Wild Thing: A Cider Process Experiment

I like to experiment, especially with food and hard cider. Research I have read indicates that clearer juice will yield hard cider that is fruitier. One of the ideas is that with less sediment and solids, you reduce the level of bacteria and natural yeast that might generate off-flavors. I wondered if this would be true or not. The goal of this experiment was to assess the impact that juice clarity and apple peels have on aromatic compounds during hard cider fermentation. I used Earligold apples harvested from an established tree that is not irrigated or fertilized so I estimated the juice is low on nitrogen. Earligold make great applesauce but they aren’t know as a great apple for a single-variety hard cider. I used three one-gallon fermenters filled with common juice. I used the same yeast, White Labs Teluraspora delbrueckii (WLP608), which is a non-Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain that is known to produce fruity esters. As shown in the following, I assessed clarified and non-clarified juice along with the inclusion of peels in the primary fermentation. Juice clarification occurred in two ways. I filtered it using a nominal 5 micron filter and I applied pectic enzyme. For reference, the juice was not crystal clear like filtered juice from the store. My goal was to remove the largest particles, which retain more bacteria and generate more phenolic aromas.

Experiment Summary

Apple Database
  • Yeast: Teluraspora delbrueckii
  • Ferment Temperature: 72F
  • Clarification Treatment: Pectic Enzyme & 5 Micron Nominal Filter
  • Peels Treatment: 6,285 grams
  • Volume: One-gallon Batches (3)
  • Juice Treatments: Clarified without Peels; Clarified with Peels; Non-clarified with Peels
  • Fermentation Kinematics: Lag phase was 4 days; Fermentation complete in 7 days
  • Aging: The ciders were bottled and aged for 10 months
  • Carbonation: The ciders were force carbonated to 1.8 volumes CO2 to limit the impact of carbonation on the aroma profile
  • Experiment Juice: clarified without peels, clarified with peels, non-clarified with peels (left to right)
  • Clarifying Earligold juice with a 5 micron nominal filter.

The Theory:

As I discuss in my article on clear or cloudy juice, the clarity of your juice impacts the aromas it creates. Fresh pressed, non-clarified juice contains small pieces of pulp, pectin, and other compounds. Pectin for example will create fruity esters as it is broken down during fermentation. However pulp and solids provide a nutrient rich media for bacteria and wild yeast to grow. These compounds tend to produce more phenolic aromas. Removing too much of these compounds will strip away key nutrients like nitrogen. The theory is that by breaking down pectin with pectic enzyme and filtering it, I will create a juice that will have more precursors for fruity esters and less opportunity for phenolic or barnyard aromas. I wanted to further increase the positive volatile compounds by adding peels to the primary fermentation. As discussed in my previous article on apple peels being the missing ingredient to hard cider, peels contribute polyphenols that add astringency and positive volatile compounds. By comparing the aroma profile of each cider, I will get a perception of whether clearer juice and/or peels provide positive volatile compounds.

The Preliminary Assessment:

My wife and I did a preliminary assessment of the ciders 1 month after fermentation and before bottling. Our initial assessment was the following.

Clarified w/o PeelsSharp, OakSour, Weak, BitterThin/ Light Bodied
Clarified w/ PeelsFloral, YeastBitter, Slightly Tart, Medium1
Non-Clarified w/ PeelsSmokey, FarmhouseTart, SpicyLong Astringent, Smooth2
Preliminary Assessment

The Final Assessment:

The final assessment occurred 10 months after fermentation was completed and the ciders were bottled for about 8 months. I invited over 4 friends to taste test these hard ciders. I asked them to first smell, then taste them and note the finish. I asked them to write down whatever aroma they noted, no matter how crazy it might seem. I also asked them which they liked the best. I always find it interesting to compare results from various people and see how some aspects can be similar while others are completely different.

Clarified w/o PeelsSilage, Musk, AlcoholBand-aid, Black Licorice, PhenolicBlack Licorice, Astringent, Acid3
Clarified w/ PeelsApple, Fruit, SweetGood Tart, SourSmooth, Bitter, Sour Apple1
Non-Clarified w/ PeelsSolvent, Weak Apple, FarmhouseMango, Tart, AceticShort, Floral, Acid, Alcohol2
10 Month Assessment

The Results:

What’s the verdict? Clarifying and peels really do impact aroma and complexity. The clearer juice with apple peels was the most preferred and considered the most desirable. It was interesting that while tastes varied, the rank was almost exactly the same. Only my wife chose the non-clarified juice with peel over the clarified juice with peel version. She thought it was more like Spanish Cidre. No one selected the clarified juice without peels. The main finding was peels matter and appear to have the most impact to positive aroma and taste perception. It also indicates that clarified juice further enhances the aroma and taste characteristics of hard cider. Anecdotally, I clarified almost all my juice with pectic enzyme this year. I racked the clarified juice from the pectin sediment before fermenting. I am planning to continue this practice in the future seasons as well as include apple peels in most of my hard ciders.

Wild Thing: An Experiment in Juice Clarity and Apple Peels
Wild Thing: An Experiment in Juice Clarity and Apple Peels

Check out other similar articles from Prickly Apple Cider and remember, we are your source for all things cider.

Did you enjoy this article? Don’t miss future posts from PricklyCider.com by following us today! PricklyCider.com is your source for all things cider.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.