Something's Brewing In The Living Space

Have you ever wondered how one goes about making a delicious alcoholic beverage that won't make you and your friends go blind?  So did we, and when my friend, an artist and brewmaster (and one of my many former bosses), explained how easy it was to make hard cider, and Julia and I jumped on the opportunity to start experimenting.  So we bought ourselves some preservative free apple cider (the best Trader Joe's has to offer), and decided to give it a whack.  If your wondering what kind of equipment we used, it was simple, we used two small glass half gallon jugs, added a bit of sugar, and let the natural yeast do it's job.  We didn't have a stop valve for letting the gas escape so we just saran wrapped the tops with thick rubber bands as back-up.  This yielded strange results; one batch came out wreaking of sulfur (but would have probably been fine if we had let it breath for a bit), and the other didn't seem to be alcoholic at all.  This was a bit depressing, but we didn't let it get us down.  We promptly did some research on the internets like ya do, and we even acquired a brewing book for our continued alcoholic education.  After thinking over our previous methods we decided to buy some more cider, and make a second attempt.

Here is what our cider looked like after adding sugar and champagne yeast.
This time we were a bit more prepared with both information and supplies;  Julia had just given me a ginger ale kit for Christmas which included some champagne yeast as well as a balloon for receiving the gas exhaust rather than compressing it into the beverage.  So instead of just adding sugar to some cider and capping it like we did the first time, we heated the cider (without boiling), added a good amount of brown sugar (because we are adventurous and can't take the normal route aka cane sugar/honey), we then added champagne yeast to a heated mug of the sugar/cider mix (waiting until substantially reacting), and then poured the contents of both into our glass jug seen above, and capped with the balloon and a rubber band just to be safe.

This was just a few hours after the initial photo.
To our great excitement, we immediately began to see results.

The following morning we awoke to see that the process had continued to work overnight.
 Since things seemed to be going well we decided to let it remain sitting on the radiator for the next week, and it clearly did the job.
Around a week later, the fermenting had slowed to a mild trickle, and it was time to syphon off the good stuff.
After we had made the decision that the initial fermenting process was completed, we poured the majority of the beverage off into an identical jug; the sediment at the bottom of the fermenting jug was discarded.  We then let it sit for about another week, during which, the majority of the remaining sediment fell to the bottom, and we then repeated the syphoning process into the cleaned fermenting jug for carbonation.  This process failed, the carbonation that is... we added sugar to the fermented beverage, but there might not have been enough yeast to react, or perhaps the cap we used was not sealed well enough, and we were left with apple wine.  This did not prevent us, however, from enjoying our first semi successful batch of hard cider.  Which is very very hard, and a bit bitter... kinda like champagne without the carbonation.

One of our attempts to reduce the bitterness of our cider was to add it to a warm cup of jasmine tea with honey, which I very much enjoyed; Julia, however, still found it too bitter.

We have already begun our third batch which seems to be fermenting even more frantically than the last, and promises to be quite delicious as long as we pay a bit more attention as well as learn a bit from our past mistakes.

Maybe someday we will even advance to making our own beer, or at least a cider that comes out a bit smoother and perhaps even carbonated, but until then I'm going to keep enjoying my apple wine.

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