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I'm an experienced Beer home brewer, but I've never done a Cider and would like to try. I've bought natural pressed apple juice from a farm near me, it's free of preservatives, and thus is chilled to be drunk soon. It's reasonably sweet (not tart) and may already have sugar added for sweetness. It's very clear clean apple juice and awesome to drink.

I've bought CBC-1 Yeast and some Nutrivin Yeast nutrient for the fermentation. I'm most worried about contaminants in the apple juice, i.e. will probably contain many natural yeasts as well that will also attempt to ferment it.

Will I spoil the apple juice by pasteurizing it before cooling and pitching yeast (i.e. first heating to 75'C - 167'F)?

Should I even try pasteurizing it?

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Most cidermakers do not agree with this, but personally I am a big proponent of juice pasteurization. I heat mine to 71-74 C (160-165 F) for about 10 minutes then immediately chill. I get excellent results, I enjoy my ciders as much or better than others. I used to boil it but after realizing the lower temperature for 10 minutes is plenty, it's what I employ now for both cider and for mead as well. (I've won a Best of Show for mead out of 28 entries so anecdotally at least it didn't hurt anything there either.)

I say go for it as you've planned. I do the same thing. Cheers.

  • Excellent - thanks for the advise. – zatbusch Jul 26 at 14:09
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    The only type of pasteurization is by heat. chemical additives is preservation. No? – brewchez Jul 29 at 12:03
  • Oh and are you heating the cider to temp for 10 minutes or is it in a water bath at that temp for 10 minutes? – brewchez Jul 29 at 12:05
  • I think you are right about pasteurization being with heat only. We are discussing treatment of the raw juice before fermentation, not after, so a water bath does not apply here. I heat my juice to about 160 F then wait 10 minutes, then chill. – dmtaylor Jul 29 at 12:06
  • @brewchez Cider to temp for 10 min. No water bath. – zatbusch Aug 10 at 20:01
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I would do both, I would get 2 batches on the go, one pasturised and one with the wild yeast doing their unpredictable thing. Then you have a story to tell when you crack them open with friends. I am personally a great fan of wild yeast and experimentaion with cultures.

You will get far more predictable and repetable results with pasturisation, and with the wild you will get the falvour of the field the apples were picked in (well of the yeast that was there).

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Pasteurizing juice will most certainly not 'spoil' it, but it may alter the flavor. Generally speaking, heating something sensitive will make it taste "cooked" instead of "Fresh". IE, baked apple, as opposed to fresh apple. This might be alright for something like apple (depending on preference), but it would probably be terrible for, say, cucumber. (I wonder how cucumber IPA would be...?)

Pasteurizing at lower temperatures may preserve more of the flavor. It depends on the compound, and the environment (such as PH, sugar levels, minerals, etc), but higher temperatures tend to have a more dramatic effect than long pasteurization times. However, some sensitive flavor compounds may be rapidly lost at any effective pasteurization temperature, as is the case with the highly sensitive oils of aromatic hop varieties.

You can of course skip pasteurization altogether, but going without pasteurizing allows wild fermentation, which could impact the flavor greatly. It's not often done with beer outside of specific styles, but for ciders, wild fermentation is fairly common. Despite the seeming odds, aside from ABV limit, wild yeasts seem to be more likely to exhibit desirable or inconsequential traits than they are bad ones, and can even posses qualities unavailable commercially. However, it is inherently random (it is up to whatever strain dominates the area, in this case the farm's juicing room/equipment.), and you could also end up with bacterial agents instead of yeast, resulting in vinegar, or worse. (As far as I know, the result is generally 'safe' but may be unappealing.)

One alternative to pasteurization would be to use metabisulfite chemical treatments. IE, Campden tablets. Campden is a sanitation agent that dissipates over time. It can be used to, in effect, pasteurize without needing heat. (It is not as effective as pasteurization, but it can give your yeast a head start compared to other populations that may have been present.) Note that you need to wait around 24 hours after treatment before adding yeast, or else the yeast will be impaired. I feel I also should mention that there are some claims of health concerns, as well as people who may be allergic to the sulphites that Campden will leave, so be aware of a potential risk there. It is commonly used in commercial wines, nonetheless.

One final note on ciders... unlike beer, the sugars in cider are very easily fermented away comepletely, leaving a very tart, bone dry product that can taste... wrong. Aging for a few months seems to help, but some amount of back-sweetening may be needed to strike a good balance. Of course, this is up to preference.

  • Nice write up. I use low temp pasteurization 65-70 C and haven’t found it as you said to cause a huge impact to the flavor. I have on two occasions not pasteurized and allowed wild fermentation - despite following a very hygienic process I obtained vinegar on both occasions 2x5gal batches of apple juice waisted. Never done that since. I think wild fermentation and it’s outcome depends highly on where you live. I live in dry country side surrounded by farms and large Vineyards and I think this is why I get vinegar each time when I allow it to go wild. – zatbusch Nov 1 at 10:33

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