Strawberry & Pear Cider

Ref 2021-03 Strawberry & Pear Cider Brewer Mangrove Jack's
Style Fruit Flavoured Sparkling Type Cider, kit
Started Mon 8th Mar 21 OG 1.051 Status Available, 5.3% ABV
Packaged Mon 15th Mar 21 FG 1.011 Fermenter Plastic Bucket
Handle 2021-03 Strawberry & Pear Cider
Brewer Mangrove Jack's
Style Fruit Flavoured Sparkling
Type Cider, kit
Fermenter Plastic Bucket
Status Available, 5.3% ABV ABV
Started Mon 8th Mar 21 OG 1.051
Packaged Mon 15th Mar 21 FG 1.011

From the vendor: Fresh strawberries coupled with juicy pear. This cider is sweet and fruity, especially good when served chilled on a hot summer’s eve.

ABV Approx: 4.7%
Style: Sweet
Colour: Pink
Makes: 23L
Brewing Sugar Required: 1kg Dextrose

Milestones & Tasks

Mar 27 -213dStarted conditioning
Mar 16 -224dPriming error fixed
Mar 15 -225dBottled 31 mixed caps, kegged 5 litres
Mar 14 -226dFlavouring added
Mar 08 -232dStarted primary
Mar 202127Sat

31 bottles go out into the cold, one’s already off to a friend. I’ve not bothered to label all of these, instead just two from each of the three variants. Let’s see if this is enough to keep them identifiable or if I’ll live to regret that decision.

31 bottles of Strawberry & Pear cider

There’s still a little bit left in the 5 litre mini keg in the fridge, but a leaky disconnect caused some of that to end up on the bathroom floor yesterday. Going forward I don’t think cider is worth kegging anyway, since it keeps just in in bottles with no loss of flavour and since I don’t drink it quick enough to warrant tying up a keg.

11 days
Mar 202116Tue

Thanks to a mix-up at bottling time yesterday, the 31 mixed bottles only have 50% of the priming sugar that they should, and today I corrected that by cracking some of the bottles open again and adding the last of my carbonation drops. The 31 bottles of Mangrove Jack’s Strawberry & Peach Cider now look like this:

  • 10 metallic red crown caps: 85g of dextrose per 17 litre batch, so around 2.5g per bottle – roughly 50% of what’s appropriate. I left these alone from yesterday because I’m curious to see how ‘flat’ they are, and because I’ve never diddled with recently capped bottles and need an insurance policy.
  • 11 clear flip-tops: same 2.5g from batch priming, plus one Fox’s carbonation drop. Two of these are recommended for a 500 ml bottle and together they weight in a smidge over 5g, so these flip-tops should be perfectly carbed.
  • 10 non-metallic red crown caps: these also have 2.5g per bottle from yesterday, but to each I added one Cooper’s carbonation drop, aimed at 375ml and weighing in at 3.04g. This means the non-metallic red crown caps are technically over-carbed by 10% but I don’t expect it’ll make much difference – in truth I used the Cooper’s drops because I’d run out of Fox’s.

Looking back over the process of re-opening these I don’t think there’s very much to worry about. Each bottle was treated to a good dose of sanitiser before I popped the cap, and as soon as I did so I dropped in a carbonation drop and added a fresh, sanitised crown cap – or flipped shut the still wet flip-top. I did the flip-tops first and noticed that adding in the carbonation drop resulted in a fair bit of fizz, but because the flip-top was within reach I was able to cap it before anything boiled over. The first couple of crown caps I treated subsequently did eject some foam, but then I nailed the procedure and the rest were OK. No spinners or obviously leaky caps.

All 31 bottles were moved to the server room which is bouncing between 21 and 25 ℃ depending on the amount of sunshine that day. In around a week’s time I’ll put these out to the garage for conditioning.

#wisdom: ending with a positive, and I hear that cider isn’t too bothered about oxygen since it’s the hop oils in beer which cause oxidisation when exposed, so unless it’s a dry-hopped cider there’s nothing to worry about. Oh well, was fun playing with the beer gun all the same.

1 day
Mar 202115Mon

A late session today saw me putting away the S&B cider 7 days after starting primary. The flavouring was added 24 hours ago so it’s too late to worry whether or not I should have left it for another couple of days, time to get it packed.

I started by taking another gravity reading out of habit, although I suspected it might be invalid with all that flavouring in there. Wasn’t disappointed – she registered 1.013 which I’m taking as additional non-fermenting sugar (i.e. the sachet of pear and strawberry flavour concentrate) combined with no further fermentation of what was already in there. I’m therefore recording the reading of 1.013 on this log but using 1.011 from yesterday as the final gravity, producing 5.25% ABV against an expected 4.7%. Had we made it all the way to 1.007 we’d be looking at 5.78%. Yikes!

All Change

With the sample taken it was time to set up the racking cane / auto syphon as usual, and while doing so I decided to do two things differently this time: fill one of my small kegs and carbonate with CO2 in order to see if it impacts the taste compared to primed bottles, and try out my new Blichmann Beer Gun on its first bottling run.

I cleaned and sanitised a 5 litre mini keg but didn’t bother purging it with Star San and then CO2 as I would while doing a closed transfer from the Fermzilla, as there seemed little point in trying to keep oxygen out when racking from an open bucket. Instead I filled it to within a couple of inches from the top using the bottling cane and then cranked it to 30 PSI before popping the PRV a couple of times (may as well get some oxygen out) and putting it in the fridge next to my other 5 litre keg containing the last of my Bure Gold. Time to try out that Beer Gun.

A Small Error

A cursory glance at the new gadget showed it came with a black disconnect, so I started by racking the remaining cider into a clean 19 litre Cornelius keg using the still connected bottling cane. It looked to be around 17 litres and since I was almost out of carbonation drops I decided to weigh two of them, the recommended dose per 500ml bottle, and multiply the resulting 5g by 17 to tell me how much dextrose I need to add. That was around three hours ago, and it’s only now that I’ve pulled up the Beer Priming Calculator in order to see if my quantity of priming sugar tallies with Brewer’s Friend that I’ve spotted the mistake: there’s two bottles per litre not one. I’ve therefore added half as much as I should have, which explains why Brewer’s Friend recommends 160g of Dextrose for a fruit lambic – about the closest to cider in my opinion. Oh well, looks like it’ll be a slightly sparkling cider this time around.

That was three hours ago and I carried on in blissful ignorance, adding the sugar to the Corny keg as the bucket emptied. Once I had all the cider I was going to get from the bucket I capped the keg and hooked up the gas, again popping the PRV a couple of times in order to dump some oxygen from the top of the vessel. The beer gun was quickly taken apart for inspection and sanitation, and I saw the first problem: the gas line was designed to screw onto a male regulator post, which I didn’t have. I did have a John Guest T-piece and some more beer / gas line, so I used that instead of the gas line that came with the beer gun. Not ideal since it’s quite stiff and made the process unnecessarily cumbersome, but I was determined to try it out.

Ready … Aim …

Once back together the beer gun worked very well, letting me purge oxygen from each bottle before filling it to the top and purging some more while drawing out the nozzle, then capping straight away. I think it’s a very slick tool and once I’d cranked up the pressure to around 15 PSI I was able to fill bottles at a good rate, though doing this with partially carbonated beer straight from the Fermzilla might require a bit more experimentation as there’s bound to be some foam, whereas the cider was totally placid. Might end up using a fair bit of gas though, so perhaps reserve it for ultra-hoppy beers?

Then again, this is the first bottling run following my first kegging session, and I’m inclined to agree with everyone who sings the benefits of kegging thanks not only to the superior taste of draught, but also due to the simplicity and speed of the kegging process compared to cleaning bottles, filling them while watching out for oxygen, capping them, and washing up afterwards.

And if you cock up the carbonation it’s as easy as cranking up the regulator.

1 day
Mar 202114Sun

Nothing has been going on here for the last day or two, I’m pulling the lid for a gravity sample and to add the strawberry & pear flavouring sachet which came with this kit.

Instructions say to wait until the gravity is within two points of the final value (1.007, according to this page) but there’s literally no activity in the airlock at 1.011. I realise I’ve been fermenting at the skinny end of the recommended range, 20 – 25 ℃, but even so I’d expect to see some bubbles now and then.

Anyway, the flavouring is in now and tomorrow I’m bottling, adding two carbonation drops or the equivalent sugar.

4 days
Mar 202110Wed

Airlock activity started a couple of hours after pitching the yeast 2 days ago, and has increased steadily ever since. Right now there’s an audible fizzing coming from the plastic brew bucket and the airlock is popping enthusiastically.

Fermentation of Strawberry & Pear Cider

I used Bag-Thing to harvest some of the CO2 that’s being produced in order to prevent suck-back on Second Blonde which just started cold-crashing. Let’s hope there’s no difference in the CO2 that’s produced by cider and that which comes from beer. Usual sanitation procedures were observed.

2 days
Mar 202108Mon

Another fruity one from Mangrove Jack’s. Yeast pitched at 23.6 ℃ following a bit of temperature juggling with iced and then with boiling water. According to this page we should be aiming for 1.007 after about a week, and if this is anything like their Blueberry or Dry Hopped cider then it should be very good indeed! OG came in about 1.51 and the sample was delicious.

Standard MJ kit ingredients plus a kilo of dextrose