|Bottled cider, ready to drink (almost)|
But it's ready! Two months of settling and our cider is beautiful, clear and golden, which means it's ready to bottle.
First, you're going to need some bottles. You can use beer bottles or wine bottles but I prefer the Grolsch-style, swing-top bottles with rubber-seal caps.
Yes, the bottles will require an initial investment, but the whole dealy is reusable each year (make sure you ask for the bottles to be returned if you give any of your cider away as gifts).
And hey, remember the bucket that you started fermentation with way back in October? And the siphoning equipment? You're going to need them again, because part of the bottling process is racking the clarified cider back into the buckets to separate it from the last bit of sediment sludge (i.e., what you've waited two months to be rid of). But you are a racking expert now, so no worries.
Now it's time to sanitize, just as we did the last time, with a capful of bleach for every five gallons of water. Given that for our 10 gallons of cider we'd have 36 liter bottles, the siphoning paraphenalia and two six-gallon buckets to sanitize, I opted to use the bathtub(s).
|I found I could only fit about 25 bottles in the tub at one time|
If you have a smaller amount, your kitchen sink is probably sufficient. Note: if you use bottles with rubber sealer rings, don't put the rubber rings in with the bleach (it can break down the rubber over time). Instead, pop the rings off and sanitize them separately by putting them in a bowl of warm water with one crushed campden tablet for about 15 minutes.
Once everything is sanitized, you'll siphon the cider out of the carboy and into the bucket, taking care to keep the bottom of your auto-siphon above the layer of glop in the bottom of the carboy.
|Welcome back to my guest bathroom...|
|Look at that lovely color!|
|See that layer of sludge? THAT is what you waited two months NOT to drink.|
At this point, you have two options before you bottle: still cider or sparkling / carbonated cider. If you don't care about the carbonation, you'll need to add some wine conditioner (about 1/2 oz. per liter of cider) to your bucket to once and for all kill off any residual yeast and stop the fermentation process. If you choose the still route, your cider is ready to drink RIGHT NOW! WHOOT!
If, however, you choose the sparkling route, you will need to add some additional sugar to the cider (to re-start fermentation / carbonation) and -- I know you're probably going to freak out -- let it sit AGAIN, unopened, for at least another 4 weeks. Last year, we did half our batch sparkling and half still and decided we wanted all sparkling this year. It's that good, so it's worth the wait. For sparkling cider, boil 1/2 cup corn sugar in 1 cup water for each 5 gallons of cider. Once it boils, stir the mixture into your bucket.
Whichever route you chose, at long last you are ready to bottle! Another tip: I highly recommend a bottle filler, which attaches to your siphon hose and releases liquid only when you depress it inside the bottle (when not depressed, it holds the liquid in place in the tube). Once you get your siphon going, it's easy peasy to just move the filler from one bottle to the next, with no mess. For sparkling cider, be sure to leave a little headspace in each bottle (for the gas); for still, fill 'er right up!
|A bottle filler makes this job easy.|
Whichever finishing method you choose, your cider should be good for at least a year or two ... but I doubt you'll be able to keep it that long without drinking it!
So, did anyone play along at home? Show me your cider!
Read the whole series:
Vermont Homebrew Supply which is local to me in Winooski, Vermont -- I'd urge you to purchase your supplies through it, so you can ask questions and get personalized advice both before you start and during the process.