Another Cider Pun and I'll be Praying for My Apple-Solution

Here is an update on my hard-cider brewing!
If you read about my trip to Dutchess County, you may recall I mentioned doing some weird measurement taking. That was using a hydrometer to take the apple-pear cider's "Original Gravity" - indicating how much sugar (and other "dissolved solids") are in my cider to be fermented. That number was 1.047. That number, on its own tells me very little, except that the maximum potential alcohol content is almost 6.2%. 

Two weeks have passed, and yesterday I bottled that cider. I'll describe that step in a second, but wrapping up the heavy, gravity talk (hey, you should know by now: I love my puns), I took another reading to find the new specific gravity was 1.002, meaning almost all of the dissolved solids had been turned to alcohol. This tells me two things: My apple-pear cider will have a 5.88% ABV, and with almost no sugars left unfermented, it will taste extremely dry!

As I type this, I am drinking a "Smith & Forge" 6% hard cider, that is probably sweeter and more carbonated than my apple-pear mix will turn out, but drinking cider, while making and writing about cider, feels wonderful and makes me that much more excited to taste my own! Here's their commercial. I like their silly, romantic "obsession" with manliness:

I can also hear the bubbling sound of gas escaping from the second batch of cider fermenting down the hall. That batch is pear-free, but a mix of Matsu and Pink Lady apples I wrote about juicing last week. Sadly, I realized too late (after I already added yeast), that I forgot to measure the gravity of that batch, so it's anybody's guess how much alcohol it will actually contain when complete. I decided to keep the frothy pulp unfiltered and unpasteurized. I am most curious whether that decision, and sitting in my refrigerator for a week, might introduce some funky characteristics to the brew, but I won't know until it's ready to drink in December.
The tube extends into a mason jar filled with sanitizer. As gas escapes, it makes a pleasant "blub"!
The only part of the process I have omitted from the last two posts on brewing is bottle conditioning.
In order for the beer, or hard cider, to carbonate naturally, it must be sealed in an airtight container. So, after two weeks of fermenting, with excess gas releasing (see photo above), I seal them brown bottles, using a capper and new, uncrimped, bottle caps. After about 10 days, they can be refrigerated and enjoyed, just like something you buy in the store!
But, where do these bottles come from?
You can buy clean, new bottles, or buy and reuse swivel-topped bottles called growlers. But the most fun way to get bottles, is - what else? - drinking! 
Even when I'm not brewing, I collect the newly-emptied bottles, cleaning and storing them until they are needed. On the day I bottle, I put them in warm water and clean off their old labels before I rinse them with sanitizer and fill them with my newest batch.
While I'm cleaning, I often wonder whether professional craft beer makers consider the humble, home brewer, when deciding what labels, and how much of what glue they use on their bottles. Surely they went through cleaning off old labels at some point when they first started brewing, too? Typically, the labels come off easily, and a quick scrub removes what left over paper and glue remains.
You can see I also use growlers and reuse six-pack cases.

"Serious" home brewers, who brew in larger volumes or more often, skip this hassle by kegging their beer. You can also force-carbonate beer or cider that's been kegged, cutting the 10-14 day waiting time to only a couple days. I choose not to do this, because of the added investment in equipment and storage space. Plus, I love being able to throw a bottle in my backpack and give it to a friend, but someday, I will probably go crazy, build a keggerator, buy some small kegs and start brewing 10 gallons at a time. 
We'll see how long I can hold out... 

My newest 5-gallon batch is beer is a pumpkin porter with 6% ABV. (note the orange cap I bought specially for this brew!)It tastes great! You can see what else I've been brewing by clicking on the "5-gallon home brews" link to my Facebook album, at the top of this page.


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