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: