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I've been making a cider (for the first time)... it's been in primary for a week, and went to secondary for another three weeks. I used crisp apple cider from Trader Joe's as the base. OG was about 1.056 and it fermented to 1.001.

So, now I have two issues... it has a funky bittery, acetone-ish taste with funky smell (not like when your beer goes really bad and starts tasting like baby diapers). I had the same when I was making mead, and the cure was time (in 6 month it totally cleared out).

Second, it has a flat taste. I do not taste anything else. It is not sour at all, and seems like everything fermented out.

So, can I add apple concentrate to make more applish or maybe a little bit of lemon acid to make it little bit sour?

I heard also, that making a second batch with upper FG and blending it would also work...

What would be your suggestion?

  • There are a lot of potential questions in there. Check here and here to start. 'Funky' usually means contaminated, so clean better. And 'Flat' usually means 'not carbonated' in brewing, do you mean something else? – Pepi Mar 22 '15 at 10:57
  • "Funky" doesn't necessarily mean "contaminated." Combined with "acetone-ish," I'm thinking this is more likely chalked up to fusel alcohols thrown of by the yeast that simply need to age out.Also, I think "flat" in this context is being used to describe the flavor itself (i.e., not flavorful, bland, one-dimensional) – valverij Mar 24 '15 at 17:01
  • Also, keep in mind that depending on the yeast you used, adding more apple could cause the fermentation to start back up. – valverij Mar 24 '15 at 17:04
  • My bad for not making it clear. Yes, I meant funky by having an acetone like taste (not strong, but little bit)... I had the same with my mead last year, but it totally settled down in 6 month. And flat... I probably should have said flat taste or lack of taste. I used WLP775 English Cider Yeast. – Trigger Mar 24 '15 at 17:12
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A couple of things

First, the "funky bittery, acetone-ish" flavors are most likely fusel alcohols that yeast likes to throw off when it's under stress. One way to prevent this is to make sure it has enough nutrients (particularly nitrogen). In the mead world, this is usually resolved with the addition of nutrients such as Fermaid K and diammonium phosphate (abbreviated "DAP"). I'm not sure if this is common practice with simple ciders, but I could see it being an issue if a yeast has high nutrient requirements or if your unfermented juice/cider is particularly low in nutirents.

High fermentation temperature is another common contributing factor to fusel and general "off-flavor" production. According to the information on the White Labs website, WLP775 has a preferred temperature range of 68-75°F (20-24°C).

Basically, like mead, the best cure for that fusel alcohol burn is time.

As for the cider going dry, the faq section of the White Labs WLP775 page puts the alcohol tolerance of that yeast around 12%. Right now, you're sitting at about 7.56%. If you want to sweeten it up, you could always stabilize and backsweeten. If you backsweeten with some apple concentrate or extra juice, that could provide a little more apple flavor and acidity, depending on how much you sweeten. If you add it without stabilizing, though, then your yeast is just going to chew through it.

Finally, if you wanted to "sour" it up, you could add some acid blend (or lemon juice, I guess) to taste.

Overall, though, it sounds like you just need to let your cider age a bit. I would give it a few more months for the flavors to develop before declaring it a failure or a success.


Update

I found a pdf from the Northern Brewer that hits on some of these points.

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/2785/6868/files/cider.pdf

On nutrients:

Add yeast nutrient. Wyeast Wine or Beer Nutrient, or generic Yeast Nutrient. Roughly 1/4 tsp per gallon is a good starting point. Be prepared to add more once fermentation is well under way

On acid additions:

OPTIONAL: Add acid. Most juice, especially juice made from later season apples, will have a lot of sweetness, but little acid. Acid helps to balance the cider by adding sharp, crisp character. Small amounts of malic acid can be added to taste, up to one tablespoon in five gallons. To ensure more accuracy and repeatability, consider measuring the pH or using an acid titration kit to determine approximate acid content. Remember, it’s always possible to add a little more, so err on the side of caution

There's actually a lot of good information in the document. If you plan on making more ciders and meads, it would be worth taking a quick look at it.

  • Thank you, Valverij! I'll will use this document as the reference. Probably, I will keep in my closet until June, and will re-check it... 3 month should be enough to draw a conclusion. I'll use a stabilizer and will filter the yeast out. Based on the results I will either add more juice in (1-2 quarters should be enough) or maybe even citric acid. – Trigger Mar 24 '15 at 22:43
  • @Trigger, valverij, do either of you have a copy of that PDF? The Northern Brewer site is still there, but they don't seem to have that file available any more... – Eiríkr Útlendi Sep 10 at 16:23
  • Not 100% sure, but it might be that they just moved it. This could be the same document: cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/2785/6868/files/cider.pdf – Eiríkr Útlendi Sep 10 at 16:24
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    It's been a while since I've looked at that, but I think you're right. That pdf looks like the right one, from what I remember. Good find! – valverij Sep 10 at 19:10
  • @valverij, thank you! – Eiríkr Útlendi Sep 10 at 20:54
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Your cider is very young to draw many conclusions. In my experience, you have to think of cider more like wine than beer. Give it another 6 months of conditioning and it should taste better. You can add lemon, acid blend, grape tannin...a lot things to "liven it up". Start with a small amount, taste and adjust. But above all, give it time.

  • Thanks. I I'll kind of realized that it was young, and had general ideas of what was going on, but also wanted to plan few steps ahead. It is the first time I was making cider, and wasn't sure that it was just like mead. I'll keep it in mind. As of now, I'm looking to have it at the end of the July. – Trigger Mar 24 '15 at 22:41

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