I got apple cider at a farmers market in January, fresh pressed the day before. One of the advantages of buying cider late season is they often contain more cider appropriate apples: aroma, sharps etc. The cider I used for this was mostly desert apples, but definitely had some of the later season varieties. I also added Granny Smith apples with their skins for acid and tannin. I made 6 gallons, used three gallons to made a clone of Kurt’s apple pie from Moonlight Meadery, put one gallon on a vanilla bean, and left the other as is. All got oak cubes. The Kurt’s apple pie was very good but ended up with more notable cinnamon than vanilla. The one gallon that sat on the vanilla bean, really smoothed out, and helped bring out the apple quality. You don’t notice the vanilla per say but you would notice if it is missing, which is exactly the problem with the plain cyser. Despite the cyser finishing at a FG of 1.01, the oak tannin really dried it out and brought out the perception of alcohol in the cyser without the vanilla.
- 18 lbs honey
- 17 liters of sweet cider
- Added petic enzyme as per instructions on pack
- 3 lbs Granny Smith blended in a food processor
- 4x 5 gram packets of Lalvin 71B-1122
- Target FG: 1.015
- Actual FG: 1.010
- Recommended 242.1/2 = 121.05 YAN using The MeadMakr BatchBuildr
- Fermaid-K: 1.5 tsp ~ 4 grams (YAN)
- DAP: 2 tsp ~ 10 grams (YAN)
- Total actual YAN: ~ 110
- Fermentation Temperature 62f.
- Split the juice between two six gallon buckets
- Put the blended apples in a mesh bag in one bucket
- Fed 1/4 tsp Fermaid-K and petic enzyme immediately
- Made a 1.5 liter activation starter for 2.5 hours which showed lots of activity
- Split starter between the two buckets
- + 24 h – Aerated with wine degasser and 1/4 tsp DAP 1/8 tsp Fermaid-K each bucket, 62f
- + 36 h – Aerated with wine degasser and added 1/8 tsp DAP each bucket, 62f
- + 48 h – Aerated with wine degasser and added 1/8 tsp DAP and Fermaid-K each bucket, 62f
- + 56 h – Aerated with wine degasser and added 1/8 tsp DAP each bucket, 62f
- + 72 h – Aerated with wine degasser and added 1/8 tsp DAP and Fermaid-K each bucket, 62f
- + 5 days – Added 1/8 tsp addition of Fermaid-K each bucket, 62f
- Shook every couple of days and got lots of CO2 from the one without fruit.
- +2 weeks – strained apples out of bag and had a baseball size clump of skins left. The one with fruit on top started bubbling aggressively once fruit was removed.
- Shook every couple of days and both bubbling for a while after being shook.
- + 1 Month – transferred to 5g carboy. Read 1.008. Added 0.5 liters of water to top up carboy.
- +5 weeks still degassing, some apple pieces floating on top. still cloudy so added 1/4 tsp petic enzyme.
- + 7 weeks – transferred to tertiary. Still cloudy.
- + 10 weeks added two stage clarifier – finally cleared within a few days
- + 11 weeks – transferred to a three gallon carboy and two one gallons, and a half gallon carboys. The half gallon got some sediment. Read 1.010!?
- +12 weeks – added a vanilla bean to 1/2 gallon, three gallon, and the one gallon. Put 1/2 tbsp cinnamon in a tea bag in the 3 gallon carboy, and 1 tsp of cinnimon in a tea bag in 1/2 gallon.
- + 4 months – bottled from the 1/2 gallon, got two bottles of the half vanilla bean and back of cinnamon. Presence of alcohol, no floral-musk character, strong vanilla almost too much. Checked the other vanilla meads. Left some in a glass and let sit out for an hour, it really opened up and the apple and cinnamon came out more and the alcohol turned into warming alcohol at the back-end. Apple vanilla nose come out more clear and mellowed out. Tasted off-dry.
- +6.5 Months – took out vanilla bean and cinnamon from 3 gallon carboy. Added oak (two cubes American, one French, been soaking in vodka for 3 months) to vanilla, 3g carboy.
- +6.75 Months – tested the vanilla cyser but couldn’t taste the vanilla. Had the intense floral /musky smell of the honey.
- +7.5 Months took a 750ml bottle bottled from the 1/2 gallon to a local mash-up. Tasted ok, but lacking acid. Some muskiness was still there and it is quite off-dry tasting so hard to notice apple much. More vanilla than anything.
- +8 months – tasted the larger carboy. Most of the alcohol nose is gone, vanilla is coming though, medium bodied. Tannins are coming through and the vanilla is there but no as much as the cinnamon. May not want it to sit on the oak too much longer. It looks more dark then the other batches. Could use some acid to brighten it up.
Futzing with acid:
- + 9 months – Did a tasting of the spiced 1/3 gallon batch and found that 17.5-20g per 100 ml of acid blend was the preferred acid level. Made a big difference, and really brought out the apple character. Added 21 g of acid blend to the topped 3 gallon carboy. Withdrew some mead, mixed in acid, and dumped back in. Tasted great, but the vanilla and the cinnamon were hints and not as forward as hoping. Put 6 grams (5 acid blend, 1g citric) into the two one gallon carboys.
- +9.5 months – bottled all the meads.
Submitted the vanilla cyser as a cyser and the Kurt’s apple pie clone to GTA brew slam, Canada’s largest homebrew competition, when the meads were 10 months old. The cyser won second place and it scored 41/50 by two judges including Gordon Strong. Complete scoresheets. I submitted the vanilla cyser as a cyser since the vanilla was not a distinct flavor in the cyser. The vanilla cyser tasted much better than the oaked cyser, despite not much vanilla character coming through. I really helped smooth and round out the aroma and flavor profiles. It also helped cut through some of the alcohol nose that was merely amplified by the presence of oak in the cyser.
The Kurt’s apple pie clone was one of my favorite meads. Despite the cinnamon not being intense in the carboy, it really came out after a month in the bottle. The cinnamon lingered as noted by two judges, it tended to dominate, not amplify the apple character. It only scored a 35/50 and a 37/50 by two judges at the same competition. See full Kurt’s apple pie scoresheets. Next time I would add two vanilla beans, and pull out the cinnamon earlier.
I made a couple of mistakes with this mead, and I would not follow what I did as instructions. I should have oxygenated the meads with pure 02 as the wine whip was insufficient. I would have also liked the meads more if they finished out a little sweeter, maybe 1.015. The alcohol became present later in the fermentation, and it could have needed more organic YAN. As I have mentioned elsewhere this was an earlier batch of mead for me and I was still using a wildflower honey that had such an intense floral character that it came across musky. I now would use a golden or white wildflower honey – or would do a 50/50 blend of orange and raspberry blossom varietal honey. It also could have used some rehydration with Go-ferm or substituted most of the DAP with Fermaid-O.
Another thing is that I decided how much acid to use using a 1/2 gallon batch of Kurts apple pie, then scaled up and added that amount to all the batches. In retrospect I should have added malic acid. The citric acid came across a bit sharp and stood out from the apple – malic character. I should have also determined how acid I needed by testing each spin-off batch separately. The traditional cysers needed less acid than the spiced cysers, and adding the same amount per gallon to each batch overdid it for the traditional. Finally, when determining how much acid I wanted to use, I should of cut it by 75% from by preferred – or confirmed my preference the next day. Tasting all the different acid levels at once blew my palate and lessened by sensitivity at testing. I would have added less after the fact.