Ye Compleat Guide to TurboCider

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Ye Compleat Guide to TurboCider

Post by oldbloke » Tue Jun 03, 2014 9:10 pm

Originally on THBF...

TurboCider? What's that then?

TurboCider is so called because it's quick and easy to make - no tedious messing about with real apples - and NOT because it's stupidly strong (though you can add extra sugars if you really want to).
With a little effort and some time you can make a truly excellent cider; with almost no effort you can make a cider that compares well with all but the best commercial products.
Standard recipes come out at between 5 and 6% ABV.


There are TurboCiders to fit all 4 of the homebrew philosophies - you can do a proper craft cider, you can do a very-good-but-not-entirely-pure cider, you can go down the "let's have fun seeing what works" route, or, if you really must, you can make loopyjuice.

How do you make it?

The basic idea is to use cheap supermarket apple juice, chuck it in a fermenter with some yeast, and wait. "Simples"
All the ingredients are ready to go with no treatment, so it really is an easy brewday.

But... that produces something that isn't really all that good so there are a few refinements to be made if you want a decent cider.
First of all, apple juice sold for drinking lacks the tannin that cider apples have, so you need to provide some - either powdered tannin from a homebrew shop, or some very strong tea.
Then, the yeast will certainly appreciate some nutrient.
After that you have some choices to make...

What style of cider do you want?

Clean or funky:
If you want the funky west country farmyard style, you may need to add malic acid and you will need either a yeast carrying the lactobacillus or you’ll have to buy a lactobacillus culture to go with whatever yeast you pick. The cider will need enough maturing time for a secondary malolactic fermentation to take place. With this style the flavour from straight apple juice should be fine, but you can include a bit of some other juice if you want.
If you want the clean style, you don't want extra acid (malic or other) - it'll become too sharp - and you can use any yeast. With this style the flavour may not be great, so it's common to include some other juice to round out the flavour and add body.

Dry or sweet:
If you want it dry you just ferment it right out, rack or bottle it, and leave to mature and/or condition. It can be very dry though!
If you want it sweet, the simplest way is to include some non-fermentable sweetener (eg Splenda) in the recipe. It can go in at the start, or if you wait until bottling time you can vary dosage across the bottles. An alternative is to serve it over a little fresh apple juice. If you try to add a powdered sweetener to finished cider it'll just provide nucleation points for the CO2 and you'll lose all your fizz, very suddenly.

Fizzy or still:
Still is easy - just ferment it right out, stabilise as for wine (potassium sorbate + sodium metabisulphite) if you're a worrier, and you're done.
If you want some fizz, you can batch or bottle prime with any sugar, as you would with ale (but cider likes a bit more fizz than ale, so more priming sugar). Occasionally people use apple juice as the sugar source for priming. A few people prefer to force-carbonate, either in a keg as is sometimes done with ale or using a Sodastream.

Flavoured cider
If you want something like the now popular commercial flavoured ciders, a consensus is emerging that it's best to add the flavour at or near the end of fermentation: the brewing process can alter flavours a fair bit or just blow them straight out the airlock.
If you want to get everything in at the beginning, you'll need quite a lot of whichever flavour juice you use to successfully compete with the apple and alcohol - at least 1.5l in every gallon (33% of the volume).
Various flavoured syrups (eg Lowicz, fairly widely available) are also popular as you can get more flavour in less volume - but it also brings extra sugar so the ABV is going to go up.

Which apple juice?

Any juice seems to work. Some people prefer not to use "from concentrate" juice, but that's what the majority of TurboCider is made from. Most people go for whatever's cheapest at the time. Just check that there's no sorbate or sulphite preservatives in it. You can also use apple juice concentrate (eg Suma) - this can get you more apple into the brew but unavoidably ups the ABV.
I've had, or read of, successful results with juices from all the supermarket chains, from their cheapest and top-line ranges. Generally, if you like the flavour as juice, it'll make a cider with a flavour you like. Personally I now always use Suma concentrate as my base juice - the acidity is ideal, the flavour is great, and you get more apple into each gallon. It does cost a bit more though.
Cloudy juices: Unless it says otherwise on the pack, most cloudy juices are produced by heat treatment (and thus indicate nothing about the quality of the juice), and this cloudiness will not usually be destroyed by the fermentation. Unless you want a cloudy cider or are convinced the juice has a better flavour (some people are), probably best avoided as it makes it harder to tell when fermentation is done just by looking.

Which yeast?

Again, any yeast works. Even bread yeast, according to some brewers!
For the funky malolactic fermented version, yeast cultured from a bottle of Old Rosie is known to carry the lactobacillus.
If you're buying a lactic culture, or doing the clean style, the default is a cider or champagne yeast (it's believed they're at least sometimes the same strain anyway)
Without proper side-by-side taste tests it's hard to be sure, but:
An ale yeast may give a slightly softer fuller flavour (I've had somebody tell me a TurboCider made with Munton's Gold tasted like champagne) - ale yeasts are currently popular with some American cider makers using real apples;
Some wine yeasts (eg Gervin D) are perhaps a little bit funkier, even when doing the clean style;
At least 1 red wine yeast (Young's general purpose red) definitely gives a fruitier finish.
NB. Some cider yeasts come with a non-fermentable sweetener mixed in - this should be clearly indicated on the pack/website

Which other juice?

The malolactic fermented style doesn't need anything but apple juice, and some would say you shouldn't mix in anything else. But you can if you like.
The clean style, on the other hand, benefits greatly from the addition of some other juice - it can really help round out the flavour and add body.
And of course if you're trying to make something like the flavoured ciders now in the shops, you'll have to.
If you're after a particular flavour, obviously you use that juice (or a flavouring syrup).
If you're just giving a bit of help to the clean style, you want not too much of something not too sharp, that won't stand out too much against the apple.
This is part of the recipe where you can have fun experimenting. Cranberry and blueberry are known to work well. The Lowicz syrups are very popular with some brewers.
Just avoid any with sorbate or sulphite preservatives, and try to use ones with similar sugar content to apple juice so the ABV stays about the same (unless you want it lifted).


Lots of people use tea as the tannin source. Normal black tea is fine. Do flavoured ones like Earl Grey make a difference? Very hard to say.
However, powdered tannin leaves an extra half litre of space for more juice!


Unless you want to be able to taste your adjunct juice as what it is, keep it down to 1/2 litre or less per gallon.
The tea wants to be strong but you don't want to waste too much volume on it, so something like 3 or 4 teabags in a mug, per gallon. Or half to 1tsp powdered tannin per gallon.
1tsp nutrient per gallon.
1tsp malic acid per gallon, if you want it for malolactic fermentation.
If you're working with sachet yeast and demijohns, consider doing 2 or 3 at once and splitting the sachet across them. You still get an adequate pitching rate and you can test the effects of having slight recipe differences between the brews.


You can add spices...
Around 200g fresh ginger (per gallon) finely sliced and simmered in some of the juice (or the tea) for about 20 minutes is quite good. Less doesn't really stand out enough; use more if you're doing a full-on ginger cider rather than a cider with ginger notes.

Some people like to add some real apple - often Bramley

Pectolase: Not really needed with normal apple juice but it might come in handy if something else you include has appreciable pectin. Won't make cloudy AJ clear.

Sugar: You can add extra sugar and end up with rocketfuel if you really want to, but the available apple intensity from shop juice doesn't really work well with higher ABVs: you don't get a great product. The stuff is quite strong enough as it is - if anything, look for ways to make it weaker without losing the apple! A little honey might improve the body though, and add a few flavour notes.

Chalk: Some juice is more acid than is ideal (or maybe just the malic/citric balance is off). You can end up with a rather sharper cider than you really want. I've tried adding chalk (from a homebrew shop, not just any old chalk!) at a rate of 2tsp/gallon. In the absence of proper side-by-side tests I can't really say how effective it was. Suma concentrate diluted about 1:6 is dead centre of the ideal acidity range.

Hops: Dry-hopping cider is now quite popular (not tried it myself). Around 5g of hops per gallon added to the fermenter for up to a week before bottling. Recommended varieties include Cascade, Citra, Palisade, Amarillo, Simcoe, Galaxy, Sorachi Ace, Nelson Sauvin and Centennial; some also use traditional bittering hops like Galena or Fuggles – as they’re not boiled they impart flavour rather than bitterness

Process - Overview

Standard sanitising regime;
Rehydrate the yeast, or even make a starter, if your yeast needs it;
Chuck everything in the fermenter, leaving decent headspace;
Top up after initial vigorous ferment dies down.
When done: If doing a secondary malolactic ferment and/or bulk maturing, rack;
Bottle or keg

Process - primary fermentation
There are some How-To guides with pics listed further down

You just chuck everything in - that's the beauty of TurboCider, it's so simple.
OK, not really quite that simple...

Sanitise all your gear as usual
If the yeast needs rehydrating, follow the instructions that came with it. If you're culturing some up (eg from a bottle of commercial cider) you'll probably need to build it up as a proper starter. Some yeasts, eg Young's Cider yeast, can just be chucked in dry (so can some of the ones that claim to need rehydrating but let's not take chances)
Then you really do just chuck it all in, being as splashy as you like to provide some oxygen for the yeast's initial aerobic let's-grow-more-cells phase.
Leave plenty of headroom: it can form quite an impressive foamy crust - in a demijohn, at least 3/4 litre space, maybe more.
In the first few hours you'll see the yeast start to colonise the whole brew, slowly turning it opaque. Then a crust forms, and finally - up to a day later - you start to see serious airlock activity (if you have an airlock). The crust may come and go as the ferment progresses.
Top up with the remaining juice on day 5, it will have calmed down a lot by then.
Sometime between days 10 and 22 it will be finished. In glass vessels you'll be able to see that it's cleared, in other fermenters (or if you used cloudy juice) you may need to use a hydrometer - it should get down close to 1000 or even below.
Now you can bottle, or rack to another vessel for bulk maturation and/or malolactic fermentation.

Process - secondary malolactic fermentation

GraysAlchemy is the expert on this. All I know is that you have to make sure there's some lactobacillus in there, and some malic acid for it to work on, and leave it for ages.
There's a pic of the impressive "pellicle" formed by the malolactic fermentation in the photos section at the end.

Process - conditioning

To get decent fizz into a cider you want around 10gm of sugar per litre - or 1tsp per 500ml bottle (or pint - it doesn't need to be that exact)
If bottling, you can batch prime and then bottle, or go round the bottles with a funnel and a teaspoon measure - not so bad if you're only doing a gallon or two, but a pain on 5...
If you use apple juice to prime, you need about 50ml to each 500ml/pint bottle
For the remaining yeast to generate the CO2 for the fizz, it needs to be kept warm for a couple of weeks, then to get the CO2 into the cider it needs to be kept cool for a couple of weeks. These are recommended minimum times: you can get away with a shorter warm period but you get less fizz; you can get away with it not being all that warm if you leave it a lot longer.

THE LONGER YOU LEAVE IT THE BETTER IT GETS - It's often very quaffable, but rarely great, when young - in particular the non-malolactic fermented versions can be a bit sharp at first, but this does fade. I always have a bottle of any batch as soon as it's had its "2 weeks warm 2 weeks cold" conditioning, to see what it's like, and it's often pretty good, but mainly we drink the oldest stuff I have: it continues to improve for some time. Quite a few people, like brewers working with real apples, and especially if doing a malolactic fermentation, wouldn't dream of touching it before it's 6 months old at the very least - rather like mead brewer's, their ideal is to start drinking one year's batch when they start brewing the next year's. With a non-malolactic fermented style there's no need to go to those lengths, but as much patience as you can muster will be rewarded!

Typical 1 gallon recipes

Typical recipe, around 5 to 5.5% depending on exact juices: 3.5l apple juice, 0.5l blueberry, 0.5l tea, 1tsp nutrient, cider yeast

Slightly more appley as no volume used for tea, 5.5 to 6%: 4l apple juice, 0.5l cherry, 1tsp tannin, 1tsp nutrient, cider yeast

More apple again, due to using concentrate, around 6.5 to 7%: 0.5l concentrate, 0.5l apple juice, 0.5l cranberry, water to 4.5l, 1tsp tannin, 1tsp nutrient, cider yeast

Typical 5 gallon recipes

See ScottM's "stripped back" how-to - and the comments on it

ABV calculations

Typical recipes give somewhere from 4.5 to 6%.
Your juice cartons will tell you how much sugar you have, and you can assume it all ferments away.
This rule of thumb is good enough: 20gm/litre=1%, or 100gm/litre=5%, or 454gm(=1lb)/gallon=5%
Most apple juice - and other juices - are between 100 and 115gm/litre. Allowing for the tea, you'll have somewhere between 400 and 460 gm of sugar per gallon: 4.5 to just over 5%. If you use powdered tannin you'll get a bit more: 450 to 517gm, for 5 to 6.4% or so.
According to my refractometer, the batch I made on 2013-05-03 is 11.4Brix, implying 5.6% - that's Prince's juice with a half litre of cherry. My optimistic hydrometer reckons it'll be more.
If you use concentrate you'll get a bit more again: half a litre of concentrate is equivalent to 3.5l of normal apple juice, in apple and sugar.
Priming sugar at about 5g per 500ml bottle will add about 0.5%. Priming with juice doesn't change the ABV, but you will end up with 9 bottles instead of 8 from your demijohn.

How-To guides and other useful/interesting links

Know any good links?
Will fix these links when I get a mo

OldBloke's How-To (has pictures)

Chumsky's Turbo Cider Recipe Collection - viewtopic.php?f=13&t=16049&hilit=turbo+cider

ScottM's no-need-to-buy-brewing-equipment TurboCider guide for people who aren't sure about taking up the hobby

ScottM's "My 1st TurboCider" How-To

ScottM's stripped-back TurboCider How-To (has pictures)

GraysAlchemy's Old Rosie yeast cultivation How-To

OldBloke's 6way TurboCider taste test - adjunct juice comparisons: http://forum.craftb

OldBloke's 8way TurboCider taste test - yeast comparisons: http://forum.craft