Cider fermentation is a fascinating process that transforms apple juice into a refreshing and flavorful alcoholic beverage. The specific techniques and variations used in cider fermentation can vary among cider makers, leading to a wide range of cider styles and flavors.
Cider wild fermentation, also known as spontaneous fermentation or natural fermentation, refers to the process of allowing the indigenous or wild yeasts present on the apple skins and in the cider-making environment to initiate and carry out the fermentation of apple juice into cider. Instead of using commercially cultivated yeast strains, cider wild fermentation relies on the natural yeasts to convert the sugars in the juice into alcohol.
Here’s an overview of the cider wild fermentation process:
Juice Preparation: Start with freshly pressed apple juice obtained from cider apples or a blend of apple varieties. The juice should be clean and free from contaminants, but it does not need to undergo pasteurization or sulfite addition, as these treatments would kill off the natural yeast present.
Exposing to Wild Yeasts: To initiate wild fermentation, the apple juice is exposed to the natural yeasts present on the apple skins and in the cider-making environment. This can be done by allowing the juice to sit in an open container or by collecting the juice in a vessel and leaving it uncovered or partially covered. The goal is to provide access to the wild yeast while protecting the juice from airborne contaminants
Fermentation Process: The wild yeasts present on the apple skins and in the environment begin to consume the sugars in the juice and initiate fermentation. The fermentation process may take longer compared to using commercial yeast strains, as the wild yeasts may have a slower fermentation rate.
Monitoring and Control: During wild fermentation, it is important to monitor the progress of fermentation by checking the specific gravity or sugar levels. Temperature control may also be employed to ensure fermentation occurs within the desired range for the wild yeast activity
Complexity and Variation: Wild fermentation using natural yeasts can introduce a greater degree of complexity and variation to the cider. The different strains of wild yeast present in the environment can contribute unique flavors and aromas, resulting in a more diverse and distinctive cider profile. However, it is important to note that wild fermentation can be less predictable compared to using commercial yeast strains, as the fermentation process is influenced by the natural yeast populations present.
Potential Challenges: Wild fermentation carries the risk of undesirable microbial contamination, which can lead to off-flavors or spoilage. Careful attention to sanitation and monitoring the fermentation process is essential to ensure a successful fermentation and minimize the risk of spoilage.
Aging and Conditioning: After the wild fermentation process is complete, the cider may undergo a period of aging and conditioning, similar to ciders fermented with commercial yeast strains. This allows flavors to develop, mellow, and any remaining suspended particles to settle.
Cider wild fermentation can be a fascinating and experimental approach to cider making, allowing for unique flavors and characteristics to develop in the final product. It can provide a connection to the terroir and local environment, showcasing the natural microbial diversity present in the orchard and cider-making process. However, it requires careful attention to sanitation practices and monitoring to ensure a successful fermentation and avoid potential issues with off-flavors or spoilage.