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View Full Version : An introduction, and a few (cyser) questions...



Surfrider
01-20-2006, 05:15 AM
Aloha! As this is my first post, I feel I should include a short introduction before I start asking for advice.

I'm a 26-year-old surfer/med student/history buff/wine lover from the west coast (US) who, 12 years after first hearing about this "mead" stuff, has taken up the hobby. I am enjoying my excursion into the world of homebrewing very much, and already I have made fast friends with the proprietors of the "local" brewshop. While I have several batches currently in the works, I actually have yet to enjoy a glass of the finished product; I wait anxiously. I have browsed the forums a few times, and I am glad to have found them; there is some excellent information here! However, there are still a few answers I am unable to find, which leads me to the reason for this post....

On 20oct05 I made my first attempt at brewing. Hoping I could have a drinkable product ready by Christmas, I chose to make a spiced cyser (as most of the online meadmaking resources I found indicated this to be a relatively quick mead). After finding many a recipe with naught a common thread between them (save for the apples), I chose to devise my own recipe by "averaging" many of the cyser recipes I'd found on the web. I have since learned that I've made several mistakes along the way, but I am still hoping I can end up with a relatively tasty, drinkable cyser. Below is the recipe (and preparation method) I devised:



I-Don't-Know-WTF-I'm-Doing Spiced Cyser
=======================================
3 gallons local, unfiltered, pasteurized cider
5 pounds raw, local, "fireweed" honey
2 oranges, zested
3 cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup whole, frozen cranberries
1 lemon, juiced
1 small box (snack-sized; 1oz?) organic, unpreserved raisins
1 packet Cote de Blanc

-24 hours: Made starter with 1 pint apple juice, ~3 tbsp honey, ~1 tbsp lemon juice, +10 raisins. Starter went berserk within ~6 hours.

0: Put all ingredients in a large, non-reactive pot. Raised temperature to 145 for 30 minutes, skimming scum as needed. Cooled pot in sink full of ice. Pitched starter, stirred. Poured must into 3-gallon carboy (splashing to aerate), poured overflow into 1-gallon jug. Fitted vodka-filled airlocks to fermenters, put fermenters on a shelf in a warm(ish) room. Fermentation started almost immediately, airlocks were bubbling vigorously within 5 hours.

+2 weeks: Fermentation slowed, 1 inch of lees on the bottom of each bottle. Racked to lees, combined contents of jugs in one 3-gallon carboy.

+6 weeks: Another inch of lees, cyser slightly less cloudy. Racked to lees. Tasted: too dry, weak apple flavor. Added ~1 cup honey, diluted in water. Added 1 cinnamon stick. Fermentation picked up a bit.

+3 months (ie, today): Airlock activity minimal. Yet another inch of lees. Cyser much clearer; "murky" now, no longer 100% opaque. Weak apple and spice flavor, not a hint of citrus or cranberry, semi-unpleasant alcohol taste. Added, on a whim, 12 oz organic apple juice concentrate. Not sure what to expect; hoping result will be strong apple flavor, but expecting cloying sweetness as well. Not sure how sweetness will be countered. Fully aware this may well be a stupid thing to do. (:))



Questions:
==========
1. Having only recently learned about heating musts with fruit, and pectin-induced cloudiness, I fear my cyser may not clear (which won't be the end of the world). Is it too late to add pectinase? Does pectinase reaction require higher-than-room temperatures?

2. Are my predictions about the apple juice concentrate correct? Was adding it as ill-advised as I suspect?

3. If the cyser does indeed become cloyingly sweet, how should I proceed? Add acidic ingredients? Would unsweetened cranberry juice work to help offset the sweetness (note: I'd like to have a mild cranberry flavor.)?

4. Can/should beverages sit on the lees with Cote de Blanc?

5. I only recently learned the effects of UV light. Has having sat uncovered in dim, indirect sunlight, and under fluorescent adversely changed the flavor profile of my cyser? How would I know? What will "UV contamination" taste like?

6. How should I best go about adding more spice flavor to this cyser? I want more than simply spice notes; I want them to be obvious, but, like the cranberry, not strong enough to draw attention away from the strong apple flavor which I seek.

7. Is there any hope? Or has my initial ignorance, and later, disregarding of my instincts (ala the concentrate) doomed my first batch of mead?



Thank you very much for your guidance. Any and all suggestions/sage advice/laughing-and-pointing/admonishments/ are welcome. (:))

David Baldwin
01-20-2006, 12:13 PM
Welcome, and fear not... there is always hope (almost always... ;D_

1. yes it is too late for pectic enzyme to be effective.

2. adding the apple juice concentrate to the secondary fermentation was actually the right thing to do.
Many mazers find that adding a bit of the fruit juice to the secondary helps to enhance the fruit flavors.

As far as the sweetness... that may be a matter of your own personal taste preferences. You may find it cloying - or not and yet somone else may have a very different observation.

3. I have no experience with sur lis aging on Cote de blanc, so there I can not help you.

4. UV. Can impart a "wet cardboard" flavor to your mead/beer/wine. Sulphites may help to protect it from that, but your best bet is to keep it covered. (I use old dark t-shirts to cover my carboys) UV can also inhibit the yeast in their growth/fermentation process.

5. Set it all aside and give it time to age. The flavors won't really become will integrated for nearly a year. It's worth the wait.

Hope this has helped some.

David

Pewter_of_Deodar
01-23-2006, 04:10 PM
Questions:
==========
1. Having only recently learned about heating musts with fruit, and pectin-induced cloudiness, I fear my cyser may not clear (which won't be the end of the world). Is it too late to add pectinase? Does pectinase reaction require higher-than-room temperatures?

I heated my Christmas Cyser to 170F and it cleared. I think patience and time will help. Chilling it to less than 50F will also help.



2. Are my predictions about the apple juice concentrate correct? Was adding it as ill-advised as I suspect?

My Cyser had only a hint of apple taste in it and I think that was due to the fact that it was beginning to stop fermenting with an SG still around 1.050+, which would have been too sweet. So I hit it with a little more raw juice. But the apple flavor has been aging out. It also stopped up around 1.035 SG, which would have been way too sweet. But the sweetness seems to have offset the alcohol affect nicely. Again, be patience and see how it ages. 6 to 8 months minimum before you decalre something a flop...



3. If the cyser does indeed become cloyingly sweet, how should I proceed? Add acidic ingredients? Would unsweetened cranberry juice work to help offset the sweetness (note: I'd like to have a mild cranberry flavor.)?

Get a hyrdometer and take an SG measurement first. SG is one of the most important tools for analyzing the health of a batch, before, during, and after fermentation. Give the juice time to integrate. It will do this naturally and if there is still fermentation, it will help things to integrate more completely.



4. Can/should beverages sit on the lees with Cote de Blanc?

No, the general rule should be to rack off of the lees like you have been doing when it gets to 3/4th's of an inch or more unless you are specifically using a recipe that benefits from aging on the lees using a yeast like D-47.



5. I only recently learned the effects of UV light. Has having sat uncovered in dim, indirect sunlight, and under fluorescent adversely changed the flavor profile of my cyser? How would I know? What will "UV contamination" taste like?

Dave answered this one well. Light exposure can cause cardboard taste. Cover it with something. I use black trash bags with a slit in the middle of the bottom for the neck to come through.



6. How should I best go about adding more spice flavor to this cyser? I want more than simply spice notes; I want them to be obvious, but, like the cranberry, not strong enough to draw attention away from the strong apple flavor which I seek.

There are several here that are really good at this part. I am not. The best advice I have had is to make a strong tea of the spices you want to try. Then take a bit of the mead, mix a bit of the tea until you have the taste you want. Then scale up how much tea you added to your sample and add that to the batch.



7. Is there any hope? Or has my initial ignorance, and later, disregarding of my instincts (ala the concentrate) doomed my first batch of mead?

6 to 8 months, then make a judgement...

Good luck,
Pewter

Surfrider
01-28-2006, 01:59 PM
After further reading and browsing of a few other forums, I have a better understanding of what has happened with, and what I did to my cyser:

My recipe was sound, my process was (even after a few mistakes) was successful. My cyser had finished fermenting, has since fallen clear, and was ready for bottling or bulk aging. In an attempt to add more apple flavor (and a bit more sweetness) to my cyser, I backsweetened with concentrated juice. Here's where I really screwed up, though: I backsweetened TOO MUCH. As it stands now, the cyser is so sweet, it's almost undrinkable. (Stupid, stupid, stupid! :()

Ok, so, what do I do? Should I pitch another batch of my original yeast (Cote de Blanc) after diluting the 3-gallon cyser with water (so as to dilute the alcohol, thus making a more yeast-friendly environment)? Or perhaps I should pitch in a different strain of more alcohol-tolerant yeasties (a champagne yeast, perhaps?), hoping they'll eat up some of that residual sugar? I seem to recall reading something, somewhere, about restarting a secondary fermentation...something about using part of your brew in the starter, so as to "acclimate" the soon-to-be-pitched yeasties to the brew before they get dumped into a whole fermenter's worth.... Does this ring a bell for anybody? :/

Thanks very much for your help. Am I exceptionally dense, or does everbody do stuff like this when they're first starting...?

-Surfrider

mouko_yamamoto
01-28-2006, 02:30 PM
I have never used this, and am new to meadmaking, so just take this as a consideration. The first thing that popped in my mind is adding citric acid. If it is not sweet to the point of being gross, maybe it could be balanced out. Don't do this unless someone else recommends it though. ::)

Lugh
01-28-2006, 07:10 PM
I don't know if I would add citric acid to try to compensate for over sweetening. It might be overpowering on the acid side. When tasting, your tongue is going to be over stimulated with sweet and acidic, and the other flavors, florals from the honey, spices, and apples will be lost.

I take it you made a 3 gallon batch - can you make another1 gallon batch, ferment it dry, and add it to your 3 gallon batch? That way you don't have to worry about the existing alcohol killing the new yeasties.

They do make restarters, Pro-restart is one. But it's very expensive. http://www.morebeer.com/product.html?product_id=5588
You can restart with a yeast with a higher alcohol tolerance. I'd do it just like you said, treat it as a stuck ferment using part of your brew diluted as a restarter, and slowly add your brew in batches. Scott Labs has an article here: http://www.scottlaboratories.com/info-center/documents/restart04.pdf

mouko_yamamoto
01-28-2006, 09:21 PM
Heh, good thing I threw a disclaimer on there.

Surfrider
01-30-2006, 04:51 AM
Getting the nod from a more experienced brewer has made me feel a lot better about trying to re-start fermentation with another yeast.

After reading a bit about yeasts that are commonly chosen for the task, I am thinking about using Premier Cuvee. Most accounts of this yeast indicate it to be a fast-acting strain that ferments to dryness (given that I have so much sugar and alcohol both in my cyser, I certainly don't expect THIS batch to be fermented to dryness), is pretty alcohol tolerant, tends to be very neutral in the flavors it imparts, and is supposedly often used for restarting stuck fermentations. So, is using Premier Cuvee a good idea? Or should I perhaps explore another option...?

Again, thanks very much for the guidance. When I have had enough experience to advise newbies, I will certainly pass on the favor. :)

-Surfrider

Surfrider
02-02-2006, 08:32 AM
Well, good news! My cyser is once again bubbling along. Here's what I did:

I rehydrated some Permier Cuvee yeast in warm water, then tossed them in a 1-quart bottle along with a bit of apple juice and some honey (yielding about a cup of starter). Eight hours later, I added about a cup of my stuck cyser. Eight hours later, fermentation was still going on, so I added another two cups of stuck cycser to my new "restarter," and let it sit overnight. The next morning, fermentation was still rolling along, so I combined the quart of restarter with another quart of stuck cycer. When that didn't seem to kill the new army of yeasts, I siphoned the entire half-gallon of restarter back into my cyser's carboy.

It's been 36 hours now, and three-gallon carboy of cyser is slowly but surely bubbling away! My airlock is spitting out about 3 bubbles' worth of yeast farts every minute. Good times!