Making Winter Cider

Winter: Lager yeast fermented hot and aged on hickory.
Winter: Lager yeast fermented hot and aged on hickory.

One day I woke up with a crazy idea for a hard cider recipe. Okay, it’s more than one day but, sometimes they actually work. I had been reading about fermentation temperatures and whether hotter or colder fermentations are better. I noted that much of the literature I’d read talks about how fermenting outside the defined temperature range of a commercial yeast could result in off-flavors. That seemed like a challenge to me, which got me wondering how to test that concept. I landed on fermenting a lager yeast, which are supposed to be fermented at low temperatures at a much higher temperature. I chose Mangrove Jack’s Bohemian Lager, M84.

Mangrove Jack’s Bohemian Lager Yeast - M84
Mangrove Jack’s Bohemian Lager Yeast – M84

This is a Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain whose ideal fermenting temperature is supposed to be 50-59F (10-15C). I fermented at 72F (22C). I chose it partly because of this temperature range and because in beer this yeast struggles above 8% ABV. I actually fermented a 3 gallon batch using a blend of Jonathan and Gala apples. I didn’t have any fermentation issues and that might be partially because of the higher fermentation temperature I used. I also slightly over pitched this batch because a used a full packet, which normally can do 5 gallons. My juice started at a gravity of 1.056 and finished at 0.996 so my ABV was around 7.6%. I clarified the juice with pectic enzyme by adding it after pressing and letting it sit for 2-3 hours before racking off the pectin sediment and adding the yeast. This supports more fruitier aromas.

This cider is dry, slightly acidic with fruity and honey aromas. I carbonated it to 2.25 volumes CO2, which gives it some bubbles that help in both aroma and mouthfeel. I fermented this on the peels of the Jonathan apples. I used peels from about 4 pounds of apples per gallon. I also added a honeycomb of medium toasted hickory, which I think contributed to the honey aroma profile. It an interesting experiment that turned out quite well. Here is my clear “reference” bottle (masking tape label and all).

Winter Cider - Clear Reference Bottle
Winter Cider – Clear Reference Bottle

I made a 3 gallon batch but I scaled my recipe sheet for my usual one gallon (3.8 liters) batch size. It’s always easier to scale up from one gallon. Here are quick links to my Winter Cider recipe as well as the recipe section where you can find inspiration from a multitude of hard ciders recipes.


Here are the latest hard cider recipes from Prickly Apple Cider.

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