Thursday, October 20, 2011
My first batch of hard cider came out great! I can't take all the credit - or even most of it - or, in fact, hardly any of it at all. I pressed the apples, but J. (my homebrewing friend who moved away and gave me all his equipment - see Cider, Revisited) found the recipe and walked me through the beginning of the process with little baby steps.
After pasteurizing the fresh juice, cooling to room temperature, and tranferring into a sterilized carboy, J. "pitched the yeast" which basically means, pour your yeast into the carboy, and added the airlock. A week later, after it stopped bubbling, we transferred the cider - now somewhat alcoholic - into a second clean carboy, leaving the dregs behind. This second carboy bubbles away with an airlock for another week or so, and then it's time to bottle.
Since I was trying to make carbonated cider, I had to add some more sugar to the cider before bottling it. The idea is that the sugar will fuel a second fermentation in the bottle, creating carbon dioxide which provides the fizz. Just like champagne. I managed the final bottling on my own.
Then I was suppoosed to let it mature for several weeks before imbibing, but I was impatient. Of course I had tasted the cider as I was bottling it, and it tasted pretty good. Not knowing how long it might take to develop some fizz, I waited about four or five days before opening up a couple bottles. There was some slight fizziness, but nowhere near as much as in a bottle of commercial brew. The taste, however, was very good - off dry and apple-y. I drank a bottle as though it were beer, and felt quite tipsy. Clearly, stronger than beer, though not as strong as wine. I'm guessing somewhere around 8%.
Over the next two weeks, all twelve bottles disappeared. I think I gave away six, and Homero and I shared the other six. So, no idea how it might have tasted after the recommended six weeks in the bottle. Better luck this batch - it's a five gallon batch instead of a two gallon batch, so there will be many more bottles. I hope it turns out as tasty this time. The fresh cider was not quite as good - nor as sweet - as the last batch of fresh cider. I'll just have to hope for the best.
Homero has been brewing, too. He's had virtually no work these last few weeks, and so has been turning his attention to those projects that tend to languish when he is busy. One of these is biodiesel. It had been a fair while since the last batch, but over these last two weeks he's made several batches, using up our stored oil and our chemicals. All three vehicles have full tanks, and there is still some thirty gallons leftover to refill them again. I think he made seventy-five gallons in all.
The oil is free to us - he has arrangements with a few local restaurants to pick up their used oil with his oil-sucker. The oil sucker is a very cool device he made. Basically it is a fifty-five gallon drum fitted with hoses and valves. He sticks it in the bed of the pickup and goes to one of his restaurants that has a full oil-dumpster. Then he can use the compression of the engine of his truck to create a vacuum inside the drum and suck up oil. I was very impressed. The oil is free, but the chemicals are expensive. Homero did the math a while ago and at that time, biodiesel costs us about $1.40 a gallon, when you figure in electricity. So, filling the three gas tanks cost somewhere in the vicinity of sixty dollars, or about one-third the cost of regular diesel.
Of course, it takes time, too. Homero hasn't quite got the fiddly precise process down, and so he spends many hours on each batch, and it can be quite frustrating. But even so, it's a highly worthwhile endeavor, economically speaking. Much more so, truth be told, than my cheesemaking or cider-brewing. But I get a lot of satisfaction out of my fiddly processes, too.
I am so proud of him. Of us, really. We are just a couple of homebrewers, each in our own specialty. Driving homebrew on his end, drinking homebrew on mine. Don't worry - we won't mix the two. Never the twain shall meet.