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I am planning on tasting my cider in the fall (6 months from pitching yeast) and seeing how the flavor is then. How much would the flavors improve aging for a year? 2 year? 5? 10? At what point would I see diminishing returns?

Context

My second (ever) batch of cider is currently entering secondary fermentation, and has left me wondering how long I should age my Cider.

The first batch of cider I made was done "hastily" and I consumed it within a few weeks of bottle conditioning. The flavor tasted like biting into a green apple and was very dry since I didn't back-sweeten it. Based on the common knowledge available this appears to be characteristic of "young cider", whose flavors I would like to try mellowing out by aging.

I found that a period of 3-6 months is the typical recommendation for aging cider. I've also read forums on home-brewing sites that higher ABV ciders benefit more from a longer aging period. The initial hydrometer reading of my cider tells me that I can ferment up to just under 10% ABV if I ferment the cider dry (which my yeast seems to do). This is a bit higher than the typical cider abv.

As a side note about long aging times I'm not really concerned about the cider becoming vinegar (see cider notes*), so I don't think that is a factor for me. Obviously I don't really plan on aging my cider for super long periods of time (longer than 20 years), which I think would be excessive.

Cider notes (FYI):

  • Small 1 Gallon batch
  • Lallemand Belle Saison yeast
  • Simply apple juice
  • Additive: white refined sugar bringing abv from 6.6% abv -> 10% abv
  • Additive: Pectinase (Pectin Enzyme) for clarifying juice
  • Aiming for bottling at secondary fermentation (based on the currently clarity of the brew (golden-translucent) in primary fermentation, I do not believe I will need tertiary fermentation)
  • Xylitol backsweeting, aiming for 24 grams per 12 fl oz.
  • 1/4 cup Dextrose for back carbonation (4.1 Vol of Co2 according to this calculator @ 70 degrees F)
  • Some apple juice have more acidity than others, and they would need more time to mellow to a drinkable level, but it also depends on your personal taste. – Philippe Apr 27 '18 at 12:07
  • @Philippe Simply Apple juice has a mean PH of 3.67 (Std. deviation of 0.01) according to the American Dental Asso. . Most of the guides I read through said a PH [3,4] was good. I was under the impression that aging was supposed to mellow out harsher alcoholic flavors? – Bennett Yeo Apr 27 '18 at 14:58
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I don't age my ciders intentionally. I control the fermentation so they are clean.

While I have aged cider up to two years in bottles (Got lost in cooler) I prefer it fresh.

My friends that do spontaneous fermentation say they take up to 18 months to melow into something nice. It really depends on how you ferment.

Note: If you add sugar to boost ABV it's called an Apple Wine. You may find better search results using that phrase.

  • What exactly is a "clean fermentation"? Is that fermenting until dry? In addition, when you mention that mellowing is connected to "how you ferment" are you referring to temperature/attenuation speed? – Bennett Yeo Apr 27 '18 at 3:45
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    @BennettYeo yeast strain, pitch rate, yeast nutrients, oxygen and temperature control. All play a critical role in making it "clean" mainly not overrun with bad esters and fusel alcohols. Complete attenuation to FG is usually really easy with ciders, hard part is getting them not to dry out too much. – Evil Zymurgist Apr 27 '18 at 4:41
  • Would you mind pointing me towards some resources that could give me more information on "cleaner" fermentation? (best temps, pitch rate specifically). – Bennett Yeo Apr 27 '18 at 7:11
  • @BennettYeo just look up cider yeasts, once you find one just follow the recommended temp and nutrients the datasheet has. – Evil Zymurgist Apr 27 '18 at 7:23
  • The technical data sheet states an optimal temperature range of 59 to 95 F (I'm fermenting ~= 68-72 F so it looks like I'm good there. It also reccomends "Servomyces" nutrient (zinc supplement), but only if you are going over 15% ABV. Could I get a better end product with this additive? Also, I read some posts claiming that a lower temperature fermentation preserves more flavors. Is this true? – Bennett Yeo Apr 27 '18 at 7:45
4

This is purely anecdotal, but I feel like my ciders have been pretty harsh early on and have improved with time, but it was a quicker timeframe than I had expected (a few months, not years). If you ferment to dryness and don't backsweeten (as I do, I like a dry cider), it seems like the tart "green apple" flavor is par for the course, and doesn't really go away. However, once the "young" flavor goes away in a few months, you may find that the tart apple notes are nice once they stand more on their own. I agree with the 3-6 months that you're seeing.

My recommendation: once you have a fermentation vessel free, start another batch! By the time batch 2 has finished, batch 1 will have aged some, and you can directly compare the two (or 3 or 4...) You'll have no trouble finding friends who are willing to participate in a taste-testing experiment.

Side note: This may be due to my own imperfect attention to fermentation temps etc, but I feel like I've gotten more weird harsh flavors when I've used white sugar as an additive. The unfermentables in brown sugar lend a little bittering that's not a bad thing, malt extract will leave some residual sweetness plus contain nutrients for the yeast, and juice concentrate will probably thicken the body and add more super-apple flavor. Honey is my favorite, and imparts the impression of sweetness plus honey aroma, and has always made the cider go crystal clear after a month for reasons I've never known.

  • I heard that white sugars have the potential to cause "fusel alcohol" flavors if used in large amounts, but I decided to go with it, because I didn't feel like I was adding too much. I also hadn't worked with brown sugar/honey and didn't know what flavors to expect from them as I've heard they have their own flavors as well. I think I might give honey a go for the next batch. My guess is that the flavors will probably end up as a cider/mead wine which doesn't sound too bad. – Bennett Yeo Apr 27 '18 at 18:59
  • @BennettYeo I think you're just fine if you don't add too much. I got pretty heavy-handed a few batches ago, and regretted it. Jury's still out on brown sugar, I feel like many people don't like it (I do). But homebrewing is all about crafting something that's to your taste! – tempest_col Apr 27 '18 at 19:06
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    @MattTyers brown sugar, is white table sugar with molasses. Molasses has some nutrients yeast can use. – Evil Zymurgist Apr 27 '18 at 21:17
  • @EvilZymurgist That's an insight that explains a lot. Thanks for that! – tempest_col Apr 27 '18 at 21:19
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    @BennettYeo white table sugars are easily fermentable but not the easiest as is white corn sugar. When yeast gets too warm and has simple sugars to feed on they produce fusel alcohols. – Evil Zymurgist Apr 27 '18 at 21:20

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