I’ve been amazed at how many people recently have been asking about making hard cider. I did some researching and discovered that it’s really not that hard at all. Does this sound familiar? [This is where you’ll want to cue the ominous and foreboding background music]
I found a recipe for making a nice, simple hard cider. The basic ingredients were:
- 5 gallons of apple cider
- 2 pounds of brown sugar
- Red Star Montrachet wine yeast
- Nutmeg and ginger
The most important thing I learned was that the cider needs to not have preservatives in it, specifically sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate. These will kill your yeast and your cider will not ferment. A quick check on the ingredient list will let you know if the juice or cider contains preservatives or not. I picked up 5 one gallon jugs of Murray’s apple juice from the grocery store. The Montrachet wine yeast was recommended because it’s commonly used for more fruity wine and has a dry, crisp finish.
I got my bucket fermenter sanitized and got all my equipment ready to go. I started by boiling a half gallon of water and adding 2 tsp of nutmeg and 1 tsp of ginger for flavor. I also added the sugar to this, which helped speed up it’s dissolving. I shook all of the bottles of apple juice since each had a decent layer of sedimentation on the bottom. Once I had added all 5 gallons to the fermenter, I added the water, sugar and spice mixture which brought the whole mixture to 5.5 gallons. The hydrometer read 1.063 which seemed reasonable. The whole mixture was around 80 degrees. I pitched the yeast, secured the top, added the airlock and stuck it in my bedroom closet. So far, so good!
In about 12 hours, the bubbling had begun. It bubbled away all day, nice and steady. After 24 hours of fermentation, however, I started to notice a slight off-smell. I decided to wait and see what the situation was like in the morning.
After waking up, I went back to the closet and opened the door. All of a sudden, the stench of rotten eggs punched me in the nose. It knocked me over and melted my face. Seriously. At this point, I’m starting to worry that the juice is rotting or has gone foul or something awful that’s going to cause me to die of botchulism if I decide to actually sample some of this stuff.
So I searched on google to find out what the heck is going on. It turns out that fermenting juice, even grape juice for wine, is susceptible to a release of hydrogen sulfide, or H2S. This seems happen a lot more frequently when using Montrachet yeast, too. The condition is affectionately known as rhino farts. Let me tell you, I had a whole herd of farting rhinos in my closet.
There are several sites that suggest how to potentially correct this, but there are several more that suggest letting it run it’s course and that it will pass. Rhino farts seem to be hit or miss… some people have experienced it in several batches, others using the same ingredients have not. I’m going to let it go for now, since the correction is more difficult and involved than anything I want to attempt. I just need to get past the stench, phew!
So that’s where I am, with a primary fermenter that thinks it’s a rhino with gastric issues. I’ll post more as I learn more. For now, keep your fingers crossed that the smell of sweet cider starts coming out of that fermenter soon.