I re-researched this every fall when it came time to backsweeten the previous year’s cider, so I wrote this guide to future me.
If you add sugar to hard cider and don’t want that addition to restart fermentation (which would increase alcohol and leave the cider even drier), you’ll need to stabilize it. The most common method in home cidermaking is to add both potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulfite (“K-Meta”). This guidance from BYO magazine on backsweetening provides background on the approach.
For each gallon of cider, use 1/2 tsp of potassium sorbate and 1/2 tsp of 10% sulfite solution (an extra step, but worth making – the solution is easier to work with than dry potassium metabisulfite).
How much potassium sorbate?
Winemakers talk more about sorbic acid, the relevant chemical; potassium sorbate is 74% sorbic acid. There are legal limits of 0.2 g/L (Europe) and 0.3 g/L (America); the sensory level for perceiving this chemical’s flavor is reported at 0.135 g/L.
Adjusting these from sorbic acid -> potassium sorbate (what a homebrewer weighs) gives legal limits of 0.26 g/L and 0.4 g/L, respectively, with a taste threshold of 0.18 g/L.
Continue reading How much sorbate and sulfite should you add to stabilize cider?
I’ve made country wine with Concord grapes, and wine from a kit that cost $2/bottle but tasted like $8/bottle. But I’d rather drink beer than wine I can get for $8/bottle. So I thought I’d try a kit that costs $6/bottle and see if it makes wine I actually want to drink.
In late 2016 I purchased the Winexpert Eclipse Lodi Ranch 11 Cabernet Sauvignon kit. Not sure what year that makes the grapes. I’m not going to write much about ingredients or process since I followed the kit directions, unless otherwise noted.
2017-02-04: “Brewed” this with my 2 y/o son. Despite the helper, kept good sanitation. OG was around 1.093, though perhaps more sugars dissolved in from the grape skins.
Fermentation temperature bounced around from the minimum (72F) up to the mid-80s, as I crudely warmed it through a Michigan basement in winter.
I stirred the grape skin bag back down into the must, near-daily, for the first week.
2017-02-13 – 9 days: racked to a glass carboy. Gravity is about .992! Wine yeasts don’t play.
November 2014: Bought 5 gallons of Kapnick Orchards Cider at the grocery store, pitched a packet of Vintner’s Harvest MA33 yeast. O.G. 1.046.
Mid-2015: I added a full 10″ cinnamon stick, on recommendation from several AABG club members. The idea is to get hints of cinnamon that trigger associations with apple flavor (think apple pie), but stay below the threshold of identifiable cinnamon. SG 0.993 (7% abv).
January 2016: kegged and added 2.5 tsp each of 10% K-Meta solution and potassium sorbate, along with table sugar (beet) to taste. Over the year+ in a single vessel, the cider had dropped clear.
Measuring sugar to backsweeten:
- Pull a full hydrometer sample, measure (0.993), taste – way too dry, no balance to acidity
- Stir in a little sugar, taste, repeat; when it gets in the ballpark, measure gravity (1.009) – almost there
- Keep going – 1.015 was sweet, but balanced. Maybe a little too sweet while still, but carbonation should even that out. Target 1.013.
- Calculate amount of sweetener needed. I need 20 ppg increase in gravity (from .993 -> 1.013) for 5 gallons, so 20 x 5 = 100 points. One pound of table sugar yields 46 ppg so I need 100/46 = 2.18 lbs of sugar.
For reference, apparently Woodchuck Cider has a final gravity of 1.029!