Last Sunday we pressed apples for hard cider. Earlier this year, I made cider by fermenting store-bought organic apple juice (Sonoma County is blessed with many apple orchard, so excellent juice is easy to come by), but this year I decided to make cider from scratch. I rented an apple mill to process 200lbs of apples harvested from our own tree, a tree at my brother's home, and a tree belonging to a friend. I used about 70lbs of Golden Delicious apples (sweet, but low in acid), about 90lbs of Pink Lady apples from our own tree (sweet but quite tart as well, very aromatic), and about 40lbs of an unknown, older tree, in Sebastopol, probably planted in the 1960s, although not a Gravenstein, the apple most closely associated with Sebastopol (again tart and aromatic). The result was a good blend, I hope--sweet enough to make a fairly alcoholic cider (the juice tested at 17 degrees Brix, which should result in an alcohol level of about 8.5%), but also with enough tartness and apple aroma to keep things interesting. The top photo shows the raw material.
It took the entire day. Most of the time was consumed washing apples. Apparently commercial juice and cider makers don't bother, but I wanted at least to get the dust and occasional splatter of bird droppings off the fruit. Once cleaned, it was just a matter of dropping apples into a chute above a rotating masher that pulps them and drops them into a press basket for pressing. Two-hundred pounds of apples yielded about 12 gallons of juice. One gallon I gave to the friends with the Golden Delicious tree. The rest I sulfited lightly and let rest overnight. That juice is now fermenting in the living room, well on its way to becoming cider. The second photo shows juice samples--Golden Delicious, unknown Sebastopol, and Pink Lady, left to right.
I used two different yeasts. On Monday afternoon (November 18) I inoculated five gallons with the same yeast I used to make the cider from store-bought apple juice--WLP775 "English Cider Yeast" made by White Labs, in San Diego (I hope that's not Walter White Labs), a liquid yeast in a glass vial. The remaining six gallons I inoculated with a powdered yeast from Mangrove Jack's--"Craft Series MO2 Cider yeast." It will be interesting to see if the two yeast strains produce different results. The liquid yeast has so far produced a much more vigorous fermentation. I filled the containers somewhat too full. I've had to repeatedly empty the air lock of bubbles and juice spilling out the top of the White Labs fermentation, making something of a mess, but it's all under control now. The juice fermenting with the Mangrove Jack's yeast hasn't been quite so exuberant. I expect the initial fermentation to take about three weeks or so in either case. For now, it's a waiting game.