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..?