View Full Version : how close am I to disaster?

T Rush
10-04-2006, 09:36 AM
this is going to be long, and I know very little on the subject
..but anyway here goes...

I have two apple trees... this year I decided that instead fighting off all the bees, flys, and ants just to pick all the rotting apples up off the ground to toss into the compost pile, I should make use of the fruit before it went bad

so I had the bright idea to go get some big glass jugs, rubber stoppers, air locks, racking tube, champagne yeast, and honey, etc...and just kinda see what could happen

I took the apples and used this nifty peeler/corer that slices the apples into this spiral spring shaped coil and then cut and broke those apart so that they were 1/8 inch thin apple chips and filled up a 20 quart stainless steel cook pot, added some sugar, and just alittle water to make a good juicy mess...then I started the yeast in a cup of apple cider and got it all foamy and tossed that in the pot with the apple mess and stirred it up real good
...I found that if I took a square of 'cling wrap' and laid it down in the pot right on top of the apples that the air couldn't get to them to turn them brown, and that when the whole thing would puff up real big that I wouldn't get apples and foam stuck to the lid
...so I let that go for 5 days or so and would mix the apple chips that would get pushed up by the foam back down in
...next I strained it with a colander, then a screen on top of a funnel into the 3.5 gallon(?) glass jug, I had about a gallon of juicy stuff with yeast in it left over so I filled up a 1/2 gallon glass milk jug and tossed the rest(along with what was left of the apple chips) back into the pot, along with fresh new apples to start another batch
...all of the glass jugs and everything I rinsed with bleach water, and rinsed that all out a bunch of times before using or putting anything in them

..I added a small jar of honey to the 1/2 gallon milk jug, shook it up real good and stuck an air lock in it..it started to foam out the air lock so I stuck the racking tube in it and let that bubble into a pint glass(I think I also added some hops in that one), after about 10 hours or so it calmed down enough that I could put the clean air lock back in, and clean out the racking tube
...its been bubbling hard and fast(more than 1 bubble a sec.) in the air lock for about a week now..so hard that everything stays mixed up in there

the big jug(3.5 gal?)I added one big jar(3 lb?)of honey to
..luckily it didn't fill the air lock with foam until about an hour after I got the 1/2 gallon milk jug off the racking tube... I set it up with the tube so that not much foam was able to escape(the foam would kinda turn back into liquid and run back down the tube) and it just bubbled like mad into the pint glass(like "crazy mad" constant fast bubbles)..it bubbled like that for two or three days, with the small bubbles rising and keeping everything stirred up
...finally it calmed down somewhat and I put it back on the air lock...but then the next day it had almost stopped bubbling all together(maybe just 1 or 2 bubbles every min.)...like it had just come to a screeching halt, when it had been going like mad the day before...this did allow everything to settle in the bottom, so after looking at it for about two days like that and scratching my head(did it eat all the sugars and honey?..did it run out of O2...did the yeast go nuts and over populate and kill each other all at once?...did something get in there that was bad)..and seemingly watching less and less bubbles every hour...I decided to rack off all the about 4 inches of muck that settled in the bottom, and replace it with fresh yeast juice stuff that was started in the cook pot for the next batch...now its been bubbling nicely for the last two days

ok, great, let me take a second to say thanks for reading so far
..and for having this forum and web site with all this wonderful info...it has been a great help, and I've been trying to read a few of the older threads...but now on to my concerns and questions

the deal is that I have this great big (like 9 or 11 gallons) tear drop shaped glass jug thing(sorry for not using the proper terms..I know some of them, but I really didn't want to start using them like I knew what I'm talking about...but I'll work on that)...so right, this big Italian glass container..the idea/plan I had/have was to make this apple stuff with alittle honey and start it off in the small 3.5gal jug, rack the bad stuff out, and then put it in the big Italian glass container, it looks like about 3X batches in the 3.5gal jug would fill it almost up...but then once it is in there just start bombing it with honey, maybe add some more yeast and hops?

so I'm kinda ready to dump the first one in(rack it off) so I can start the second batch in the 3.5gal jug with the air lock and alittle honey
...but I really don't want to start filling that big thing, and adding a bunch of expensive honey if this whole thing isn't going to work..as this is looking like I will need a lot of honey to make 9 gallons or whatever

so this stuff I've made is a light tan color, and as thick as milk to see thru..it kinda tastes pretty bitter
...should I say screw it and just keep what I have going from the apple trees in the small 3.5 gallon thing, add about another 6 or 9 lbs of honey to it, just let it finish and toss out the second batch of apples I started...and then work on what to make in this massive 11 gallon teardrop shaped carboy?

again thanks for reading, and all the info I have read here so far
..any help or opinions would be greatly welcomed...I just really needed to 'vent' my situation to people that are interested and knowledgeable on the subject

expect to see more of me and my questions here(hopefully in shorter posts) as I progress over the years with mead, apples and fermenting

thanks -T

10-04-2006, 10:06 AM
I love experiments like this... reminds me of the things I am doing with grape seconds... and my boss has offered me pears in a month or so...

Couple of comments or thoughts...

1. Are you getting the apple flavor you want to be getting? How does this first batch taste? It will obviously be green and possibly hot with alcohol, but does it have apple taste to your liking?

2. I am tempted to take the apples and pears I get and turn them into apple sauce consistency to add to any batch like this that I might attempt. Not sure it would make any difference, just seems like a good thing to do.

3. Can that big fancy container you have handle the stress of being filled with liquid? Is it decorative or functional? It's be a shame to have 9 gallons burst out of it and all over the room. Also, you won't be moving it once it's full, at least not easily, so you need to have something sufficiently strong to set it up on so you can rack out of it in the future. It will weigh in excess of 100 pounds...

Good luck,

T Rush
10-04-2006, 10:40 AM
#3 yes, that big carboy busting open full of funny smelling sticky stuff would be a disaster

I bought it for ~$40 at brewing supply shop (at Bell's Brewery in Mich.)that I was passing thru and visited

they told me they get fragile when full, and not to try and move it

here are photos
(its about as tall as a table, I can just get it under one table that has my some of my other smack under it, but it wont fit under the dinning table, and with an air lock on it its even taller, so I'll have to find a spot for it out in the open...it does have that strange heavy plastic deal it sits in, I'm still not sure if thats a 'must' bucket, a light shield, or just there to protect it?.... or maybe thats what they ship in, but for shipping wouldn't you want the top and neck protected?)

#2 I thought about the blender with the apples, but I'm kinda ending up this some pretty thick 'sauce' stuff that clogs screens and ends up still leaving a bunch of stuff to settle out..and then very cloudy liquid,(I don't know how it would ever clear)...what really seems like the best is just some kind of press/cyder mill/juicer deal(which I don't have)

#1 taste?, well I don't really know what to be looking for...I'm trying to 'taste pass' the yeast and hot alcohol...sometimes it can be fresh and nice(apple juice like flavor), but then later kinda just bitter (super sharp cyder or beyond) maybe not vinegar but just harsh bad apple-ish maybe...it is taste-able, like I'll get some on my tongue and really try to taste what is going on...its not like it makes me want to spit it out, but then I'm not the biggest apple fan any more, so I would like to think that much of the 'hard cyder' taste would be gone when finished(thought maybe hops would 'divert' the flavor?)
...I would like to say this whole apple deal is just a mess, and I'm not sure this would be how I would do it if I had the choice(esp. as I read more about all the things mead can be or become)
...and I kinda hate those apple trees(they have just grown out of control, as no one took care of them) and all the fruit they produce(even last year when no one had apples do to a late frost or something...mine went nuts, and people would stop by to tell their sad stories of no apples for their pies and ask if they could have some of mine...which I was more than happy to let them take all they could carry and come back for more) I just can't get rid of all of them, and they are a mess on the ground...so I'm pretty sick of apples( I guess I'll still eat apple pie, how can you hate apple pie)

10-04-2006, 01:32 PM
The carboy you're using is known as a demijohn, a 15-gallon container. The weak plastic bucket thingy is primarily used so it can be transported, with the lid keeping the carboy upright. The opening is big enough to ghetto-tape a shotglass to a stick and steal a taste. (that's what I did before I had a wine thief) :icon_thumleft:

I'm not an apple fan, either. Mcintosh are the only kind I like. For taste and smells, Fwee's "Am I Making Vinegar?" topic can possibly help reassure you.

I hope you can enjoy your cyser when it's finished.

T Rush
10-04-2006, 08:13 PM
great, thanks..now I have a new word for today "demijohn"

but "15-gallons"...oh my, that doesn't sound good for a first attempt at cyser

and am I correct in thinking that too much aeration(or late aeration) will give me vinegar?
...I know the apple chip 'must' still got a lot of aeration after 'the first three days'(which I've now read that it shouldn't) maybe it got aerated for at least 5 days(just kinda mixing the apples into the liquid really good a few times a day)
...and then with the one racking I did...yeah, I would say that aeration happened there too....also with this big demijohn I can't have it half full, as that will be more aeration(right...those seem to be three ways that I've read here today that too much or late aeration can happen, all of which I now feel alittle guilty about)

so, that massive 15-gallons thing prompted me to do alittle more serious tasting...as opposed to just a drop on the finger or alittle in the palm of my hand, I needed to get a real taste now, and think about what it would be like to sit around and drink a bunch of this stuff(15-gallons, I have friends that would be glad to help drink anything with alcohol in it, and we do throw some pretty good parties...but still, I bet I would be the one to drink more of it than anyone else)
...I've never had cyser before, but I've had that hard cider(like "Woodpecker", but never real fresh made stuff) and I've had/enjoyed/got-blitzed/pretended I was a Viking/been very hung-over/etc. with straight mead both retail and crafted
I gathered up all my drinking wisdom...and picked up a shot glass...

first, I squirted out alittle thru the stopper in the 1/2 gallon milk jug...I figured this used the first freshest batch of apple must, got the least aeration, the most honey %, was sealed with a air lock the longest, and had been behaving the best, but had not been racked at all...and I sat down closed my eyes(envisioned the future with 15-gallons) let it sit under my nose and started sipping...it was tart, strong cidery, kinda somewhat big dry harsh raw alcohol after, little 'aspirin taste'...not anything that hit me as vinegar but maybe something like that in there, gassy and yeasty..it did still have a 'new apple taste' and ok pretty sweet still..but over all strong, something that would need to really mellow for me to drink more than even a little bit....not deadly, but nothing I would want 15-gallons of 'as is' but maybe I could see a distant future in(not what I had planed, as I was hoping the small 1/2 gallon would give me something to test/drink soon, way ahead of the large batch)
..oddly I really didn't get a full sense of the few hop pellets I put in there, unless they really only added to the bitter or made the bitter alittle different, but none of the 'hop flower' effect, if anything just slightly..maybe I'll add another 5 pellets and see which way that goes, bitter/flowery(Saaz hops btw)

next I spooned out alittle of the apple must, to see if I could tell where these flavors were coming from...this seemed very tart, if any thing closest to vinegar and rind tastes, bitter apple, very strong gas yeast, hard hard cider, not so 'hot' alcohol, and of course the least sweet(no honey in there yet)fresh apple and old apple flavors...getting more concerned at this point...thinking that any more of this would be a really bad idea

last I went for the full, now well behaved 3.5 carboy, its only got 3 lbs of honey in it, but it was started with quite a bit of sugar in the must with the apple chips...and it had been racked once...but I kinda expected it to be the worst..however it really gave me some hope, it seemed to be cidery/fresh apple, some subtle sweet, less turned or vinegar-ish...lighter compared to the others in tart or bitter, noticeable hot raw alcohol starting..less gassy/yeasty...raw fruit musk, un-cooked..cider/wine like...young...I almost was ready to take a big gulp...defiantly not going to throw it out

so this puts me in a odd spot...I would really like to get thru this now(with at least what I have in the 3.5 gal carboy and add the 6 or 7 lbs of honey I have on hand so far to it...but I would like to get that big demijohn in use so that I can start a new recipe in the 3.5 gal carboy of something that is a good 'newbee' formula you see recommended on this site...I could go ahead and stick with the plan to get the next batch of apple chips in the carboy to work on filling the demijohn, and then do other one or two(and another one to get 4 or 5 to fill the demijohn? ..argh) in the same way I have been going...as it might not turn out really bad, but it will always be a lot of hard cider at best, and I'm not too excited about buying that much more honey to get 15 gallons of this...but I really can't just fill the demijohn a little bit with this stuff(right?, aeration?), so I have the 3.5 free? or how bad would that be?

any ideas?

T Rush
10-05-2006, 08:16 AM
I think I semi-solved this situation...for now anyway...as I have to travel for work over the next five days

I ended up racking off into a few more 1/2 glass milk jugs, mixing in 1 lb to about 1.5+ lb honey into each one of those (varied to see what works best)...everything else plus some boiled-n-cooled water went into the demijohn....it all looks good, and adding the water to the big mix seemed to tone down the harsh bitter apple flavor to a nice level...I was only able to add a relatively small(%) amount of honey to the demijohn, but I found a bag of brown sugar so that my pet yeast have something to eat in their new home while I'm gone...there is still room in there for honey(and maybe I'll add cider or juice if I feel its needed)...but that all depends on how things are going when I get back...now there is a good thick layer of foam on the surface and the air lock is bubbling like mad, altho not all the way full, it is within reach and I think I can fill the sucker if the batch doesn't fail

the 3.5 gallon carboy is empty and clean, ready for 'a real project'(done by the book)....but the small 1/2 gallons look very promising, and thats where I 'invested' the honey..they hopefully will save this whole experiment if 'the big batch' ends up in the disaster it could...time will tell :wave:

T Rush
10-19-2006, 06:51 PM
ok, I've been using the "search" here pretty heavily over the past 2 weeks, as opposed to asking a bunch of 'newbee' questions and just expecting you all to hold my hand

overall, it has helped greatly and things are going very well
(I'll post about all my progress and what I have so far at some point)

...but I think I got alittle confidant just randomly did something stupid
(well I know it was stupid from the very immediate results I got)
I was working with some lemon and limes, with honey and water
...and I could not get the fermentation to start, my guess was that it was way too acid, so in a moment of complete mindlessness, I added baking soda :drunken_smilie:(the search doesn't turn up anything on baking soda)...well of course this made an explosive reaction, and sticky honey lemon/lime foam went everywhere(my hair, clothes, and all over the kitchen, celling and all) :confused2:

ok you can stop laughing now, as it was a serious mess(luckily the Wife was away in France, so she came home to a strangely perfectly sterile kitchen...and she brought me back some honey :notworthy: )
anyway, what was left I dumped into some other stuff that was left over from another batch, and it now seems to be fermenting, my guess is that there is only a slight amount of baking soda in there
should I toss it out, is the baking soda something I do not want in there?

I now have 10 half gallon milk jugs going with different recipes
I will post the exact recipes, along with temps, and processes
...I was given a hydrometer when I was away for work, but it is for saltwater and only goes up to 1.060

10-19-2006, 11:08 PM
Keep it aside, and let it go for a while. Don't give up on it yet. Surprisingly I've seen this in a couple of other instances and we've been able to "mask" the soda flavor by adding an acid blend at the end, and spicing and backsweetening. It wasn't stellar, but I've tasted a lot worse.

So don't give up on it, what tastes like ass today can be a delightfully quaffable mead in a few years.



10-20-2006, 01:20 AM
Apples - I love apples.

I'm short on time so I kind of read your first post. Will have to read more of your others but I'm not afraid to work with apples.

Did I miss something. Which honey did you use? And which yeast?

That hydrometer will come in handy. Be sure to calibrate it (know what it is reading). My fining hydrometer (used on the lower gravities has about the same range as yours) gives different readings than my broad scale. I need to calibrate both of mine as they read differently. Other than that, you can get a broad scale hydrometer or hydrometer that works for the upper ranges.

And don't toss anything out. I've found my friends have an affinity for my rejects. At worse it might be used for marinades.

And in the future with the long posts, you may want to list them briefly (summarize in one place) in case readers like me skip over them.