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How to Make Good Breton Cider

Jean-Yves Jacob, from Brittany in Western France, is an old hand at making authentic Breton cider. Here is the first part of his article telling how it's done.

Breton Cider

The steps:

  1. Good choice of apples
  2. Collecting apples at the right period
  3. Brewing with mature fruits with no disease
  4. Clarify the wort immediately when it get out of the press
  5. Transfer the wort as soon as it's clear
  6. Low fermentation temperature in a fresh cellar, with airlock
  7. Bottling

1. Good choice of apples.

The good apples varieties must give the wort a density above 1055 (i.e. more than 115 gr of sugar per litre )

Different categories of apples:

  • the sweet and sweet/bitter apples : "Douce MOËN"; "Douce COËT LIGNE"; they're rich in sugar, they're the basis of the cider.
  • the bitter apples: "Jeanne Renard"; "Kermerrien"; "Marie Menard"; they give the body and help to clear the cider (we say: faire le "chapeau brun"); they 're also antiseptic.
  • the acid/sour apples : give fresher, improve the flavour and protect against the diseases of the cider.

Example of a "pommage" apple's mixing/blending : 4/10 of sweet apples + 3/10 bitter/sweet apples + 2/10 bitter apples + 1/10 acid apples.

2. Collecting apples.

There are 3 periods for collecting apples:

  • apples of 1st season: September/October: give sweet cider, must be drunk early
  • apples of 2nd season: October/November: give the best cider (the one I try to do !!!)
  • apples of the 3rd season: November/December : give dry to very dry cider

As soon as they are collected, the apples are stored in a safe place (to protect against soil humidity and bad weather). Apples which are not mature are poor in sugar, and the cider will not be clear and will be low in alcohol.

Selection and Pressing of the Apples

Remember that in the second part we said : collecting good apples, that means:

  • Don't press unripe apples which give a wort poor in sugar, difficult to clear and ferments too quick so you get a cloudy cider which is low in alcohol.
  • Remove all the rotten apples, they also give a cider low in alcohol with too much sediment, so no good to drink.

Washing

This must be done to get a cider which will keep; drain off the water.

Grinding

Grinding produces a thin pulp and makes the extraction of the juice easier; it's done with an apple mill.

Leave the pulp to rest for about 6 hrs (at about 8C; or 2hr at higher temperatures) to get a better aroma, more juice and a better colour of the cider.

Press

There are a lot of different types of press available, most of them are good, but the most important thing is to press slowly, 1 000 kg per hr or more, to get the best of the juice ( quantity and quality ).

What Is The Wort Made Of?

  • SUGAR : 100 to 150 gr per ltr, as with beer it forms alcohol with the yeast during fermentation.
  • MALIC ACID : from 2-4 gr per ltr in the sweet, sweet/bitter and bitter apples to more than 10 gr per ltr in the acid apples. The acid protects against diseases in the cider, helps to clear the wort and conserves it, keeping it fresher.
  • TANNIC MATTER : less than 1 gr per ltr in the acid
  • apples to 2-3 gr in the sweet/ bitter apples and about 5 gr or more in the bitter apples. They give the color, the body and the bitterness of the cider.
  • NITROGEN MATTER : gives food to the yeast to transform the sugar into alcohol. If the wort is poor in nitrogen matter, the yeast stops working earlier and the cider still has a high gravity at the end of fermentation. If the wort is clear well before fermenting, 30 to 50% of the nitrogen matter are eliminated, that helps a lot to get a natural sweet cider.
  • PECTIN (glucid substances ) : they are only in well ripened apples; they coagulate with the enzymes "methyl esterase" to make the "chapeau brun" during the clarifying period (it takes 5-8 days ).
  • MINERAL SALTS : there are many of these : carbonates,phosphates, sulphates, potassium chlorides, calcium, magnesium. These salts are essential for a good yeast growth (there're also useful for the human body!)
  • ENZYMES, AROMA MATTER and MICRO- ORGANISMS.
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