Making hard crab apple cider: racking day – what happened? (updated: I found out!)

This morning, after doing my morning rounds, I gave the sun room door frame a second coat of paint. Tomorrow, we hang the door back up.

I had an audience. πŸ˜€

Also, while I was painting, I found that Nostrildamus has figured out to jump over the threshold after it’s been painted! πŸ˜€


Today was finally racking day for our first attempt at making hard apple cider, using our own crab apples. For new visitors, you can read up about that here and here. (links will open in new tabs)

Here is how the gallon carboys looked before I started. As expected, there was a LOT of sediment at the bottom. It’s not just the lees from the yeast, but the sediment from the raw, unfiltered juice.

We had some concerns with the fermentation. Activity in the airlock stopped a while ago. I think the room temperature became a problem. While they were actively bubbling, their temperatures tended towards 18C/64F, though we did also keep them wrapped in a towel and, every now and then, I’d heat up a rice-filled warming pad in the microwave and stick it between them to help keep them warm. We had used an electric heating pad, when making mead, but where these were sitting, there is nowhere to plug it in.

Racking from a 4L to a 3L carboy meant a lot of sediment heavy liquid left behind. Though I tried to hold the racking cane well above the sediment as long as I could, I could still see wisps of it being pulled up the siphon.

As I racked each jug, I made sure to get a hydrometer reading.

I just don’t know what to make of it.

For one of them, the hydrometer pretty much sank to the bottom. I had to add cider almost to the top for it to float enough to get a reading. The other was only slightly better. When they were first tested, it floated quite handily.

Unfortunately, I just can’t get it straight on how to read the specific gravity on that thing. So I write down all three readings.

The readings still don’t make any sense to me. Why would the numbers all drop so much? From what I can figure out, this is basically telling me there’s no alcohol in one, and almost no alcohol in the other.

I did taste test it, of course, and they both have a VERY sour apple taste. It also does taste alcoholic, but that is almost overwhelmed by the sour apple taste. Which is interesting, since the apples we used are actually quite sweet, and there was quite a bit of sugar added to the juice, too.

As for the hydrometer reading this time around, the only thing I can think of that might be affecting it (besides something going weird with the cider itself) is the temperature. Both carboys had a temperature reading of 16C/60F. The ambient temperature in the room is 15C/59C. From what I’ve been reading, newer hydrometers are calibrated for about 20C/68F. I’ve found a site that will calculate the adjustment for temperature, but there is virtually no change in the reading. So what gives?

I have no idea.

Considering that the traditional way of making hard apple cider is to press whole apples into a barrel, set it aside for a few months and BOOM, you’ve got booze, I didn’t expect this to be so complicated.

Anyhow. The 3L carboys are now set up with their airlocks for a second fermentation. As for the liquid left behind with the lees, I ended up straining much of it, and we now have about half a liter of filtered baby hard apple cider.

Hmmm… I wonder how it will go with the ham I will be roasting today?

The Re-Farmer

Update: When I started the hard apple cider, I did it based on this video from CS Mead and More.

There is a reason I included them among my Recommended sites!

I went ahead and contacted them about my readings, and got a very prompt response, and I am very happy!

It turns out, everything is working fine. My problem is with reading the hydrometer, then figuring out what it’s telling me! πŸ˜€

And now I know what to do with the information I’m getting off the hydrometer. I may not be using the AVB or Brix to work it out, but I’m writing them down anyway, because I can see those readings better. I can then use the printed out chart that came with the hydrometer to see where that lines up with the Specific Gravity and actually read that number on paper, instead of trying to see it in the liquid. When I take pictures and upload them to my desktop, I can usually zoom in and read it, but sometimes I find the hydrometer moved as I was taking the picture and I still can’t read it. :-/

The formula I was given to calculate the alcohol percentage is to subtract the new reading from the first reading, then multiply the answer by 135. So for one of my ciders it’s:

1.100 – 1.020 = 0.08
0.08 x 135 = 10.8% ABV

For the other one it’s:

1.090 – 1.009 = 0.081
0.081 x 135 = 10.9% ABV

We definitely have booze. πŸ™‚

6 thoughts on “Making hard crab apple cider: racking day – what happened? (updated: I found out!)

  1. From my making “homebrew” (corn whiskey and later brandy), if the temperature goes too far out of range, the fermentation will stop.

    Did the specific gravity drop from the 1.200 that is showing in the one picture?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Re: temperature, that’s what I’ve been hearing, and with parts of our house being so much colder than others, it’s enough to be a possible factor.

      Re: the SG, one went from 1.100 to 1.020 The other went from 1.090 to 1.009

      If my internet will let me, I am about to add an update. I wrote to CS Mead and More (it was one of their videos I followed to make this) and got a very prompt reply. It turns out, everything is doing all right. I just didn’t understand what to do with the information properly. Now I do! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Year End Review: top 10 posts! | The Re-Farmer

  3. Pingback: Making hard crab apple cider: bottling day one | The Re-Farmer

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