NY State loosened the laws on the production of cider last year. Important change:
"The new law also raised the limit on the alcohol content for all New York-produced cider, from 7 percent to 8.5 percent, to address the organic nature of the fermentation process, in addition to allowing producers to use pome fruits other than apples, such as pears, in the production. With this progressive step, New York’s hard cider manufacturers now enjoy the freedom to create ciders that are more tart and dry, capturing the true hard cider taste of Europe and early America. Most significantly, if a cider producer’s product meets the definition of both hard cider and wine, the law affords the producer the choice of whether the product will be marketed and sold as wine or cider, based on their individual business and marketing needs. "
I’m all for liberalizing laws governing small scale production of cider, and for allowing brewers the freedom to try out different types of products in the market. On a technical level though, in my experience using straight naturally made cider only and letting fermentation proceed to completion will get you a very dry product at 6% ABV or so. People add brown sugar, maple syrup, sucrose, glucose, maltose, etc. to boost alcohol. Of course there are apples that can get the ABV higher, but usually cider is made from a blend and even the single variety types are not ones with sky high sugar to begin with.
Not sure why increasing the limit on “cider” to 8.5% will allow more dry or tart cider either. Those I think are independent variables not particularly related to alcohol content. In fact unless you make special efforts otherwise, you end up with bone dry cider as a result of almost any brewing yeast having no trouble eating up all the fructose in the cider. Tartness is going to be governed by the acidity of the apples going into the blend, not the starting sugar content.
I was talking the other month with the person who does social media for the Virginia cider maker’s association. Not sure what the production licensing is like there, but she said most of the makers she works with want to market their product like wine rather than like beer. There is more of a culture of paying higher prices per bottle and connoisseur-ship in wine. Plus they want to differentiate themselves from the purveyors of the artificial mass produced wine-cooler like product being sold by the big companies (woodchuck, etc.). So maybe boosting the alcohol gets you closer to wine territory in the eyes of the consumer, which is probably where you want to be as an artisan cider brewer.
I’m hoping to find a commercial hard cider I like. The ones I tried were highly carbonated and I expect the cider house injected carbon dioxide to get the fizz. I really don’t like the large scale commercial hard cider either. I would like to find something between these two.
At some point, I hope to make some cider. I still have some basic equipment left over from when I made blackberry wine, but I need a grinder. I should have plenty of juice quality apples to work with.
There are increasingly numerous choices of quality cider in the liquor stores around here. If you buy cider imported from Normandy, it will most likely not be force carbonated, but can still be pretty bubbly depending on the producer. You can carbonate cider with methode champanoise just fine and make it highly carbonated. There is at least one US maker which does that too; forget their name. There are also still ciders on the market. I have had a number of bottles from Farnum Hill which were very nice; their u-pick orchard (Poverty Lane) in NH is where we get our cider apples for our blend.
If you are not too romantic about how your apples get crushed, a cheap garbage disposal dropped into a piece of plywood between sawhorses works extremely well; we did this in our second year of making cider, 2006:
Does the compressed air keep the garbage disposal from overheating? Next year I hope to have bunch of apples available for cider making, but I need an effective way to grind, press and store the cider. I was considering a stainless garbage disposal for a grinder and a shop press for a rack and cloth press. I would like to be able to process about 2 Bu at a time, so I don’t waste a lot of time with prep and cleanup. The fermenter is easy, but how do I store the cider without having to bottle it? Cornelius keg perhaps?
The small batch we made of hard cider last year was great. We usually drink all the cider we can and then whatever we have left gets turned into hard cider. Usually that’s not a lot.
Thats a nice press. I like the economy of the garbage disposal, but question how well it an be cleaned.
That was the idea of the compressed air; to blow into the disposal to cool it off. It definitely helped a lot, though we still had a few times when the thermal cutout activated and we had to let it cool down some more. It is possible a slightly more expensive disposal could be more suited to the job, but we thought there was a decent chance of burning it out so used a cheap one.
As far as cleaning it out, we hosed it out while running and I think it probably got pretty clean. I think if you were concerned you could then do a rinse through with a bucket of iodophor water.
Plus this disposal was brand new to begin with. And for hard cider I don’t worry that much about cleanliness since we sulfite anyways once the cider is in glass carboys, which does a pretty good job at killing whatever bacteria and yeast is in there. I worry more about that for drinking the cider sweet, or if we were going to do natural yeast fermentation.
In the event we only used the disposal that year. It’s throughput is not tremendously high, and the bigger apples we had to chop into a few pieces to fit in the mouth. Also it is noisy, particularly with the compressor running too for cooling. The next year we got it together to build a bike powered apple grinder.