Thursday, 29 December 2011

Fruitful Forage!

Back up the bank yesterday, grubbing about in the undergrowth... very much in public view, but there you go, story of my life... but I now have enough for a single variety - probably more with 25lbs. As time permits it'll be interesting to see what gravity they make.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011


Someone once said to me: 'Why make cider when you can buy it from Tesco?' My response being, of course - 'You can't buy what I make at Tesco.' Or anywhere else for that matter. What he meant was - why go to all that trouble to make something that you can buy so easily.
Indeed this philosophy can be applied to anything - consider for a moment the humble mince pie - the 'deep filled' off the shelf epitomising, in this scenario, the worst of 'industrial cider' perhaps.
I relate this because I hear it over and over again - this year from someone who was going to make their own, but got scrattings/pulp on the kitchen wall and gave up. Last year it was a similar tale from someone who had bought a press (£100 no less...) and gave up because he couldn't get the apples to juice.
I hate the expression 'it's not rocket science' but, trust me, if I can make cider, ANYONE can. But it don't make itself!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Seek & Find ye shall

They're in the undergrowth by now, but there's a-plenty. I only had time to get a carrier bag full which, if time permits, should get me up to 400 litres for this year but I would like to try and get enough for another small batch of single variety... oh yes - a good way to get to know your apples!

Birds and meeces haven't bothered with them but not twenty yards away is another (the one I'd intended on...) that must be more flavoursome to the wee beasties as very few remain unblemished.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Hambleton Bard helpful yet again...

It's not necessary to have gas valves and such for cider but to ensure a good head of co2 I use an injector for the barrels of 'draught' (as 9, 16 & 17 of 2010 remain unbottled - 14 too up to last week where the last glass or two became a little cloudy as the lees were drawn through)
As Andrew Lea points out cider doesn't lend itself to barrel/keg conditioning under pressure, be it generated naturally by fermentation or introduced, but I find it useful to help get the cider out without introducing air via the tap which then passes up through the cider and any co2 'cover'. Without a little pressure the cap can be loosened as a partial vacuum develops but again this introduces air (though it doesn't 'glug' up through the contents this way and is preferrable) and will sit above the co2 'cover' (as the heavier than air video demonstration shows here)
So that's the 'long' of it - the 'short' of it being that a flying visit was in order for a refill.
As I've been doing some re-wiring of the garage electrics I was held up in discussion at ReCon Electrical (conveniently on the same industrial complex) on the best way to get electrics to the pond equipment... another story... and so it was dark and past closing time when I eventually remembered where Hambleton Bard's new premises were...
Clearly inconvenient, as the guy there was literally just coming out of the door ready to lock up and for many it would have been too much trouble, but no, 'no problem', said he, returning a few minutes later with a full co2 cartridge.
I post this as I've just revisited the site to see if they sell direct online yet (seems not) but the bag-in-a-box machinery video kicked off, which I thought was rather interesting... for wine kits you understand not cider, but one can dream...
(to see the video click on above HB link above and scroll down a tad)

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Which reminds me...

Peter Fidler draws a blank, well, so far...
I have no idea who he is (or was) but a local nature reserve has been named after him, and a customer, who had recently walked there, told me of a crab apple tree - laden at that.
Last week gave me the opportunity to check this out... 200 yds in said he...
Maybe I took a wrong turn... but then down by the sewage plant LO - but crabs? NO.
Three sweets, within 20 yds or so - probably related - one clearly had cropped abundantly and the ditch and bank was littered. However, wildlings don't always make crabs with that mouth-puckering, face scrunching, cider-flavouring bitterness...
such is life

Wiser by the minute..?

'Growth in wisdom may be exactly measured by decrease in bitternes' - Nietzsche

Were it that simple...
- thing is, there's been a shortage of crab apples this year, for me at least, and so the last few batches have been mixed thus:

50;30;20 (%sweet;sharp;bitter)

- based on last year's batch 13 which turned out rather well.

Another cider weekend sees the addition of 11 and 12 in the kitchen (got to get some of that racked off!) Both batches making just 1.050.

Press was doing some creaking and groaning last night, but held yet again.
I need to do some hedge-bottom rummaging...

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

I know, I know...not

When on my own I tend to live off rubbish stuff out of the freezer. It was to be fish fingers and chips (oven variety...) as there's some peas as well... but then I spotted half-a-bottle of wine from Sunday... which ranks higher, right? And would be wasted with fish fingers. Yesterday 'was use up those well out of date grill steaks from the freezer' with some Smash and beans (hey, I enjoyed 'em!)...
so, spotting the wine set a new course - rummage rummage, finds a container of what appears to be Spaghetti Bolognese frozen left overs, but on defrosting is strangely missing any meaty bits - more like some sort of home-made pizza topping then...
Okay, it's defrosted now so best course is to cook a few sausages, slice 'em up and add to the whatever sauce it is - onions and stuff, marvelous...
You may well ask what this has to do with cider? Well while it's all coming together a good time to try a bottle. Up from the 'cider cellar' a bottle of 6P... Now the P stands for pasteurised - 'Hey Louis' - and batch 6 all got pasteurised... which is a shame really 'cos it certainly did change the flavour profile in a rather unfavourable way... now it just happens that I've already tried some form of adjustment in the way of sucralose based sweetener, which certainly makes for a more palatable drink... so all is not lost with no.6...

Monday, 7 November 2011

Dolly Mixtures..?

A cider weekend sees the addition of batches 8 and 9 - 1.054 and 1.060 respectively. Using up the last of some very sweet red-skinned windfalls from a local churchyard most likely accounts for the higher gravity of no.9.
With the scratter video on YouTube receiving so many hits, I thought I'd mention two simple modifications for this season.
1st the feed plates have been further shortened and a plastic skirt added. This is just a stretched out (at one end) strong plastic bag. Just held in place trapped between the body and plywood base plate - a simple but big improvement and the scratter hasn't clogged up like it used to.

Also a piece of plastic bag just held with a couple of drawing pins over the feeder chute prevents bits flying back out - again simple but effective.

Using softer apples and with the drill set to a slower speed it took 20 minutes to scrat over 40kg of apples. Although on a slower speed the scrats tend to come out a little bigger.

and those Dolly Mixtures..?

With other jobs needing doing, especially with the fine spell of weather through October, progress has been slow on the steel press, but the wooden press held yet again...

Thursday, 6 October 2011

New repair holds!

A bottle of cider secured two short odd lengths of Dexion type steel angle:

and luckily I found two more packets of the stainless coachbolts
so batch 7 is in the bag, well, fermenter...
just got to unload the press then bedtime methinks

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Spectacular Crack!

Yep, that upright could take no more... the heads sheared off the bottom screws holding the steel repair...
thing is, I'd got another couple of litres to get the 30 for that batch (no.6) and so yet another hasty repair was required - shoestring of what?
I found some stainless steel coachbolts and a few more big screws...
reloading the press - 12 sheets of ply and pommy bloomin' heavy! - I, tentatively... got just enough to reach the rim of the fermenter - not quite 30 litres then, but I wasn't complaining.
Search is on for that fence post now all right...

I'd managed to drag 3 x 12' lengths of 4" steel channel from a customer's hedge bottom - bit on the rusty side it has to be noted (probably been in the hedge for 10yrs at least!) and managed to get it home strapped to the ladders on the roof rack - taking it very steady of course, especially round corners - seems even rust is heavy!
But as I'm a way off getting that cut up, blasted and drilled etc. I'm still gonna need that fence post...

First of the steel homeward bound:

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

follow the Yellow Brick road..., well, scrounged concrete slabs in fact. They were to be thrown in the skip and did I want them..? Thanks Max!
Hoppity skippity off we go - it's good to have a proper path to the garage, especially as it's been without since I put it up 10 years ago! (though the roof has started to leak - always something...)

And all's well. There's 5 x 30 litre batches of infant cider to be tended and I'm 4 weeks up on last year, as all I've had to do this year is swap a few of the press boards.

The John Downie (I think...) on the front lawn was heaving this year - most ever - yeilding 257lbs, 40lbs of which missed pressing (that's the trouble with 'em - don't keep long), but an amazing amount for such a small tree and double of what it usually makes. So 2 of those batches above are single variety - both of which are popping away merrily in the kitchen. I can always blend it later.

I've worked out that if I could collect all the apples offered this year I'd have enough for 1000 litres... but I've no idea where I'd put it, or what the hell I'd do with all that cider anyway...

But there's other things to do: radiator's off the van - as it was overheating a little on last use; the 4x4 is awaiting a clutch and I'm trying to build up the running again so as to be up to fitness for next Easter (ish) and that bloomin' Coast to Coast attempt...

Oh and as an afterthought - I don't think that repaired upright on the press is going to last much longer so I'm keeping a north eye for some 4" square timber for the uprights, this time without knots!!
Buy some..? What?...are you mad?

Old fence post anyone?

Saturday, 10 September 2011

To-Do List...

- 3 things crossed off

been returning from work with trays of apples all week - plenty to go at once again

Finding the 'Dunnington Collector' handy (though needs some refinement) - more on this later...

It has to be noted that the pasteurised cider has not been well received... though the sugar- sweetened non-pasteurised and the Sucralose sweetened has...
more good feedback than bad then

1st pressing tomorrow all being well

Sunday, 31 July 2011

"Louis, Louis..."

There's cider making... and there's bottling. Bottling being an art in itself I'm coming to realise...

The 'Grolsch bottled' last week is not showing much activity despite the max/min thermometer readings showing 21/23 degs...

First up today was to pasteurise a rather lively batch 5 - not that's it's a particularly sweeter batch. Here it is cooling (note the folded wet towel on top!)

This time I switched off the tank at 63.2 degs. - it continued up to 64.9 slowly, and thinking it wasn't going to make the magic number, switched it briefly on again, whereupon after a minute or so it rose to 65 degs.
The idea of the folded wet towel is to dampen any mishaps, as I reckon the tops/necks of the bottles are the most volatile. Temperature in the test bottle is 55.6 after an hour.
A second cage would be handy... and to speed up cooling, a hose with a fine spray would be good too.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

10 green bottles...

"Y'all know what I'm saying... yee hee. Shamone"

Monday, 25 July 2011

Batch 18 bottled... and some thoughts

This was the last of the main pressing - the 2x20 litre ex-vegetable oil containers which stayed in the van all winter. No airlocks fitted - just opened the tops occassionally to release the Co2 build-up as the containers (being quite thin HDPE) began to fill out.
First rack was mid Feb - 2nd rack June. Log book entry at 2nd rack: "Doesn't taste of chip fat!"

Has turned out as good , if not better, than some of the more 'cared for' batches with a mix of 45/25/30 (%) sweet, sharp and bitter respectively - a 'using up' batch at that... certainly far far better than most of the 'craft' ciders I've waited at the bar for with their 'bourgeoisie' price tags an' all!

Does make you wonder about being too fussy - also that airlocks aren't a necessity!! My thinking was that it was better as juice than surplus fruit thrown away and if it failed I was only going to lose a few hours labour. Has a certain 'modern peasantry' aspect that has great appeal... pity I can't find more of those 'bourgeoisie' swing top lager bottles going begging lol


Some of this has been used as a medium trial adding 9gms (3x Whitworth cubes) of sugar to each bottle (450ml). It has to be noted this took some dissolving... and it may well be better to add sugar to the bulk at this rate. However, checking the bottles this morning shows that all is dissolved anyway.

What would be good is a 'controlled environment' for these sweeter ciders - a 'warm box' with a constant temperature of 15-21 degrees to give the yeast best chance to get to work on that sugar. As is, the bottles will warm up in the day and cool at night...
hmm, thinking reptarium - single light bulb - must have good thermostatic control though as too warm would be bad...

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Oh Theo; Theo, Theo... what did you start..?

Huh, just been outbid on eBay on 24 Grolsch bottles, yet again...
...what's the point..? for as much again I could buy them new from Morrisons FULL OF LAGER!
(very nice lager at that)
Investment potential ..?

Should I be having more fun opening my bottles though: check out the

swing-top challenge!

just checked out the 'Making of' (re the bottles) - 40,000 are coming off the production line PER HOUR! You would think that more of them would end up in bottle banks...

'Ground Control to Major Tom'

'Am I sitting in a tin can..?'

"No, it's alu-minium..."

the 'Space Oddity' in this case being the area beneath the cage to allow the water to circulate freely.
It's occurred to me this morning that the piece of wood first used probably won't work... As I remove the cage - it'll float. So I need to attach some feet to the base.
No doubt utilising tie wraps...

(sometime later...)

upper corners of scrap mushroom tray:

drilled to accept tie wraps:

1st in position:

all four feet attached:

Much stronger that it looks!
The feet now raise the base to give about an 1" clearance - handles still enclosed by lid (more down to luck than good measurement, but there you go)

All we need now is some conditioned cider containing a little more sugar than normal...
By my calculations 1 gram of sugar raises the SG of 1 pint of cider by (wait for it...)
so if the cider is at 1.002 to start with, I'll need to add 9 grams to a pint (ugh!) for an SG of 1.010 to get a medium dry - hopefully this'll be enough keep 'em sweet...
though I'll have to point out it'll be unsuitable for diabetics

afterthought: some of that sugar will need to ferment out of course to get the 'condition' and so it will be 9gms sugar + whatever it takes to develop the condition to get to finished gravity of 1.010
...beginning to think that the cidermaking is the easy part!!

Friday, 22 July 2011

"Gerrit bi 'andle lad..."

I did try some divers line tied to the base, but it's 'slippery' and I didn't trust my knots... so:

the cage with 13 full bottles weighs in at 11.8 kilos (26lbs) and the plastic mesh doubled over is amply strong enough, though I've added a 4x wide strip down the opposing side to where the main overlap to help spread out the load bearing (belt and braces..?)

This makes the whole affair easy to lift in and out. As the neck of the bottle is probably going to be the most volatile part of the bottle, the plan is to remove the lid and throw over a thick wet blanket affair. Should the worst happen then, this would surely absorb any impact from any upwardly mobile projectiles when removing the cage from the tank.
This assuming that at pasteurisation temperature the whole thing don't melt...
(though I can test this out beforehand... hang on...)
Just tested a piece in the kettle. At over 80 degrees (C) it does become slightly more flexible - but this is over a smaller area... be interesting to see if the whole thing falls to bits lol...
It may be better to get hold of some steel plastic-covered strainer wire and affix to the bottom of the cage thus not rely so heavily on the integrity of the plastic mesh...

Thursday, 21 July 2011

'Spinkhill Special'..?

This delightful little 'crab' has great character - a true cider apple... mouth puckering, bit acid... 'rounded flavour'... very pleasant. Needs to be named and preserved!

...not forced to be a wildling though - some specimens acheived nearly 2" dia... only time will tell...
Unfortuneatly there were only enough left over for 5 litres of a single variety trial - here ready to be scratted:

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

'Tha's got newht to come...'

At the pit head, as wives queued on pay day at the wages office, it is documented that if a miner had been off sick or not completed his full quota of shifts, his family would receive no money and be greeted with the above... little comfort with kids to feed...

The Derbyshire dialect makes the spelling of 'nothing' [as in 'nowt' (Yorkshire dialect)] sound more like newt, but not as in newt ie. small lizard, but as in 'kewd' with that Lancashire 'cow' enunciation, expressed as 'ewd on ewd lad' (Hold on old lad)
But there is no actual way of spelling this and getting it into 'black and white'...
Having written a whole novel trying to emulate the Derbyshire dialect and trying to sift out various 'over the border accents' (ie Yorks, Notts and Lincs) I find the subject fascinating if a little 'off topic'!

Cider tasting skills

I think I should extend my cider tasting skills beyond:

'Yeah, all right that... nothing wrong with that.'

Reminds me of:
Dom Joly wine tasting

... she does get to see the funny side at least - (the rest of us were forewarned with Trigger Happy TV!) - sadly most You Tube content of Trigger Happy seems to have been blocked by Channel 4

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

'Another fine mesh you got me into...'

With safety in mind, one idea to enclose the hot extra-pressurised bottles was to use some extra fine stainless steel mesh (well expensive!), either to cover the whole cage or individual bottles, but as it's probably not necessary to lay the bottles (or the cage) on their/it's side after all (this was with a view to sterilising the airspace above the cider) the thinking is that a wet towel draped over the top will probably be sufficient (provided that the bottles aren't under too much pressure ie.condition to begin with), or if time permits, just leave them in situ until cool enough to move...
The cage is now complete apart from a couple of handles and has developed strength through all the tie-wraps used. Of course only time will tell how these will hold up under use, but 65 degrees is not that hot... (though enough to affect that in-bottle pressure of course it has to be remembered)

The pasteurised batch 12 was well received with tonight's pork chop dinner too!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Cage Fight'n!

...well not so much fighting - more fiddlin'
I found out some candle dipping frames last night (as they fit into the Burco). These are some bits of equipment I made some years back for making dipped candles - you thread your wick round the upper and lower frame and start dipping the assembly in molten wax the layers build up and presto you get candles. One of these frames is strong enough as a base (we hope) to take the weight of 13 full bottles being made of 2" sq x 1/8" galvanized wire. So far so good, but how to keep the bottles apart..?
The answer was staring me in the face some 1/2" garden netting - the strong thick stuff. Nipping it to size with a)scissors and b)wire strippers... How to hold it all together..? Cable ties of course... hence the fiddliness.
It's been relatively easy to create a raised area for the test bottle too - just put a false floor in that particular compartment.

The base:

this should be strong enough to lower the full bottles into already hot water and remove at required temperature as recorded in test bottle (since realised it's too high in these pics...)

Way to go...

Bottle collecting is fun... in fact drinking the contents is actually even more fun.
Thing is, metal closure swing-top bottles are very strong and ideal if you plan to bottle beer or cider - which is where my interest kicks in, especially if you plan to bottle some potentially extra lively cider...
Now I could buy the clear glass 500ml type for around £1.20 each inc. carriage or I can build my collection more slowly and buy 'em green and full of lager (albeit only 450ml) with rather neat Grolsch lettering up the side... I didn't have to think about it for long. Currently Morrisons are swaying the argument a tad by offering 3 for £5 (normal price £1.99 each)
Not adverse to the odd lager and it does beat licking stamp hinges!
Mind you, I do have a way to go yet as I've only got 5...

Checking out Sheila's...

like many wild trees this one suffers from biennialism - not a oner last year...

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Tanks again...

Well today's trials have gone well. Using warm water left over from the 1st trial, pasteurisation temperature was reached after only half an hour with 6 bottles of conditioned cider instead of the one on the 2nd run.
The first was sampled on cooling, and apart from being a little cloudy tasted good with no evidence of heat treatment.
This process will kill off yeast organisms and allow for stabilisation of any cider but especially ciders with more added sugar at bottling ie. medium sweet/sweet (thus removing the risk of continued in-bottle fermentation with the accompanying risk of burst bottles)
A cage to hold the bottles would make the process more efficient though.

Author and food scientist - noted specialist in cider - in his excellent 'Craft Cider Making' (above) advises wearing goggles and strong gloves when handling hot bottles of conditioned cider.

Bottles cooling outside:

Tank's on...

...yeah, been on now for 30 minutes - up to 46.6 degrees (C).
I've got 12 bottles of water, 1 raised test bottle with the thermometer probe wedged in so as to read the temp at the centre of the bottle and I got 1 bottle of capped batch 5 cider (that I already know has developed quite a bit of condition)
Note the weighted lid - that's 6 tins of cat food in a mushroom tray...
Nervous? I'm expecting the whole thing to go "BANG" at any minute!
See, she's up to 50 degrees now....

You know when you see things on telly where they say 'don't try this at home'..?

Saturday, 16 July 2011

'Check dis out...'

In the quest to make an accepable medium/sweet conditioned cider (tch, why can't people just enjoy it as it comes..?) I'm gearing up for some pasteurisation trials. The controlled heating of the bottled cider at 65 degrees C is apparently sufficient to kill any remaining yeast organisms thus stabilising the contents.
Anyroad up, "as it 'appens lad...", years back I used to make a few candles and adapted a Baby Burco water heater to melt wax. It's a simple enough operation to add a basic bain marie type bulb thermostat as seen in this link:

basic Arthermo bulb thermostat control as sold by Hawco in the UK

So after much rumaging and plenty of cussing (but no wailing, though some minor gnashing of teeth...) in the morrass of the garage... Da dah, the former hobby comes up trumps:

(black knob is temperature control)

Holds 12 bottles (without touching sides) and has room for a test bottle in the middle:

Checking hysterisis (difference between lowest and highest temperature)

There are concerns that bottles containing conditioned cider are already under some pressure and that raised temperature suggests that the pressure increase could result in burst bottles when being handled - in that it is recommended that the bottles be laid on their sides while still hot. I intend getting round this by constructing some form of containing cage...

This is new territory for me so I need to get my thinking cap on.

Pasteurisation (..ization?) can tend to give the drink a caramelly edge but the trade off may well be worth it...

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Something to do with monks and Belgium...

...and that 'something' has to do with bottles: (scroll down to brown bottle 'Champ 0.75l')

Thing is when you get your bottles and use up the contents, you soak off your label right..? And unless you keep that label you've lost your only point of reference as to where and what...
The 'where' is easy - Aldi £1.99 inc. contents of some Bier Blonde or such, that being the 'what'...
But 'monks' (read Abbots etc...) and Belgium, don't yield good results in search engines.
Originally there were corks and wire colsures... and they are probably still in some little box somewhere in that morrass of a garage...

But then I found these:

thing is, I've only got 5 of these bottles... out at 83p each, though unless I can get some more bottles the real cost is double that. Is it worth it to house 3.75 litres of cider..?
Think I'm getting a 'thing' about bottles...

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Local Farmer gets free pint of Local Cider's true.
When the 'Beware the Dog' sign really does mean: 'BEWARE THE DOG!' (as in SHOUTING! ...and, for 'DOG' read: German Shep...herd... barking and snarling at that...)
This is to the farmer who left his apples for the Fieldfares, and how his face lit up as I offered my home-made pint of cider.
I normally keep freebies for those who provide apples, but it's the thought that counts - everytime.

Stella Cidre must be sh*te then...

re: 'what's tha reckon' thread and those 1 pint Stella bottles...

It's a lunar month (4 weeks), and the windows got cleaned again... no bottles, not a oner - she's gone back to Strongbow by the looks of things - loads of cans, but no bottles. Had she took to the Stella I'd have 3 doz bottles at least, boxed, ready to go, but no...
Nursing must be very very stressful is all I can say...

... oh yes, it's fun all right

Well I just opened a tester of batch 4...
Easing up the cap delivered a distinct 'psst' but (argh!) no bubbles in bottle - gently poured into (sadly, though comfortably...) a Caffrey's pint glass, as it is better to pour a bottle-conditioned cider in one go with as little disturbance to the sediment as possible, bubbles began to form on the glass sides and slowly rise...
the liveliness on the tongue is what makes all the difference between a cask and a bottled-conditioned...
yes, it's fun all right... oh yes.. strong stuff mind - ye gods yes...
time for another maybe..?

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Is cidermaking fun..?

At the end of April I completed the 53m Sheffield Country Walk, spending the first night on Burbage Edge shivering in a bivvy bag, as it was a breezy starry night... next day, homeward bound, I was approaching Ecclesfield, when a guy gardening shouted out: 'Are you enjoying your day?' Every indication was that I would be 'enjoying my day' as the sun shone and the day was warm and balmy...
but I was somewhat irked at the enquiry - with around 12miles to go with blistered feet... just exactly how much was I enjoying my day..? Was I having fun?
Well, like cidermaking, the fun comes at the end dunnit? As an enthusiastic amateur that 555 litres is taking some sorting, but the end is in site - just like the Norman arch of the West door at Eckington church, start and finish of the walk - just keep going son...

Did pass this Community Orchard though:

which has to be a good thing... dunnit?

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Just words...

As I got my Whitworth sugar cubes from Morrison's yesterday I noticed a large banner reminding me that they are 'crunching prices' on hundreds of products... Meaningless or cleverly contrived?
We like to think that 'crunching' here means 'reducing' and no doubt the brain interprets the message thus...

So it is with labels on bottles of cider that conspire to convince us of the unmerited worthiness of the contents:

'Made entirely from 100% pressed apple juice'

Casual observation can interpret this thus: This cider was made from 100% apple juice which was pressed. When in fact it is actually saying: This cider contains apple juice that was 100% pressed and not extracted by any other means and bears no reference to the quantity used...
Think on. Clever or what?

We can work it out...

...or can we?
Back to 'Craft Cider Making' we learn to add 10gms per litre (or that 'flat teaspoon' per pint)
Work that one out - clearly my teaspoon just isn't big enough...
It should be bourne in mind that we are not after cascades of bubbles - no gushing - no disturbing of sediment. Just a gentle 'psst' and those lovely Co2 bubbles gently rising and adding a little zest to the conditioned cider.
Seems the Whitworth cubes (at 3g) could be on the small side though, but these could be saved for batches with a slightly higher SG - say 1.003.
Batch 10 was all bottled on Sunday with an SG of 1.001 adding a single 4g SilverSpoon sugar cube (slightly less as a little is lost in the act of halving it)
It should be noted that the Whitworth cubes do tend to dissolve more quickly than the Silver Spoon - though after capping a quick inversion and swirl does the trick, again checking at labelling time to make sure all is dissolved.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Oh yeah... sugar cubes

Fondle your loins not...
now hear this:
as per bottle conditioning - no one actually gives... a sh*t? er, no, the weight of sugar to add per pint for a bit of fizz... Pooley and Lomax in 'Cider Making... for those daft enough to try'* advise 1 level teaspoon per pint (this is written in STONE no less - no, you don't want to go meddling here... trust me on this one - they go with a real good 'BANG' when they go...), though scientist Andrew Lea (ye absolute God of cider makers) in 'Craft Cider Making' advises 1 'flat' teaspoon per pint - amazingly we hopefuls interpret that as 'level'...
The good news or the bad news..? Well, I've taken the bold step of using sugar cubes - (raise not your glass in admiration just yet clever as this may appear...) - ah , no, nothing is ever so simple...
It should be noted here that t'internet advises that sugar cubes are equal to 1 level teaspoon...
1st procured: Whitworths sugar cubes - 3 grams per cube (how do I know this gem? - it says so on the box...)
Hmm, so just how much does a 'level teaspoon' of sugar weigh?
Well I can tell you that on my 'gigital' Salter scales 5 level teaspoons = 19 gms (assuming my teaspoon is a 'standard measure' and my scales are reasonably accurate...)
With me so far..?
10 Silver Spoon sugar cubes (we are talking the unhealthy stuff here no minerals or brown stuff) comes in at 39 gms - with a slight draught I make that 4 gms per cube...
So the winner is Silver Spoon equalling 1 level teaspoon of plain white sugar...
all's well then I here you say. Well no...
You see the Silver Spoon jobbies don't fit into the neck of your bottle and require chopping in half (not an easy feat), whereas the Whitworths do, though are 1 gm short - less fizz, less bizz... doh

*'Real Cidermaking on a Small Scale' by Michael Pooley & John Lomax

No it's gone...

forgot what I was going to post now lol...


वहत हवे इ क्लिच्केद ओं बी मिस्ताके नो..?

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

'Tone it down a bit?'

For many years I played in a band and worked the working-man's club circuit during the 70's. New 'Health and Safety Laws' saw the introduction of 'Sound Meters' which promptly cut off the electricity supply and often immediately with the opening number prompting the Concert Secretary to utter (and a good few of the audience at times): 'Can't tha tone it down a bit?'

So what's this to do with cider you may well ask... The thing is, you do sometimes wonder what other people make of it. Should I have any doubts on taste and quality I pass a small glass through to the chief taster... the response being usually one of two:

1) 'Hmm... I see what you mean. (Smacks lips and passes glass back.) Have you got any more?'
2) 'Beautiful that. (Smacks lips and passes glass back.) Have you got any more?'

On the briefest of tasting the daughter's response is usually: "Orgh, no"...

I don't sell my cider, but do give quite a bit of it away to those who are kind enough to allow access to their trees or orchard providing valuable apples; and there's the unsuspecting, whose experience of 'cider' is probably from the supermarket...

Thing is, do you 'tone it down a bit' for those customers whose feedback is polite but firm?

Most common: 'Not sweet enough'
Often: 'It's too sharp'
Yesterday's comment: 'It was bitter'
or the less constructive: 'Not to my taste'
Another one: 'I mixed it with lemonade' (..?)

not all bad though:
'It were all right that.'
'Do you sell it?'
'Strong stuff innit.'
'You can taste the apples in it.'

So what's to do? (short of 'Keeving' to make a 'naturally' sweeter cider that is...)
a) Water it down and add sweetener...?
b) Add more sugar to the finished stuff but make sure that they don't keep it too long?


Monday, 13 June 2011

Bottling out...

A clear bottle is better for bottle conditioning methinks - easier when filling (esp. in the darker kitchen), easier to see if the added sugar has dissolved (getting it right in bulk solution can be tricky on a smale scale) and easier to see the final deposit of yeast, and, at pouring, the disturbed sediment. It's also nice to see the lovely golden colour of the finished product!

The club that provided many many brown glass 1 pint Magners bottles have moved to draught Magners, but they still have a few regulars who like the odd Newcastle Brown Ale (once the request goes in the steward saves me what there is - about 3 doz per month) They don't have time to rinse them out, but do place them into a box under the bar. That last bit of ale can be problematic and leave a gooey brown residue. Still it's a good strong bottle and the odd bottle brush insertion is not too much of a hassle - hence you see the strong bleach solution at the first washing stage...
The labels used to be easy to remove with a quick soak but now have become a little more difficult - I think they have 'upped' the game with a newer adhesive. Hence the interest in the Stella 1 pint bottle, but like it's 'relative' the Magners has that bit of sticky-oh-so-sticky foil on the neck...

Storage has it's problems. I still have some Magners boxes (more tape than cardboard...) and getting 12 pint boxes is not easy from Supermarkets trust me - you have to be in the right place at the right time and take your chances!
No boxes at all for Newcastle Brown Ale as they come in poly-stretched film in dozen trays - not to me of course... (like many other drinks bottles these days, boxes having become prohibitively expensive even to big business!)
Only thing I seem to be able to gain sufficient of are the Aldi display-type wine boxes at present which are too tall but do hold 6 at a time (unfortunately these come in slightly different sizes, which makes stacking a little awkward)

Bottle stock then running at:
Magners (all filled now): 96
Newcastle Brown (the One and Only): 307 - 3doz of which are now filled
Stella Cidre: 16
Tillington Hills: 12 (unsuitable for bottle conditioning - very annoying sticky labels too!)

Sunday, 12 June 2011

What's tha reckon..?

There is a tale to be told, for the telling thereof, which concerns thus:

(this Stella Cidre link currently to directs to a product recall - which does make you think about reusing bottles...)

Laugh out loud indeed? I bought a bottle yesterday...
Laugh ye not...
Now, consider this - this is the kind of shite that people will consume vast quantities of... indeed already are. A customer yesterday had her recycling bin overflowing a bit - 15 of these empties (come in boxes of 8). 568ml=1pint, so far so good... whoa, she's even got the boxes (good as new - you want to see my Magners 12*1 pint boxes - more tape than cardboard now lol) So, 2 boxes of empties, but one short...

Sometime later... Tesco. Clink - £1.99. Potentially now 2 full boxes! All I had to do was empty it...

Lo, I entered the spirit of this and popped it in the fridge (forget the ice...)
Moment of truth: 9pm. Glug glug. Grolsh pint lager glass...

Ugh. Fair do's... I did manage half (in an effort to find some kind of flavour) before tipping the remainder down the sink - a whole pound's worth of shite!

But now I have two boxes of 1 pint clear bottles for the £1.99 (a dozen new beer bottles will set you back £8 from ye olde home brew shop) - not convinced they are quite as strong as the Newcastle Brown Ale bottles though, but them there labels came off much more easily - shame about the foil tops though which need a bit of hot water from the kettle.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Let Bottle Commence...

'There will be much wailing and gnashing...'

...and clinking and splashing!

The labels on these early Newcastle Brown Ale bottles from last year soak off easily:

...this year's have been more difficult so far!

here the bottle tree set up for just 2 doz - can hold 45 max:

bottle washer set up in sink - here with a strong bleach solution for initial wash:

pressing down the bottle sends a jet of solution into the bottle:

after initial washing left boxed ready for sterilising and filling later:

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Ar I'tell thi... it's Derbyshire lad...

Well my lad has surpassed himself... 5 litres of Pickled Pig from Stretham Stores... 'check that crazy shit, hee heee' - like coals to 'mother fuc*ing Newcastle, shamone'. Hey guess what? the 2nd 2.5 litres has started to 'fermenteytey' - 'check ma bad self, yeooow' - that bitch tastes GOOOD! 'yeoow'!
and... not only that but bottle washing has commenced... not without its problems... I've got cider coming out of my ears...

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Rack and Roll...

As the ex-cooking oil 20litre HDPE containers are flexible, picking them up disturbs the sediment much more that it does with the more solid 30 litre fermenters. Luckily I picked up a 3rd from outside the same pub, which I cleaned and sterilised ready.
Fortunately the pump fits through the cap hole! - but a hand does not, nor can the eye see too well past the pipe etc., however with thinner walls I can just about see what's what from outside... but still had trouble getting the clear stuff out without too much sediment...
Hard to say whether it tastes of chips yet - bit different that's f'sure... it's very yeasty yet...

Note lack of airlock - I've just loosened the cap now and then to let the pressure out as the container has 'filled out'...
ooops, one of the Devons just fell off the boiler... knocked one of the bin lins flying but otherwise okay... glad he missed the tub of So2 as the lid's off! Bloomin' cats...
Right, now for the last... it should have settled a bit by now.
Think I'll give the pump a miss and just syphon it out though...

Cider Head on today!

1st up, the odd 5 litres of single variety crab - 'Prince of Wales' - very different and very pleasant! - despite quite a bit of floating yeast crud - SG of 1012, which is a surprise as it's sat on the kitchen worktop (photo below) since early January - it's neighbour, the odd 3 litres from 17 (17a), is pretty yukky and dry as toast (well nearly at SG1.000) - used for topping up 17 as it came from that batch.
Then 17 itself - SG 1.010 - still active as fermentation will have been much slower in the much cooler motor caravan. Difficult to pump out with the Whale submersible, but switching it off and on, got it down to a liftable amount - the height of the worktop then aiding the pump with sufficient syphon effect - very lively but good taste and shows promise. As noted above 17a then used for top up instead of water.
Next in line are the two ex chip-fat containers 18a and b... these two have only lived in the motor caravan (had a small heater on in here during the very cold snap) - hmm, just wondering what they gonna taste like...

Sunday, 16 January 2011

...and then some

Last Sunday saw batch 6's 2nd and final rack and 1st rack of 15 and 16... as 16 was still quite lively, I'm giving 17 and the 2 of 18 a bit longer.

...and here still fermenting:

...there's batch 19 (the 5 litres of single varietal crab) and the 3 litres over from the batch 17 pressing... oh, and that rather nice strong proper Polish honey/vodka liqueur that's found its way into the household should help keep any colds at bay - Na Zdrowie!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

A bit kewd out...

'Kewd' - (pron. not as in Kew (ie. gardens), but as in 'cow' with a broad Lancashire accent with added 'D') - local (ie. N Derbys) dialect for cold...
in fact a bit too cold to taste the cider I've just brought in from the garage - Batch 5 is rather pleasant if a little cloudy, but just plain 'too kewd'...

...accessing no.4 (it's at the back and at a funny angle...) - very different to 5 - not as 'nice' and quite 'tart' by comparison, though very clear. Amazing how different they can turn out...
Must get some racking done this weekend now car is tested... repeat after me...