Saturday, 21 March 2015

2014 Harvest Cider with Davy Uprichard

I've been a fan of Tempted? Cider since I first tasted it at the Irish Craft Beer & Cider Festival in the RDS in September 2012. I was working for GrĂ¡inne and Tim on the Metalman stand at the festival, which was just a few stands down from Tempted?, and the man behind it (literally), Davy Uprichard. So over the course of the festival I got talking to him. Davy had been a horticulturist in search of something new, he explained to me at the time. He said to me that he had told his wife Jan he wanted to buy a motorbike or a cidery, but he couldn't decide which. Jan was hoping for the motorbike. Davy's accent sounds to me a lot like Matthew's and Declan's, i.e. nordie. I'm still trying to figure out the differences between them.

Sourcing the juice - Davy to the rescue!

Best part of a metric tonne
Fast forward to summer 2014. Apples are on the trees, reminding me that cider time is coming again. I bought apple juice from a couple of places in 2012 and 2013 but was never happy with the finished product, so for 2014 I decided I was going to go to a professional cider maker for my juice, and no better man than Davy. I asked Davy would he oblige me and he said he would. I told him I wanted a finished product that would be not too dissimilar to his dry cider and at the same time I contacted a few people I knew would be interested in buying in. A deal was done and Davy delivered almost a metric tonne of juice to Leixlip in early November, the exact blend of which was:

And additionally:
  • PH adjusted to 3.6 with malic acid (to kill microbes.)
  • Sulphited to 50ppm.
  • Specific gravity of 1.0465, expected to finish at 6.36% ABV

I personally got 3 x 20 litres drums myself, one with no sulphites to let ferment on the natural yeast, the second sulphited and Young's Cider Yeast added, and the third sulphited and Danstar Nottingham Ale Yeast added.
L-R: 2L of home made apple juice concentrate, 20L juice, 9L corny, 30L pot

Back Sweetening

Cologran: don't do it
Fast forward again to March 2015 and with the weather getting warmer I'm reminded it's time to bottle the cider, starting with the drum that fermented on its own yeast (Davy had recommended racking off the lees around the start of the new year; I didn't, my bad, but it doesn't seem the worse for it). It's slightly hazy and not too tart. This could easily be drank flat, as in scrumpy, a style I'm not a huge fan of. In previous years I tried leaving the cider unsweetened but found it was too tannic and hard to drink (with the exception of cider I made from a variety native to Leixlip, more on that later). Sweetening with Cologran, (a 10:1 blend of sodium cyclamate and saccharin) from Lidl was even worse, giving it a sickly sweet and completely artificial flavour.

Making Concentrate (for Back Sweetening)

With this in mind I planned ahead when I first took delivery of the juice by taking off 4 litres, freezing it, and then letting 2 litres slowly thaw. i.e. freeze concentration. The base cider was ~1.046 whereas the concentrate I had just made came in at 1.084. This would allow me to back sweeten with the original juice, without diluting the ABV too much.

The only issue with this approach is that if left to their own devices the remaining yeast in the concentrate and/or the fermented cider would end up fermenting out the sugars in the concentrate, thereby negating the point of back sweetening in the first place, while also risking "bottle bombs". Pasteurising is the only solution to this and while unusual for the amateur it's not too difficult to do at home.

Over the course of the year I took the gravities of some commercial ciders.......
  • Old Rosie: 1.008
  • Orpens Irish Apple Cider: 1.012
  • Bulmers/Magners: 1.020
  • Stella Cidre:1.022
.....and found my tastes are around the Orpens level of sweetness, 1.012.

In order to sweeten and pasteurise using the tools available to me, namely a 9 litre Cornelius keg and a 30 litre pot to warm it in, I used the dilution tool in Beersmith to calculate the required volumes:
1.2L of concentrate @ 1.084 + 7L of cider @ 0.998 = 8.2L of sweetened cider @ 1.012
To work out ABV I'd have 7 litres of 6.36% with 1.2 litres of 0%, so.....
7/8.2 x 6.36 =  5.42% ABV
...which is still quite respectable. To measure such precise amounts into the corny was easy, just weigh the corny as it was being filled, assuming each litre weighs around 1 kg, which is close enough.


Hot bath: target mid 60s
Once the juice was mixed up in the corny, next step was to drop the corny into a bath of hot water on the cooker. I preheated about 10 or 12 litres of water to around 67-68°C in a 30 litre pot with a dinner plate at the bottom to stop the rubber on the corny from being burnt, and dropped the corny in with the pressure relief valve removed. This allowed me to put a thermocouple into the juice and as my meter has two inputs I put the second one in the water. This caused the temperature of the water to drop to maybe 58-60°C as the cider in the corny started to absorb the heat. I kept the gas on full, never allowing the water to heat above about 68°C, as this is the absolute maximum temperature I wanted the cider to go to, the logic being the cider cannot heat any more than the water. Once both had equalised I replaced the pressure relief valve in the corny to keep all that goodness locked in. From here on I would only need to keep an eye on the temperature of the water as both temperatures had equalised. I regulated the gas and kept the temperature around 65°C over the next 30 to 40 minutes. Once that was done out the corny came and went into the freezer to cool enough to be carbonated.

Force carbonating the Sodastream way

I've always thought it literally a waste of time force carbonating the slow way, i.e. letting the corny sit there on gas over two weeks while waiting for the pressure to equalise. Anyone with a Sodastream knows that you can force carbonate practically instantly, and if you have a pressure gauge that you'd use for spunding you can do it pretty accurately too. The method I use, inspired by Sodastream and proven by others, just involves setting the regulator to 40 PSI and gassing the corny while shaking it. Then I disconnect the gas and leave it to settle for an hour or so. When it has settled I bleed off the excess gas, connect the pressure gauge to the gas post and gentle rock the corny till the pressure in the headspace equalises with the liquid. Measuring this pressure (with the gauge for spunding) and the temperature, then using a chart I can accurately calculate the volume of dissolved CO2. (I admit I didn't think of this method of measuring; I picked up on it when I saw it being done in an episode of Brew Masters)

Corny hooked up to gas

Pressure set to 40 PSI - time to rock

Check:7.5 PSI @ 2°C = 2.2 vols

Having grown up on Bulmers I tend to like cider fizzy, and that really means 2.2 volumes of CO2 or even more.

The proof's in the (cider) pudding

Best. Cider. Ever.
So what did this turn out like? In a nutshell, amazing. By far the best non-commercial cider I've had and very close to rivialing the best of Irish. But it's not perfect. While 1.012 is probably about the right sweetness for my tastes, a consequence of sweetening with concentrate is that it is very appley. Gone are the tannins and bitterness from previous years that negatively impacted on the user experience, which is a good thing. I think the next blend I might back sweeten with a little less concentrate (I only have around a half litre left) and see how it goes. Stay tuned!

The future

I spoke to Davy recently at the St. Patrick's Irish Beer & Whiskey Festival in the RDS and floated the idea of single varietal juice presses past him, and he was very enthusiastic about the idea. Looking forward to 2015's cider already :)

Cheers Davy!

Update #1

23/03/15 Final 4.7 litres of naturally fermented juice is now blended with 0.9 litres (my son had the other 0.1!) of Aldi 1.045 apple juice, and is being pasteurised as I type. Resulting blend should be about 1.007 with an ABV of about 5.3%
24/03/15 Very decent, also recommended. Noticeably less appley than the concentrate version. Quite close to some craft Irish ciders I've had.

Update #2

14/04/15 I'm on to the second drum of cider which fermented with Nottingham ale yeast. It has dropped clearer but has slightly more tannins than the naturally fermented juice. I think I prefer the naturally fermented stuff as it seems rounder.
15/04/15 I have added one litre of Tesco Cherry juice drink (made from concentrate) to eight litres of this cider, pasteurised and carbonated in the normal way. The Tesco juice was 1.048 starting out so the resulting mixture was 1.007 or thereabouts. It's also quite drinkable and is going down well with the ladies, and is getting the thumbs up from my 19-year old daughter!

The man himself. Davy in the Ulster Hall 2012