Thursday, 9 January 2014

Cider scare – am I infected?

Had a bit of a scare with the cider yesterday. I decided to inspect the carboys and the three glass ones all had a fine film of scum on the top of the cider.
Panic sets in with the thought of 15 gallons of cider being spoiled ... and what would I do for Thorney Ciderfest on July 19 – I might have a cider festival with no cider.
The cider didn’t smell bad, no scent of vinegar or other off flavours, so whatever it was hadn’t caused problems – yet!
On the cider forum (my regular reading) the general conclusion was that this was a film yeast, nothing to worry about. I’d probably left too much of an air gap at the neck of the carboy and that was what had allowed the yeast to grow.
So today, I’ve brought the offending carboys into the kitchen and, acting on the advice of the forum members, added some Camden tablets to the liquid to kill any yeast and topped up the bottles to reduce the air space.
There was also an opportunity for tasting to see if the acidity had mellowed at all – it hadn’t.
The three carboys contain:
  1. Crossland Cookers
  2. Windmill eaters
  3. Chris Smith and Windmill Cookers
Both the Crossland Cookers and the blend of Chris’ and Windmill Cookers were both very acidic – around 2.8 pH. The Windmill Eaters were slightly less acidic (perhaps 3.1 pH). It’s clear that no malolactic fermentation has taken place yet and the Camden tablets I’ve just added will make sure none is going to happen for a few weeks.
The plan now is to consult the oracle of the cider forum again. There’s a suggestion that Henry Weston’s Old Rosie cloudy cider can be added in small quantities as a way of starting an MLF (malolactic fermentation). I’ve asked if anyone has done this successfully and, depending upon the response, will give it a try in about a month’s time when I can rack the cider one last time. MLF, if I can induce it, will convert some of the mallic acid (which is very harsh) into lactic acid (which is less so).
You can buy bacterial cultures, which will start MLF in your cider, but people who have used those don’t seem to rate them. Adding some Old Rosie, which must contain some of the right bacteria, seems a better solution (and if there’s any left over we can drink it).

The good news is that the alcohol content of the cider seems fine. I was aiming for around eight per cent and the three sherry glasses I’ve tasted have left me in the early stages of inebriation (which suggests it might be a bit more than eight per cent).