Hard Cider Batch #1 – Back Sweeten Using Potassium Sorbate and Metabisulfite

Nottingham Yeast for Hard CidersIt’s time for an update on Hard Cider Batch #1. First lets Recap.

Batch #1 – Nottingham Ale Yeast – By Danstar – 6 gallons of  Country Acres Premium Apple Cider

    • Original Gravity – 1.055
    • Final Gravity – 1.008
    • Current ABV: 6.17%
    • Started 01/14/14
    • Racked to 5 gallon secondary 01/27/14
    • Date of adding Potassium Sorbate and Metabisulfite: 2/19/14, 23 days old.

Why Nottingham Ale Yeast for my first batch? Because this yeast strand is highly regarded as overall very balanced. I personally will continue to recommend Nottingham Ale Yeast for any beginner’s first batch.

Cider for Making Hard Cider

The Cider used.

Hard Cider Batch #1

Post Nottingham Ale Yeast pitch. Hard Cider fermenting.

Now it’s time to get this batch finished. I plan on carbonating via CO2 and keg, and ultimately putting the cider into bottles via beer gun (yet to be purchased). I have already added a kegging system to my brewing supplies (a post to follow). I’m using “Old Orchards 100% Juice” apple concentrate for my back sweetener, to give it as much of an apple taste as possible. I would love to have some homemade apple concentrate in the future, but for now this will have to do.

The important part here is that I stop the yeast entirely, so that the yeast does not ferment the new sugar added. This is a very common issue when it comes to making back sweetened hard cider and there only a few methods to accomplish it.

One method is that you can cold crash (below 40 degrees Fahrenheit ) the cider indefinitely. The issue with this method is that you have to keep the cider cold or you will risk major issues with re-fermentation.

The second method is to back sweeten, bottle the cider, allow fermentation until a desired carbonation, and then pasteurize the hard cider. You basically have to continue to open bottles to see their progress and determine when you want to stop it via pasteurization. You can also fill a plastic bottle to feel how tight it gets from carbonation. It’s important to note that this method leaves sediment at the bottom of the bottle and some people claim it gives the hard cider a “cooked taste.” If you do use this method, it’s important to keep the temperature as low as possible, but high enough to kill the yeast, and you definitely don’t want to boil the hard cider. Note that Crispin (a major hard cider maker) uses the pasteurization method.

The final method is to treat the cider with potassium metabisulfite (same as campden tablets) and potassium sorbate. This is the method I will be using.

Potassium Sorbate and Metabisulfite

Potassium Metabisulfite is use to prevent oxidation in wines and prevent wild yeast and bacteria.

Potassium Sorbate makes sorbic acid which prevents the current yeast from multiplying. Potassium Sorbate is also referred to as a wine stabilizer.

Potassium Sorbate and Metabisulfite in Hard CiderThere is much debate to whether or not Potassium Metabisulfite is even needed for this process, but because I want to keep this cider potentially long-term, and I believe the Potassium Metabisulfite will act as a great protector from infection, I will be using it. Also Midwest Supplies clearly states that it should be used in conjunction with potassium sorbate to stop re-fermentation, and who I am to question them.

To prepare my chemical compound, I boiled some water and let it cool (to sterilize, although technically Potassium Metabisulfite itself is a sanitizer) In this 5 gallon batch, I used 5 campden tablets (also known as potassium metabisulfite) and 2.5 tsp of potassium sorbate (recommended amount). I stirred the solution until dissolved.

I then took a sanitized carboy and poured the solution into it and racked from the original carboy (fill with hard cider) to the one with the compound solution in it. The main reason I did this, was I had some lees from the secondary, and I would ultimately want to stir this compound into the hard cider. After racking, I used a drill and a drill bit stirrer to mix the solution, while trying not to splash the top of the solution as much as possible (to avoid some oxidation). The hard cider itself will release CO2 from this process.

Hard Cider Siphon Transfer

Hard Cider Siphon Transfer


I then put the airlock back on the carboy and waited three days to make sure it had time to settle. I think three days is probably overkill, I would guess that overnight is fine. Note that up until this point, no sweetener has been added. I am trying to get the yeast out of the picture before adding any sweetener.

I then poured in two thawed out store bought containers of “Old Orchards 100% Juice” apple concentrate. In hindsight I almost wish I would of taken 2 more gallons of the original cider and frozen them outside and gotten apple concentrate from them (you do it by tilting them and allowing the sugary water to escape before the rest of the water). The taste just isn’t the same as the original cider, and this is when a lot of the favor is developed (via back sweetening).

Also to be on the safe side, I decided to put the sweetener into carboy directly, stir, and let sit. I want to make sure that re-fermentation does not occur via checking the airlock. In theory this cider should be ready to keg up. It is sitting at about 1.01 and has remained cloudy. There are ways to treat this cloudiness, but I feel that it almost adds to the character.

I will probably give this cider some more time, because honestly it is still a very young hard cider.



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