Brown cider, yellow cider

20 October 2009
By Tom Mansell

In the wake of the strawberry wine explosion of July (the results of which have since been tasted and largely approved of), I’ve got some more fermentations brewing. This one is an experiment with wild yeast. I bought a gallon of cider from Littletree Orchards in Newfield, just south of Ithaca. I sulfited them (25 ppm), added Fermax and pectinase (apples are low on nitrogen and high on pectin [ever have apple butter?]), and {chaptalized} up to about 20 {Brix}. (It came in around 13.5).

small text on upper right:  At Littletree Orchards, we bring you 7 generations worth of the cidermaker's skill to make this all-natural, unfiltered apple cider. KEEP REFRIGERATED! There are no preservatives added... so this cider will become "tangy" or "snappy" with age, producing a naturally sparkling drink!

In one growler I pitched a bit of EC-1118 commercial yeast. The other I left to its own devices. Since the gallon of cider was $6, if it got ruined I would only be out $3, so no big loss. Littletree flash-pasteurizes their cider, meaning that it is exposed to high heat for a short period of time. This process probably kills *most* microorganisms, but the label itself claims that if left go, the cider will become “tangy” or “snappy”. Well, if left go a little longer, it will become “boozey”, which is exactly what I’m looking for.


EC-1118: fast fermentation (left) and spontaneous, slow fermentation (right)

EC-1118: fast fermentation (left) and spontaneous, slow fermentation (right). Background: some other fermentation projects: potential vinegar, previous vintage of cider, cider co-fermented with blackcurrant juice, growler of strawberry wine. In reflection on right growler: jar of potential sauerkraut.

The above photo is a great example of the redox chemistry that goes on during fermentation. Apple cider is brown because of enzymatic (polyphenol oxidase) reactions that occur in the presence of oxygen. Browning of {must} can be inhibited by the addition of sulfites or other antioxidants (e.g., the old lemon juice on the apple trick lowers the pH and also adds vitamin C, an antioxidant). Apple cider fresh off the press is immediately exposed to oxygen and turns brown. Fermentation is a reducing environment, which is the opposite of an oxidizing environment. During fermentation, browning reactions can be reversed, turning the brown must into yellow hard cider. This is why wine is in little danger of becoming oxidized while fermentation is going on (see: open-top fermenters). After fermentation is over, however, the protective buffer of reduction is vulnerable and oxygen exposure should be limited. Aged wines have been exposed to small amounts of oxygen over many years, and the resulting golden, then brown colors in aged whites are the result of oxidation as well.

The difference in color in the photo has nothing to do with commercial vs. wild yeasts. It is because the spontaneous fermentation was a lot slower to get started (I had no bubbles for about 4 days). Coming in the kitchen one day, I was struck by the contrast, kind of like a before/after shot.

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2 Responses to Brown cider, yellow cider

  1. Lenn Thompson on 20 October 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Aren’t you getting close to the maximum gallons of fermented juice per person per year permitted? ;)

    Joking…love reading about this stuff. Curious about the results.

  2. Tom Mansell on 20 October 2009 at 1:31 pm

    fyi, the limit is 200 gallons per year per household, so not quite yet :)

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