Volker brought over some apples from the trees in his backyard, and at the same time Joe let me know his concord grapes were "definitely ripe" if I wanted to grab some. I'd been wanting to make a concord grape apple cider, so the timing was perfect.
I thoroughly cleaned the 6 gallon carboy and the apple grinder with PBW, then sterilized all the equipment. I ground the apples and squeezed them with a strainer bag making about 3.5 gallons of cider. It is beautiful, tasty stuff and weighed in at a whopping 7% alcohol potential. The apples are harder than I’m accustomed to and near the end the grinder over-heated and automatically turned off until it cooled down. I pressed the already-ground apples while waiting for it to cool. The darkly colored cider was some of the easiest I’ve ever pressed. Absolutely ideal apples.
Next I pressed the grape juice by hand-squeezing then pressing through the mesh strainer bag. The grapes are very ripe. I tend to eat the bad ones rather than use them for the cider, and some of the overripe ones that I ate have a slight acetone taste (which is a taste I encountered in some of my very first grape-fermenting experiments). I added a bunch of skins and the juice to the carboy, added an airlock, and put it upstairs in a dark closet with no added yeast or anything. The grape juice also came out to 7% alcohol potential.
I’m a little worried that whatever is making the acetone taste will take over fermentation in the cider. I’m also kinda tired after all that work. In the end I have to accept that this is always a big experiment with the possibility of failure, and I had wanted to make cider this way, so I just have to give it a chance and see how it comes out.
It’s about two weeks later and the cider has fully fermented. The cider took a few days to get going, so after a few days I wrapped it in a down comforter to bring up the temperature. A few days later it was fermenting too aggressively and felt very warm so I opened up the comforter again to let it cool down. I cleaned and sanitized a 5-gallon keg and the auto-siphon. I siphoned the grapey cider into the keg. It smells amazing! Lightly concord grapey. That gives me great hope! Not a hint of an acetone smell. I’ll plan to let it sit for a while (weeks or months) in the keg as a secondary fermentation before bottling.
I filled thirty-eight bottles from the keg. The cold room was at forty-three degrees fahrenheit. I used the Tapcooler counter-pressure bottle filler to fill the bottles. It definitely didn’t work perfectly, but it did give me control, allowing me to stop flow and slow things down as needed to control foam. It will be interesting to see how well the carbonation holds on this batch. The bottle filling was very consistent, only one bottle ended up under-filled.
I tasted the little bit of cider that overflowed during the process, and I really like it. It is dry and and tart. I can't wait to try it (and share!) after it has had a chance to age in the bottles a bit. Thanks Volker and Joe!