This one doesn’t get a name. Kinda/sorta/more-or-less like last year. I could name it, but it would be a dumb name. Instead, it’s just the 2019 Seattle Cider — 100% Jonagold juice fermented with Danstar Nottingham. See?
There isn’t that much to say about this one. A brief description of the raw materials I picked up, and a brief lament about what I didn’t do.
First: I got an email from one of the local homebrew supply stores that they were having someone come in with a bulk quantity of apple cider-making juice for pick-up. Having gotten at-least satisfactory results last year, I figured that I would go for it. At a minimum, it would be a low-effort beverage to have on draught for the winter. And given last year’s blend, I thought it would be fun to do a single-varietal cider for a change.
The provider promised juice pressed from 100% Jonagold apples. The email read like so:
Developed through the blending of the Golden Delicious apple and Jonathan apple, Jonagolds are popular because of their sweet tanginess and tart flesh. With a yellow top and a red bottom, this apple is a refreshing snack and perfect for using to create hard cider. The flesh is aromatic with honey-like flavor notes and tangy-sweet thanks to moderate acidity.
And while I’ve never heard of Jonathan apples before, Golden Delicious are one of my all-time-favorite snacking apples. Sign me up!
Second: the lament has to do with the decision I didn’t manage to make ahead of time. Given how low-effort cider generally is, I thought that it might be fun to do the first 5 gallon share “straight” and then experiment with the second 5 gallon share. Hot off the heels of this fascinating story about Vermont’s Krista Scruggs, I wanted to try my hand at a cider-wine hybrid. But I had trouble1 ascertaining whether I could get some decent grape must concentrate or whatever… And then I couldn’t decide on fruit purees to make a fruited cider… AND THEN I chickened out on making a cyser because of just how expensive good honey can be and… Well, you can insert the grimacing face emoji here.
Nevertheless — I got my 5 gallon share for the “straight” cider ordered, and in late November, we were off to the races.
The quotes are because… we’re just picking up juice.
I drove down to South Seattle. I picked up my 5 gallon share of juice. (OK and a couple of other things.) I drove home.
The juice’s O.G. was 1.050, if you’re keeping score.
I brought the juice home, and added 2 tsp. of pectic enzyme, and 2 oz. of yeast nutrient, and 5 crushed Campden tablets.
I waited 24 hours and hit it with one sachet of Danstar Nottingham English ale yeast.
Why Nottingham? Because I had some on hand that I needed to use up, and I’d heard from some people that it does a decent job with cider. So that’s what it’s gonna get.
I mostly left it alone after yeast was pitched.
I mean… what else is there to do except count airlock bubbles and check temperatures and take the occasional gravity reading?
And/but/so on that note… Nottingham took its sweet-ass time to get started, and then took its sweet-ass time to finish. Nutrient deficiency? Lack of O₂ early on? Poor initial yeast health? Who knows?
In any case, by the time we get to mid-December, gravity appears to have finished dropping, and there’s no more activity in the airlock. The cider is sitting at 1.000 and a pH of 3.56. There’s a little sulfur on the nose, but it blows off — nothing offensive. Time to get it packaged…
…which takes another week or two to get all my ducks in a row. Nevertheless, just under 5 gallons of cider goes from the carboy into a keg. And I have at it with my first ever crank-and-shake carbonation.2
So how did this cider turn out?
A moderately tart but refreshing cider.
AROMA. Low sulfur note leads but blows off fairly quickly. Moderate apple notes: red skins, ripe flesh — distinctive but not strong. Low tart notes. No significant alcohol. Very low esters. No detectable phenolics.
APPEARANCE. Pale yellow color. Quite clear. No significant legs. Many small fast-rising bubbles from the sparkling carbonation. Tall white mousse collapsed into a substantial and persistent cordon.
FLAVOR. Moderate and distinctive apple flavor — tastes like a mix of semi-sweet reds and tart greens. No significant sweetness; dry finish. Acidity reads as moderately and softly tart. Low tannins provide some structure. Perceptible warming alcohol, but low. Medium-high sparkling carbonation. Medium body. Finishes with a distinct fruitiness which fades into a lingering tart character. Some of the blown-off sulfur is detectable retronasally.
OVERALL IMPRESSION. A very good, and competently made example of the style. Retains enough fruit character through an otherwise thorough fermentation, without also over-expressing yeast character. The sulfur notes detract somewhat; consider a more thorough degassing, aging somewhat longer, or else bubbling CO₂ through the cider to push more out of solution. Sweetness, acidity, and tannin seem roughly in balance for style. That said, the cider itself is not particularly memorable … but then again I’m not much of a cider judge.
What would I change for next time? No idea. I would be fun to follow-through on my original plan of doing multiple batches with different adjuncts and/or yeast. But that’s a story for the 2020 batch.
The recipe for 2019 Seattle Cider is as follows:
5 gallons unpasteurized Jonagold apple juice
Danstar Nottingham (1 sachet)
- Collect 5 gallons of unpasteurized Jonagold apple juice.
- Dose juice with 2 tsp. pectic enzyme, 2 oz. yeast nutrient, and 5 crushed Campden tablets. Let sit 24 hours.
- Pitch 1 sachet Danstar Nottingham yeast.
- Start fermentation in the low-60s ºF.
Beyond Brew Day
- Keep cider fermenting in the low- to mid-60s ºF range until fermentation completes (approx. 2-4 weeks).
- Gently siphon cider off lees into a keg.
- Force carbonate to approx. 2.5 volumes of CO₂.
2019 Seattle Cider, a New World Cider by Tilde Gravitywerks
- In other words: the website didn’t say, and I didn’t bother to call … because I hate calling. [↩]
- In retrospect, crank-and-shake it just a violent way to treat a beverage and really not worth it. All the shaking puts every last bit of haze back into suspension. Oh, and you’re running a lot of risk of putting fermented whatever up into your CO₂ lines and/or regulator and that is NOT what you want. [↩]