Vanilla Cinnamon Apple Cider
I decided that I wanted to make a hard cider for Thanksgiving, but with a little twist. It's going to be a Vanilla Cinnamon Apple Cider. On Tuesday, I stopped at the Penzeys Spice store in Wauwatosa and picked up some Mexican vanilla beans, and Indonesian cinnamon sticks. I opened up the vanilla bean to help extract some of the flavors. I placed 1 vanilla bean and 2 sticks of cinnamon in a mason jar filled with vodka to extract the flavors out and sanitize the spices. The spices are going to sit in the mason jar until secondary fermentation about 2 weeks.
Now the fun part with Potassium Sorbate
To get the cider for the brew, I went to a local orchard in Mequon, WI called Barthel Fruit Farm. They have fresh Apple Cider for sale by the gallon. The only down side is the cider has some Potassium Sorbate in it to help preserve it and make sure nothing funky goes on, wine makers use this all the time to stop fermentation. I did not realize this till after I was home and had 5 gallons of it sitting in my fridge. The label says it contains less than 0.1% which doesn't seem like a lot until you read wine makers only use about 1/2 teaspoon of the stuff per gallon to stop fermentation. 1/2 teaspoon is 0.13% of a gallon. Basically this cider could be unfermentable.
After doing research on Potassium Sorbate, I found out that it does not kill the yeast! Though it does inhibit it from reproducing. Because it does not kill the yeast I should be able to still ferment the cider and make some tasty hard cider.
I went out to the grocery store and got 2 gallons of the store brand cider that did not contain any Potassium Sorbate. I'm going to go with a 3:2 ratio fresh cider to store bought cider. This should still give me the sweet fresh flavor that I want, but dilute out the Potassium Sorbate to help give the yeast a fighting chance. The next part is I created a yeast starter with a gallon of the store bought cider, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, and some left over corn sugar I had left over from bottling a different batch. A yeast starter is like a mini batch a beer. This way I know the yeast is working with the store bought cider and its making more of it self to help overcome the Potassium Sorbate it's going to encounter in primary fermentation.
There are the yeast starters going! I plan on letting them go for about 24 hours and then pitching them in to the primary fermenter with 3 gallons of the orchard's cider, 1 more gallon of the store bought cider, and about a half gallon of water boiled with about a pound of brown sugar in it. Let that sit in the primary for a little over a week checking to make sure its still fermenting and that the Potassium Sorbate didn't stop the yeast from reproducing. If all goes to plan I'll rack it over to the secondary fermenter with the vanilla cinnamon extract and let that sit for 2 weeks before bottling. I will keep you posted on how this is going.
Everything is together in the primary fermenter now and the yeast is still going after a couple hours so that is a good sign! I got an O.G. Of 1.043 (which I think might be a little low, my beer thief might have grabbed a lot of the yeast starter on top) we will see what the final gravity comes out to.