Question for the brewers
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Posted by Bridgier (+8170) 2 months ago
So, I've got 5 gallons of crabapples (and access to as many more as I want) in a bucket waiting to be processed into something. I'd like to make a cider out of them (maybe including the red currants I've got in my freezer as well), but I have some questions that someone more experienced with this can answer.

Should I press the crabs for the juice? I don't have a press handy, although I can get one - one suggestion I found in lieu of a press is simply freezing the apples, then smash them up after they thaw and ferment the slurry directly, possibly adding a little water - any idea how this would actually work in practice?

Another suggestion was to cut/crush the crabs and let them simmer for a bit to extract the sugars, then run the result through a sparge bag/pillowcase to get the juice - will this heating ruin anything in the must for fermenting?

Finally, I'm not sure I want to use strictly crabs for the cider, any thoughts on what a decent ratio of crabapple to apple cider would be appropriate?
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Posted by Gunnar Emilsson (+12354) 2 months ago
I own a cider press, so I can't comment on your cooking/freezing options, as I have never done that.

I can comment on the ratio. Crabs are excellent in cider, but can be a little tart. They add tannins that other apples lack. When I make a 5 gallon batch of cider, I like to add 1-2 gallons of crab apple juice to the must.

I can say, that crabs aren't very juicy. Takes a lot of crabs to get a gallon of juice. But it's awesome stuff.

If where you live is anything like Helena, we have a bumper crop of apples in town. Friends and neighbors have been giving me apples, calling me to come over to pick apples, borrowing my press, etc. I would borrow a press if you can, and find some apples to pick. I like a variety of at least three apples in cider.

I currently have a 5 gallon batch fermenting away, and probably crush and press 5 more gallons tonight. My current batch, I collected 5 gallons of juice, added a couple of tablespoons of pectic enzyme. and five crushed Campden tablets (sodium metabisulfite) to the juice. and let it sit overnight. The Campden tablets retards the growth of the wild yeast present on the apple skins. The next day, I pitched a couple of packets of English ale yeast (Munton's Gold), as well as a couple of teaspoons of yeast nutrient (Fermaid K). It is still fermenting vigorously after 2 weeks.

I've heated the juice to 180°F in the past and held it for 15 minutes there, but have abandoned that, as I think you lose some of the aromatics.
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Posted by Bridgier (+8170) 2 months ago
I've got a gallon or so of frozen red currants - if I press them out, would that enhance the cider at all?
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Posted by Gunnar Emilsson (+12354) 2 months ago
That sounds good to me. Adding various harvests to cider is a good think.

I have made a lot of cysers (apple mead) over the years that have come out terrific. Just a gallon of honey stirred into 5 gallons of apple juice. I usually use wine yeast to ferment that, as it is quite big.
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Posted by Hal Neumann (+8910) 2 months ago
Yeast? You might go with Wyeast 4766. It does a pretty decent job, if you are willing to be patient and let it sit and condition a while before drinking.

You could always do a twist on Gunnar’s cyser and boil up 3 gallons of water with 5lbs of light or sparkling malt extract and add a couple gallons of apple and/or the berry juice to it.

I have a rough recipe for something like that if anyone is interested.
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