Every year my apple trees are kind to me with an abundance of fruit, Im not sure why because I don't treat them nicely by any means…. One year I took to them with my chainsaw in a pathetic attempt at pruning, only to later find out I had cut off all of the most important branches. But despite my butchery they grew back with so much fruit I struggled to make use of it all. Nature is a patient and kind lady!
Im not sure what kind of apples they are, perhaps some kind of Braeburn, they are tart and slightly bitter and don't taste much like culinary apples, I really should do some investigating. Last year some friends and I spent the afternoon mincing and pressing the juice. I then added some whitelabs 007 dry english ale yeast and fermented the must out, then back sweetened with concentrate. It was a delicious cider and opened my eyes to just what was growing in my backyard (we inherited the trees when we purchased our home 5 years ago). That cider went on to win a bronze medal at NHC last year and considering it was a year old and pasteurised I suspect it could have done very well if fresh and not long in the bottle.
So this year I decided to make a Cyser. Ever since I heard of Moonlight meads apple pie mead Ive been wanting to try it. Apples, honey, Vanilla and cinnamon…. Its a combination of flavours that even when heard, gets the old saliva running! Unfortunately you can't find it in New Zealand and I just happened to stumble across 6 kilos of organic Manuka honey from Great Barrier island and I thought the strong musky taste of the Manuka would work well in a spiced Cyser. Ive selected Vinters Harvest MA33 wine yeast which ferments some malic acid since my apples are very tart I don't want the mead to end up too acidic and I don't want to do a malo lactic fermentation if I can avoid it. This is the first time Ive fermented with wine yeast and the first time Ive ever made a mead. One thing that has been very new to me is the way mead and wine makers work with yeast. I can't for the life of me find a good reference to inoculation rate. With beer we go by 1 million cells per millilitre of wort per degree plato, nice and simple. But there are no references like this for mead. Because the must is %100 fermentable, a different technique is used where by the focus is on yeast nutrition and environmental health throughout the fermentation i.e. Rather than the focus being on pitching rate, wine makers turn their attention to yeast nutrients and correct ph of the must in order to get the cell growth and fermentation character they are looking for. Im still a little uneasy about not having a firm inoculation rate to work with, but Ill wing it for now and stagger my nutrient additions over the first week of fermentation.
20kg apples crushed and pressed (I added three bags of culinary apples to fill out the batch)
6kg Organic manuka honey
4 campden tablets crushed
16g of Vinters Harvest MA33 wine yeast
11g of Fermaid A nutrient (staggered throughout the lag phase)
1 Vanilla Bean (split)
1 cinnamon quill
19/03/2014 - Mince the apples in a blender and then into this great little piece of gear my friend Logan Douglas built. He's a bit of a genius with wood (even builds his own surfboards) and this is no exception!
Collected 18 Litres of juice
Added crushed campden (to kill bacteria and slow wild yeast)
Blended it all with a stick blender for a few minutes then left in my basement for 24hrs to let the campden do its thing.
O.G. 1.115 - PH 3.6
20/03/2014 - Added pure O2 at one liter per minute for two minutes. Added yeast and 3/4tsp fermaid A.
22/03/2014 - Added 3/4tsp Fermaid A. PH shows 3.4
24/03/2014 - Added remaining Fermaid A and degassed the must again. Took a PH reading that showed 2.6 Far too low for healthy yeast metabolism. Since yeast needs potassium and honey doesn't provide enough, Ive chosen potassium hydroxide (KOH) to both raise the PH of th e must and contribute potassium ions.
Prepared a 1N solution of KOH. This was used (1ml at a time) to titrate 100ml of must back up to a PH of 3.6 Multiply the titrant by 10 and then by 18 (the total volume of the must) and you know exactly how much is needed to correct the PH of your fermentation.