Advancing traditional German apple cider

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Oct 20, 2023
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Hi all,

My dad is about to make apple cider and I have some questions around this. He lives in Germany and the traditional method in his area is to put apple juice into a fermenter and drink daily from it. Obviously, the taste transforms from pure apple juice to cider and hopefully you finished the barrel before it turns into vinegar.

My dad wants to improve this method where possible but also doesn't want to spend too much time on it, which means no bottling.

I already ordered him a suitable yeast culture and potassium pyrosulfit.
My idea was to add 0.1 g sulfit per 10 L of apple juice initially to suppress unwanted yeasts. Then add the commercial yeast culture.

After about two weeks, when there is still some residual sweetness, I thought he could add 1g of sulfit per 10 L and 2g potassium sorbate per 10 L.
I hoped that by doing so the cider stays sweeter for a couple more weeks.

However, all instructions I find regarding potassium sorbate also talk about bottling, which is something my dad doesn't want to do.

Is there still any use in adding it to the barrel once desired sweetness is reached?
The temperature will be around 10 and 18 °C all year round.

Welcome to Wine Making Talk. Guten Tag.

You are looking at two means of spoilage. Potassium sorbate will stop yeast from reproducing. Sorbate will not prevent yeast that are present from continuing to metabolize sugar. ie the cider will continue to get dry. If I was wanting to stop yeast I would either pasteurize the cider as at 140F (60C) for 40 minutes, OR I would refrigerate at 2C. Sorbate will not prevent Acetobacter growth and vinegar production. BUT exclusion of oxygen prevents acetobacter.

The second means of spoilage is chemical oxidation of ethyl alcohol to produce acetaldehyde. ( burn in the back of throat when swallowing). Normally we bottle to reduce the amount of head space and oxygen in contact with the alcohol thereby preventing significant oxidation. For your proposed method I wonder about looking for a smooth side crock with spout on the bottom to copy Italian family wine. Traditional storage is with a round board floating on the wine and a layer of olive oil to fill the crack. Modern plastic like HDPE will float on water and gaskets or silicone sheets exist.

May I suggest looking for 10 liter or 20 liter “bag in box” wine bags and holding the cider in a bag. Your father could hold in bulk without lots of bottles, exclude air, serve from the spout as needed till the batch is used up, and even add sorbate.
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