right) to reach even higher. Without a stick I can only reach the lowest branches. With the 7 feet pole I can reach branches at a higher level, but it still leaves most of the apples untouched in the trees. Now that I have a 12 feet pole I can reach up to about 18 feet high, which covers most of the trees.
As mentioned above, the trees carry an abundance of apples this year in this orchard. This is a close up of apples which are too high for me to reach by hand. My method to get them is to use the 7 feet pole, which has a V end, and shake.
After 20 seconds of shaking 4 or 5 different branches the apples are ready to be picked up. I cleared this area under the tree only moments ago of windfalls (keeping the good ones and chucking the rotten ones). The apples you can see on the picture above are exactly the same as the ones on the close-up above this picture, only 30 seconds later. Result!
As I have more things to do during the day, I only go for about 1 hour of apple picking. I take 4 empty crates and when these are full I go home. Little and often works best for me. This is the result of day 1.
09-10-2008: Day 2.
10-10-2008: Day 3.
This is a picture from last year taken on 29 September 2007. The amound of apples is roughly the same as I have after 3 days (3 hours) of apple picking this year. Although this picture is taken earlier in the year, the apples have a lot more colour to them and seem much riper yet they are from mostly the same trees. I wonder if this means that the cider will be a lot sharper next year.
14-10-2008: Day 4. Time to clean and sterilise the first 2 barrels. My guess is that 19 crates of apples as shown on the picture should be enough for 14 gallons of juice which would easily fill 2 barrels. The apples have been outside in the sun and the rain and should have ripened enough to make some good cider.
16-10-2008: After cleaning the fermentation barrels in the bath with fairy liquid until they were clean to the eye, I sterilised them as well as I could. I filled them up with warm water and added the powder, turning them every half hour for about 2 hours. After that I rinsed them thoroughly. I will repeat the rinsing process on the day I start pressing which will hopefully be in a few days time, wheather permitting.
21-10-2008 Picture above. This is my setup for this year. At the bottom of the picture you can see the first batch of apples (approximately 250 Kg, maybe a little bit more. This is a very conservative estimate after weighing one full crate at 2 stone 11 wich is about 16,5 Kg). Above it, on the picture, you can see the area where I cut the apples in halves or quarters, depending on the size of the apples. Behind it a chair for me to sit on, and next to it a big bucket of water where the apples can bob around in before I cut them in halves (or quarters). I don't really clean the apples as such, just let them swim for a bit before cutting them. After quartering the apples I chuck them in the scratter (on the picture next to my chair). Once the scratter is full I move my chair sideways to start scratting. underneath the scratter I have placed a bucket to collect the pulp. One completely full scratter results in one completely full bucket which results in one completely full press which results in one completely full juice tray. 10 of those trays will fill one of my 6.5 gallon barrels. Yes, there is a lot of pressing involved. Once the bucket is full of pulp, I empty it in the press, located just behind the scratter, mounted on the same wooden frame as the scratter. This is the first time during the process that I have to get up from my chair. Below the press I have placed a tray (just over 2 liters in size) on a chair and on average I can fill this in tray one press. Some apples generate less juice (Spartans, but generally most eating apples) and others will fill more than 1.5 times this tray (Bramley's). Next to the chair with the tray on, there is another chair (a more comfortable one) where I sit when I stir in the sugar. I do this 2 or 3 times during pressing. I find that taking a break to let all the juice go down makes it a lot easier to press even further. Once the tray is full and all the sugar in it is dissolved, I slowly pour the juice in the fermentation barrel next to the press. Behind the barrel and press I have a table to place the sugar and the parts of the press that I have to take out on. On one of the arms of the comfortable chair I have a binbag (not visible on the picture) to deposit the pulp (pomace) in. Once this is done, I start again it all over again.....and again....and again....and again....(repeat this 60 times in total to fill 5 fermentation barrels). This sounds like a lot of work (and now that I am doing it, it feels like a lot of work!) but I look at it this way: at 8 presses a day (about 5 hours work) it will take me about 8 days of work to have enough cider to drink with my friends for at least 6 months, if not more. I don't call that a lot of work.
21-10-2008: My first (semi-) filled scratter for the 2008 season. On the second pressing, i filled the scratter a lot more (a heaped scratter) so that the bucket of pulp was a lot fuller and the press was a lot fuller.
21-10-2008: My first (semi-) filled bucket of pulp.
21-10-2008: My first (semi-) filled press.
21-10-2008: And most important of all, my first pressed apple juice this year. The first barrel has 4 Kg of sugar in it.
I think I might have 7 varieties of apples. However, I don't know what variety they all are. From left to right: ?, Spartan, Newton, Bramley Seedling, Gala, ?, Royal Norfolk Russet. Some of the question marks might just be Bramley's as well, in which case I only have 5 varieties. But the difference in size and colour of the potential Bramley's made me unsure.
During the period between 21-10-2008 and 03-11-2008 I filled 5 barrels full with apple juice. The barrels can hold about 6.5 gallons of juice which should produce about 5.5 gallons of cider per barrel, not counting the gallon at the bottom of the barrel which will be full of sediment.
Barrel 1 has one crate of spartans in it and the rest are filled up mostly with Bramley's. I added 4.5 Kilograms of sugar to this. This should give me a fairly strong cider when it is ready.
Barrel 2 was filled with the juice of Bramley's only. I added 4 Kilograms of sugar to this barrel. hopefully not as strong as barrel 1 but with a sharper taste to it.
Barrel 3 contains mostly eating apples. About 80% of the apples are Newton's, the other 20% are Bramley's. 3 Kilograms of sugar in this barrel. I also added 4 jars of honey to this barrel. This one could be interesting.
Barrel 4 is another pure bramley barrel with 4 kilograms of sugar added. But instead of stirring the sugar in until it is all disolved, I added 1 Kilogram at the start before the first juice and another kilogram at the end, when the barrel was full. Don't think it will make a difference.
Barrel 5, the last barrel. I was a bit fed up by this time. With the first 4 barrels I managed to fill 2 barrels in 3 days, taking it steady. With this barrel I hardly stirred the sugar at all, just added it to the juice collection tray and poured it into the barrel when the tray was full. I also started cutting the apples and putting them into the scratter while pressing the previous load when I was waiting for the juice to go down. I filled this barrel in about 4 hours. The barrel consits of mainly Bramley's with 3.5 kilograms of sugar.
By this time, I kept the first 4 barrels in the house to help the start of the fermentation process and I was gald to see that all 4 barrels were working. With the first 2 barrels I left the barrel open, with a piece of cotton wool in the top. This way, air can go in and out (to get some more natural yeast from the air) but insects can't. With barrel 3 and 4 I did not bother to do this. I immediately put the airlock on and filled it with water. All 4 barrels started working fine within a few days. And only 3 days after finishing barrel 5, this barrel started working as well.
08-11-2008: The barrels have now been inside the house for about 2 weeks and all of them are working fine. Today I have placed them in the shed where they will remain until they stop working and the cider is ready. I will update this page whenever that happens. I expect the first barrel to be ready about April or May.
15-05-2009: It is now nearly 7 months after I completed the first barrel and I couldn't wait any longer and just had to syphon of barrel #1. It was still working, although slow, and knew I really should leave it alone. But the demi-johns were cleand and the pump was ready.
15-05-2009: This is how the cider came out. Not clear at all and still very sweet. I decided to put a bung on the demi-johns and wait another 6 to 8 weeks, or until it stopped working if that came sooner.
16-05-2009: The day after syphoning the cider off it all the sediment had dropped to the bottom of the demi-johns and the cider was a lot clearer.
01-07-2009: The final result. I syphoned the cider in new demi-johns and left the sediment behind. An extremely clear (dare I say crystal clear) cider with a crisp refreshing taste. Still quite sweat. Not very strong. Very nice on its own, but beautiful blended with other, dry, home made ciders.
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Portugal Pete – Portugal
December 07, 2011 - 17:52
Thanks for the very good advice on cleaning Demi John's. I am using mine for with but thank you so much and i may try Cider next year.
peter – leeds
October 22, 2010 - 21:19
Subject: Exceptionally clear cider
Nice looking cider. Mine isnt looking quite so clear!
Callum – Perth, Scotland
June 15, 2010 - 18:52
That cider looks great! I hope mine turns out as well as that, although I'm doing a "turbo cider" in a 5l plastic water container. I stumbled on your site as I've just bought 3 second hand demi's and I found your cleaning tips. I'll be giving them a going over with vinegar and rice tonight as they're a little funky right now.
Cider Pete – Somerset
August 02, 2009 - 08:31
Subject: Nice and clear
That is some lovely looking cider! Very clear. I wish I could have a glass. Sweet cider is difficult to make so you have done very well. :-)