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Apfelwein

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 14 April 2015 at 17:06
Apfelwein
Apple Wine

I was recently introduced to the treasure that is Apfelwein by a fellow on another forum named "EdWort," who lives in the US but has strong family ties
in Germany. He has a thorough and detailed post about it here, which you can read, if you want to:

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=14860

I barely made it through the first page of the thread before deciding that this one was too German for me not to try - it also triggered a few
memories that I hadn't thought about in quite a while, so I made it my mission last week (April 8th, to be exact) to give this a go. Here is some background
on the subject, along with an accounting of my attempt at this traditional German beverage.

Fair warning: I am absolutely incapable of brevity, so grab a cup of coffee, a bottle of home-brewed beer...or perhaps a glass of apfelwein...before
proceeding!

As I said, this one quickly became yet another labour of love for me, as it has some personally-significant family ties. My family is part of an "ethnic
group" (for lack of a better term) known as "Germans from Russia," which means that they originated in Germany (usually in what is now Southwestern Germany
and Alsace), then migrated to the Russian Empire at the invitation of Catherine the Great and her descendents in order to set up "colonies" and farm the rich
Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean soil. Specifically, my family belonged to the sub-group called Schwarzmeerdeutsche(Black Sea Germans), settling in what
is now Ukraine between Crimea and Bessarabia (modern-day Moldova). Later on, under the tyrannical rule of successive Russian Emperors, conditions became
untenable for these stubborn, freedom-loving Germans, and many of them took their agricultural talents to the American Midwest and to Argentina, where they
still have close-knit, thriving communities today. The ones who stayed behind were to eventually suffer extremely brutal oppression that could be called
"ethnic cleansing" at best - and "genocide" at worst - but that's another discussion.

In any case, to get back on track, my direct German ancestors emigrated from Sulz, on the Beresan River in Ukraine, to what is now Dunn County, North Dakota,
where they took up a rural life and thrived. We know that they brewed beer there, because the hops are still growing wild there, and I intend to take a trip
"back home" with my father this spring in order to bring back some cuttings/rhizomes from these hops in an attempt to grow them here.

Eventually, my grandfather came along, which of course led to me. My grandfather was an avid wood-worker and gardener, very close to the land - and as I get
older, I find it more and more compelling for me to emulate his simple, self-sufficient lifestyle, hence my interests in things such as charcuterie,
gardening - and lately, woodworking, brewing, cheese-making...and wine-making.

My grandfather made a lot of wine - I don't remember him actually making any, but my dad does, and together, we are working on re-creating some of the wines
that my grandfather made - chokecherry wine will most likely be our first "official" project, as we both recently got home wine-making kits and we each have
a supply of chokecherries, carefully packaged and frozen since last fall.

What I do remember, with great clarity, is that my grandfather made this same apfelwein that is described by EdWort in the link above; although, since
he grew up in the US, he simply called it "apple wine," which would have been an English translation of the German term that he would have heard fro the
older folks as a child. I remember seeing many bottles and juice jars of apple wine - in different shapes and sizes - lining the shelves of his basement. I
also remember "borrowing" a couple of bottles of it during my teen years, and I to this day, I can still taste how good it was - nearly exactly as EdWort's
descriptions say it is. It was a practical wine - without fuss or frivolity - very much like my grandfather, and as I was reading the opening posts by
EdWort, I realised that this very stuff must the same as the "apple wine" that my grandfather would make, and set out to re-create it.

As I said above, this is simple - very simple - perfectly suited for a rural lifestyle and "amateur" farmhouse winemakers who are not terribly concerned with
enzymes, additives, vintages and so on. It is meant to be a way to make use of the abundance of fresh apples in the autumn, and will provide lasting
refreshment throughout the year ahead. I managed to read through 71 pages of EdWort's extensive thread, and I had to chuckle at many of the people who
replied and how they were excited at the idea of trying this traditional wine - and who then proceeded directly to modifying it, playing with the formulas
and ratios, "twiddling with the knobs," and generally working very hard to create something else entirely. I am 100% certain that what these folks created
was good stuff - but was it the traditional apfelwein that EdWort tried so hard to teach us about? I'm not so sure.

My amusement was short-lived, however, when I saw that because I have no specialised shop for home-brewing supplies nearby (the closest one is 250 miles
away), I would also have to make a couple of slight modifications of my own; I hope that they indeed indeed ended up being quite minor, and do not affect the
characteristics of the traditional wine in an essential way.

Here are some vital statistics for my attempt at making apfelwein:

Batch size: EdWort makes it in 5-gallon batches, but my attempt was for 1 gallon (hey, it works for me!).

Apple juice: Back in the day, freshly-harvested apples from any local source would have been used; given the time of year, my location and my resources, this
isn't much of an option for me, but that's alright, for there is a perfectly-acceptable, albeit modern alternative. EdWort reports consistently delicious
results using store-bought apple juice, as long as said apple juice is free of preservatives (ascorbic acid is the sole "acceptable" additive), and is
pasteurised. Due to the limited inventory of my local grocery, I only had one variety of apple juice that would "fit the bill" - it was a store brand that
was 100% apple juice (good) and pasteurised (also good), but with no preservatives (which would have been bad). In short, it was just right! The flavour of
this particular apple juice seeme very well balanced between sweet and tart to me, and I am quite happy with the choice. It is not the TreeTop brand that
EdWort says he uses, but the next time I have the chance, i will definitely get some of that and try it for comparison.

Sugar: The addition of sugar to this beverage kicks up the ABV from 6% (which is what it would be with no added sugar) to 8.5%, which moves it from a cider
and into the realm of wine. EdWort uses 2 pounds of corn sugar per 5 gallons and reports wonderful results; unfortunately, the closest corn sugar available
to me that I am aware of is 250 miles away, so that option was out for me. I also suspect that my grandfather probably had none available to him, either, so
this was no big deal. Reading the thread, it looked as though there are several "acceptable" alternatives, including brown sugar, which triggered some vivid
memories from my childhood. I remember very clearly that my grandfather always eschewed white sugar in favour of brown sugar for everything that he
sweetended; he had a little yellow TupperWare container of it on the table and would spoon or shake some of it out as needed. With that in mind, I decided to
use dark brown sugar; I know that folks report a darker and slightly-sweeter end product with brown sugar, but this is not a problem for me, as I certainly
remember his wine being darker-coloured and having a bit of sweetness to it, with a nice alcohol warmth (not heat) that would sneak up on you. So, brown
sugar it would be - as mentioned above, EdWort uses 2 pounds of corn sugar per 5 gallons, so I scaled this amount down for a 1 gallon batch, and measured
4/10 of a pound to use for this attempt.

Yeast: EdWort uses Montrachet yeast, but this was also unavailable to me at the moment. What I did have was Premier Cuvée, which by all accounts (that I can
find) is very similar to Montrachet, so I had no qualms about using it. EdWort uses a packet of yeast per 5 gallons of juice; I thought that my package had
about a quarter of a packet in it, but when I poured it in, it looked closer to a third or half of a packet, and I am sure that this will work just fine.

That's all there is to it - everything needed to carry on a very old, German tradition in the 21st Century. Following EdWort's basic procedure, I sanitised
my equipment, dropped about a quarter of the total apple juice (I had two half-gallon containers of it) into my fermenter, dissolved my sugar in the
remaining half of the first container of juice, then poured it in. Next, I added my yeast and ran the remaining half-gallon of apple juice through the funnel
in order to rinse everything down into the fermenter. The result was a nice, clear (at first), dark(ish) mixture that already looked very much like my
grandfather's old apple wine; this gave me some reassurance that I should be on the right track.

EdWort starts right off with an airlock, rather than a blow-off tube; but old habits die hard, so I started out with a blow-off tube, which would get the
apfelwein through the first few days of active fermentation.

The next morning, I was happy to see some very vigorous bubbling in the fermenter, letting me know that things were moving along very nicely. The apple juice
had become quite cloudy over-night, which is something to be expected; according to EdWort's schedule, it will clear off very nicely at the four-week mark,
and my limited experience with making apple cider agrees with this.

Three days later, it appeared that the fermentation had slowed a quite bit, so I replaced the blow-off tube with an airlock. I will do my best to ignore it
until the 4-week mark, and then see what we have at that time. After a total of perhaps six or eight weeks, I'll bottle it in the traditional German way -
without any carbonation/priming sugar - and will then do my best to forget about it until early fall. If I get the chance, I will of course get a few more
batches of apfelwein going, because I have a feeling that a gallon of this will not be nearly enough!

That's where things are for now; more as it happens, etc. &c. My thanks to EdWort for taking the time to introduce this tradition to me, especially as it re-
kindled a few very treasured family memories.

Ron

Edited by TasunkaWitko - 14 September 2017 at 16:36
TasunkaWitko - Chinook, Montana

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 June 2015 at 08:00
I started this project on April 8th; this morning - over 2 months later - I transferred the apfelwein to its permanent home, re-purposing a 1-gallon
jug from a very good cider that comes from an awesome orchard in my mother's hometown:



The transfer went without incident; there was very little trub to sift through and my mini auto-siphon performed like a champ. My yield was just an ounce or
two below the predicted gallon, and I can live with that.

Naturally, I had to try just a small sample! It was very good, and I am very sure that I achieved a measure of success with this. The apple comes through very
nicely, and the apfelwein seems crisp, dry and refreshing, just as advertised, with a comforting, warm finish. It is not sweet, but there is something
there that resembles sweetness - I'm nt enough of an expert to define it, but I like it.



I put the wine away to mature and develop its characteristics. I'll do my best to forget about it until around Halloween or Thanksgiving, at which time I'll
sample it again. According to EdWort's timeline, It should really be coming into its glorious own by that time.

If I get the chance, I'll start another batch of this soon, to carry me through winter. It really is good stuff!
TasunkaWitko - Chinook, Montana

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote CB900F Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 June 2015 at 10:43
Taz;

I'm in kind of a time bind, so can't post on this subject
as I'd like to. Do remind me next week & I'll revisit it.

900F
Birth certificate!? He don't need no steenkink birth certificate!!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RobertMT Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 August 2015 at 19:43
I had to try this. I started with 3 1/2 gallon batch.

2 gallons three apple fresh pressed (tree top brand 100% USA juice)
1 1/2 gallons tree top brand apple cider
2 lbs light brown sugar
1/2 pkg Montrachet Yeast (red star brand)
10% PA to start
racked to secondary at two weeks, fermented it another week, cold crashed and primed with 1/2 can tree top frozen apple juice concentrate, bottled five six packs.
After three weeks of bottle carb, had mild carb. Drank couple six packs and going to let other three bottle age few months.

This was pretty good, a little dry and hoochy, age should mellow it out.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RobertMT Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 August 2015 at 19:44

Next I made 3 1/2 gallon batch of
Pappy's Pub Cider

I used 3 gallons of three apple FP, tree top juice and substituted 1/3 of called for sugar, with frozen apple juice concentrate (3 cans), added one week into primary formation. I used washed yeast from Apfelwein brew.

This fermented until yeast just about stopped, 3 weeks, I then racked into secondary and added another can of FAJC, bringing it back to 1.003 SG, I waited another week, pulled airlock and sealed secondary. This allowed some carb to build as fermentation, stopped due to too high alcohol content. I then cold crashed and bottled. Has very little carb, but not quite flat. It's very strong somewhat sweet cider, I expect age will help mellow it too.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RobertMT Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 August 2015 at 20:01
I was getting closer to what I wanted. I came across thisGraff (malty slightly hoppy cider)
I did five gallon batch, using Brandon O's recipe pretty close, I ended up using 1/2 oz of USA grown Hallertauer hops and Nottinham yeast.

I ended up using swamp cooler method to keep fermentation temps down and let it run three weeks before clearing it up and cold crashing it. I primed with 1 can FAJC and bottled two cases. I will let them carb three weeks and give it a final test. From my tasting while bottling, this is going to be very good. It goes down smooth and has good body, none of the hoochy taste, just a hint of ale, along with appley taste. Every bit as good as Red's, before this ages or carbs. It's about 9% but doesn't taste hot, I'll be starting another batch soon.

Edited by RobertMT
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 September 2015 at 06:50
guys - my apologies for not keeping up on this. I just experienced the July and August from Hell, as far as work is concerned. Things have calmed down quite a bit, and I can hopefully keep up better.

Unfortunately, I may also have to start a new batch. My #2 son - who admittedly has a "problem" - decided to guzzle this down like cheap ThunderBird before I even had a chance to try it. This was a couple of weeks ago, after I had very, very deliberately nursed this apfelwein from beginning, through fermenting and during aging. I wasn't even going to try it until October, as it would presumably have been really hitting its stride by then.

But now, nothing.

I am still trying to decide whether or not to start a new batch, or use the boy as a "donor" for experimentation into blood wine.

Robert - it looks like you are onto some nice things there - keep us posted!

Edited by TasunkaWitko - 14 September 2017 at 15:20
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 September 2017 at 15:46

Well, a late update on this -

Since my last posting, I started a second batch, and my son got into it AGAIN.

I then started a third batch on 2 October 2016, and told the boy to stay out of it, on pain of banishment.... Angry
 
Over the months, I racked this apfelwein off the lees once, then put it away to bulk-age. For a month or so, I told myself to forget about it, and after a while, I did!

Somewhere in that time, I re-filled the air-lock a couple of times, and finally, a month or so ago, I put a 38-mm cap on the fermenter and put it in the refrigerator, hoping that it would pull down any vestigial sediment etc.

Last night, I bottled this, and I am thinking that I really have something nice. There was just the tiniest bit of sediment on the bottom of the fermenter; but otherwise, the apfelwein seemed wonderfully clear and had a beautiful, pinot-grigio-like colour that was a little lighter than expected; I have no idea why, it was so light, but it looked amazing.

I washed and sanitised all equipment, then got down to doing it. It was quite easy, thanks to my mini auto-siphon and bottling wand (thanks for the recommendation on that, PitRow!) - in fact, it was even easier than bottling beer. One thing I was eager to try was this handy gadget, which turned out to be very easy to use and made corking a breeze:

http://a.co/9P7ZAVw

It is currently unavailable at Amazon, it seems, but can be found here, also:

http://mastervintner.com/master-vintner-mini-corker/

I was expecting to get 4 bottles of apfelwein from the batch, plus a partial fifth bottle; because of this, I used 4 bottles that were corked, and one with a screw top that I planned to keep handy for sampling and "quick consumption." I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find that I did indeed get 5 full bottles. I had just enough left over for a small sample, and it sure was good. The apfelwein was pleasantly dry, and it did have a nice "apple-y" flavor to it that I am sure developed as it was sitting in my closet and aging. I am eager to see how it will be after some time in the bottle.

The bottles of apfelwein are currently sitting upright, in the dark, while the pressure equalizes and the corks settle in. In a few days, I will store my apfelwein horizontally and leave it alone for a few weeks while the "bottle shock" wears off. I am guessing that when the time comes to sample it, I'll be quite pleased with it.

Now, I should probably get some more started...for next year....

TasunkaWitko - Chinook, Montana

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 September 2017 at 16:38
Originally posted by CB900F CB900F wrote:

Taz;

I'm in kind of a time bind, so can't post on this subject as I'd like to. Do remind me next week & I'll revisit it.

900F
 
I really, really regret that I neglected to follow up on this...right when CB posted it, we were struggling just to keep our house, and afterwards, I simply forgot.... Cry


Edited by TasunkaWitko - 14 September 2017 at 16:43
TasunkaWitko - Chinook, Montana

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