Sunday, April 4, 2010

Trying a new type of cider.

I've seen a lot of praise for a cider type drink that they make over on Home Brew Talk that they've dubbed "Graff" in homage to a drink from a Stephen King novel.

It was first put forward as a better home approximation of commercial ciders. The criticism normally of a home cider made from supermarket apple juice is it's lack of body, it's sourness/tartness and the inability to make it sparkling and sweet due to the technical difficulties that this presents.

Basically the yeast eats all the sugar drying the drink out and making it more wine like than cider like. Suffice to say that the techniques employed by cider makers to get a sweet end product are not the easiest for a home brewer to replicate. If you are interested look up a technique called "Cuivage" as it's called by Breton cider makers, or the English call it "Keeving". The basic premise is that you lower nitrogen levels in the apple must and as a result the yeast cannot finish all the sugar as it needs nitrogen to feed.

Graff gets around this problem by being 20% beer and 80% cider, the malt you add leaves some residual sweetness as not all malt sugars are simple sugars that are fermentable so you end up with residual sweetness. There are also hops added to add body and balance the tartness, not a lot mind, and then you use steeping grains to add body and keep a bit of a head.

I've decided to give it a go and I'll try to get this lot sparkling.
The basic premise when carbonating, is that you ferment the liquor under pressure, i.e. in a capped bottle or keg. When yeast eats sugar there are two byproducts which interest us, Alcohol and C02, if there is a lid on then there is nowhere for the CO2 to vent and it dissolves back into solution producing fizz.
In any case, the recipe I used was.

20l Lidl pure apple juice (1.5l cartons)
5l Campden treated water
1kg Light Spraymalt
500g Crystal malt
100g Carapils
20g Cascade hops
500g Glucose
Pectolase to clear.
1 Pack Nottingham Ale Yeast

The method employed is pretty simple. Steep your grains in 5l of water adding the grains at 70c to steep at about 65c for half an hour, I do it in a muslin bag in the pot. I don't bother with sparging per se and just gently move the bag about to rinse the sugars out of the grist. Once that's been done, I add the spraymalt to the pot, dissolve the lot and then turn up the heat to get to a boil.

When you get it to the boil then skim off the hot break and discard. Add your hops and boil for half an hour. I then went ahead and ran the immersion chiller on it to cool it fast, you could freeze a sterilised 2l bottle of water and do the same.
Fast cooling is to ensure a good cold break.
Hot and cold break are proteins that cause hazes and that you don't want in your beers, basically it's like the scum you skim off the top of a stockpot of bones. It makes for a clearer broth and the same principal applies to beer.

Once this is all done, you pour your wort through a strainer into your fermenter. Top this up with apple juice to 25l

Then pitch your rehydrated yeast on it and away it goes.

I rigged up a blow-off tube on this because I think it will be pretty active and this fermenter does not have a lot of expansion room due to the narrow neck.

I've got to work out the correct ABV, a previous calculation was way off, I think I'll be around 8%


  1. Nice blog, very informative as well . I like to see what others are doing when brewing there beer to pick up some tips and just to make sure mine will turn out ok

  2. This stuff is bubbling away goodoh upstairs at the moment.

  3. This was blowing off really heavy for the first day or so, it was actually thumping through the wooden floor it was so vigorous. I'll fit an airlock to it the next few days now and remove the blow off tube.

  4. That sounds great. Can I try some?
    Great Blog BTW. Where have you been hiding it?

  5. I only started it before the weekend Dave, I decided that spreading the stuff around on differnet fora was not the way to go.

  6. If it works out and is good I shall spread the word and will also be giving samples, if I ever make it into a tasting, but I will have some at my house in two weeks if it's ready by then. One of the qualities of this stuff is that it should be ready by then, we'll see, cos I'd normally be bottling it on the weekend a few of you are over.

  7. Wow, good level of output there Eoin. I bookmarked the beginner post for future reference ;-)

  8. I kegged this just now and had a little taste before I transferred and added the carbing sugar.
    It certainly addresses some of the problems normally inherent in making home cider.
    It has more body and it has a bit of residual sweetness. I think I'd tend to add some tea the next time I make it just to flesh out the body and add some more tannins. It should be nice once it's carbed up :)