Sep 09

Results from the hard cider yeast experiment

lalvin-d47-vs-danstar-nottiIn the last post, it was written that a hard cider yeast experiment had been devised. Primarily, the concern was that of which yeast to use. For the experiment, a standard sweet cider was used and an amount of brown sugar was added to raise the starting gravity to 1.067. After this, two different yeasts were pitched. One wine yeast and one ale yeast. The following are the results of the experiment.

Both ciders started up quickly and were brewed at 70 degrees Fahrenheit for 4 to 5 days. At this point, the wine yeast had reached 1.010, while the ale yeast was still at 1.024. To speed things up, the temperature was raised to 80+ degrees (because that’s how warm it was in my house.) After another couple days, the wine yeast finished up, and a couple days later, the ale yeast finished up.

Then a final gravity measurement was taken with a hydrometer:

  • Lalvin D47 wine yeast finished at 1.004 (8.4% ABV)
  • Danstar Nottingham ale yeast finished at 1.002 (8.7% ABV)

This meant that the ale yeast finished a little drier, but not significantly so.

How did it taste?

A fellow beer-brewer joined me and we both tried each of the ciders. The D47 wine yeast produced a clear, yet traditional dry cider with plenty of fruity notes, while the Nottingham ale yeast did not flocculate as well and had sort of a “whiskey” finish to it. Whether this was because of the ale yeast or because the temperature had been raised, I cannot be certain. I’m inclined to think the latter, though, as I have brewed with other ale yeasts before and never had such a result. (Because I’ve never really brewed at around 80 degrees.)

How did my friends like it?

Nine more people were invited over to try the cider.

The cider made with the wine yeast was consumed more quickly than the one with the ale yeast. Generally speaking, 2/3 of the crowd preferred the dry, yet fruity cider but didn’t really like the drier cider with the “whisky” finish. The minority liked both, but preferred the rougher finish of the ale yeast.

Was the brown sugar necessary?

Well, if you like high ABV cider, then yes, it was necessary. But for the most part, my friends thought that 8.5% for a cider was too high. A 5 to 6% ABV cider was more or less what they were looking for. And the good news here is that to get 5 or 6 %, one just needs to start with sweet cider (1.050) and let it ferment until it is below 1.010.




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  1. Robert

    I’m a first timer and had a question,Did you age the cider or was it ready to drink after fermentation? I have been reading about the cider making process and some say to age it for 4-6 weeks.

  2. Christina

    I found your blog at an opportune time. I am a new cider maker currently doing some experimental batches in preparation for next fall, trying to practice my process and figure out which yeast I will use. My first two mini-batches were made with Lalvin 71B and I was quite impressed with the results; it tasted a lot better than some of the commercial hard ciders I have tried. Anyway, I was also planning to try D47 and Nottingham, but you have saved me the trouble. But I do have one question: in your experience, is it true that ciders made with ale yeast are ready to drink sooner than ones made with wine yeast? And further to that, have you noticed if 71B is ready to drink sooner than D47 or 1118, because of how it metabolizes some of the malic acid? Thank you. -Christina.

    1. Pretzel

      Regarding yeasts, the Lalvin D47 is a good choice. The “wine” type pairs well with the apple flavor. Nottingham was just okay.

      I recently tried a new yeast that the guys at the beer supply store recommended and it turned out VERY well. But for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was called. It was a dry yeast. I haven’t tried the 71B or the 1118. What I can tell you about champagne yeasts (1118) is that it comes out far too dry for my tastes. Like, nothing was left to taste. Some people like this, though. I suspect the 71B would be good because it’s a white wine yeast.

      > in your experience, is it true that ciders made with ale yeast are ready to drink sooner than ones made with wine yeast?
      That sort of depends on your definition of “ready to drink”. Yeah, I guess ale yeasts finish earlier that pretty much anything else. But do they flocculate faster? Do they finish aging faster?

      Eh, that’s tough to say. I used Trader Joe’s sweet cider this winter and that dry yeast (which I can’t remember the name of) and let it ferment. Then I cold-crashed it for a few weeks and it became incredibly clear. (Cold crashing yeast always works better than waiting for something to flocculate at room temp, IMHO.) It was perhaps one of the nicest ciders that I’ve produced.

  3. Panamadaddy

    Enjoyed reading,
    Good experiment .
    Helpful for me.
    Thanks !

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    […] Results from the hard cider yeast experiment » […]

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