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I have an abundance of fresh black raspberries available and would like to try my hand at a cider using only black raspberries. I'll be starting with a one gallon batch. I am not sure how many berries to use, and if I should add water or not.

Basic Plan

  • Started a yeast culture using nottingham, berries, sugar and water
  • Ferment in primary for 1 week
  • Move to secondary, straining out already fermented fruit, adding more fresh fruit

The berries are slightly tart, which I don't mind. My only concern is will there be enough sugars to ferment enough? I am targeting an 4%-5% ABV.

Edit:

What I ended up doing is mashing up about 3lbs of fresh berries and adding a can of apple juice to bring the gravity up to the level I was looking for. Final reading was somewhere 1.045 - 1.050 which is about where I wanted to be.

The juice has a nice berry flavor with a hint of apple and is a little tangy. Pitched yeast culture earlier today and it's fermenting nicely already.

Results:*

Cider came out great. I don't really taste much of the Apple, but the berries really come through.

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Do you have access to a refractometer? –  Jared Meyering Jul 5 '13 at 14:46
1  
No, but I have a hydrometer. –  Brian Jul 5 '13 at 14:56
    
Hydrometer will do the same job. Benefit being it will be able to give you a FG reading, where as a refractometer requires you knowing the OG to determine the FG. –  Scott Jul 5 '13 at 16:34
1  
Refractometer is a much better option when testing OG of berries, as you don't need to crush any more than one berry. –  Jared Meyering Jul 5 '13 at 21:00

3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

There certainly will be sugars to ferment in blackberries. What I'd recommend is press the berries, and take a reading using your hydrometer. Try and shoot for something between 1.042 - 1.050. That should get you between 4%-5% ABV. If you don't get that high, which you should be able to do rather easily, toss in some brown sugar, or some corn sugar, and shake the container vigorously for a couple of minutes to mix it in, then take another reading (do a 1/4 cup at a time). If you go over with your sugar additions, add a bit of water to dilute it. It's a big experiment since your specific berries may yield more sugars than my berries, or anyone else's.

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Did a blackberry cider with just blackberries not that long ago. Unfortunately don't remember the brix reading but guessing your raspberries have similar or more sugars.

We froze the blackberries to help break them up and get the juice flowing. We then pressed them for the juice. If you know someone with a cider press you could use that but be warned the tiny seeds in these types of berries tend to clog up any cloth. You can also puree them and then push them through a strainer. Both are tedious but then you are maximizing the juice/sugars vs whole.

We got about 3 gallons before I tired of pressing and fermented that straight (no additions) with an extra beer yeast I had. Kegged and force carbonated and turned out great.

If you are concerned about dry/ABV you can also ferment with a champagne yeast to get as much sugar fermented as you can and then back sweeten to the sweetness you want. I know a few commercial cider makers that do this mostly to ensure they hit the profile they want every time.

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I think I'll try the freezing next time around. The berries keep coming, so I may have a chance at a second batch. –  Brian Jul 9 '13 at 22:10

Without a refractometer your only option is really to press enough berries to test gravity, which will get you ballpark on ABV. Then add sugar or dilute to your target ABV.

You would also then know how much juice to expect from (X)Lbs of berries.

With all fruit, sugar content and amount of juice is very much dependent on your specific berries.

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