This year True Grist ran a group buy again for a cider blend for hard cider production from Frank E’s in Vanessa, ON. This delicious juice is cold pressed, UV-pasteurized, and non-sulphited. With the growth of the club, and positive results from last year buy, it was not a huge surprise when our order came in at three time’s last year (420 gallons this year vs. 140 gallons last year). This required six bins of apples in comparison to last year’s two! This year’s juice was made up of the following varieties:

  • 25% Northern Spy – Heirloom variety providing an excellent base (low tannin and high acidity)
  • 25% Royal and Imperial Gala – Sweet variety boosting sugar content of blend (low tannin and acidity)
  • 25% Pioneer McIntosh – Aromatic variety (low tannin, high acidity)
  • 25% Red Cort – Aromatic variety (low tannin, high acidity)

These varieties lend the tartness required for quality dry cider, as well as very pleasant aromatics. By comparison, juice intended for drinking sweet and fresh makes heavy use of low-acid, high-sweetness varieties, which if fermented may yield a bland and unbalanced high alcohol cider. Our blend is in the low end in terms of tannin content, so Homebrewers may wish to experiment with adding tannin after fermentation is complete.

Because of the large volume we were dealing with now, it was no longer practical for us to shuttle member’s containers in volunteer vehicles as we did last year. Instead, we partnered with friends Kamil Juices Urban Winery and Craft Brewery Supplies, who, no surprise, have a great set up for dealing with juice. Kamil Juices received shipment of two 1000L totes of juice for us (containing 420 gallons of juice), packaged the bulk of it into over 100 3 gallon jugs (2.5 gallons of cider in each), and provided refrigerated storage for it all in their -1C walk in cooler. The jugs we used are the same that Kamil Juices uses for wine must and were well suited to the task. Many True Grist members have chosen to ferment directly in the jugs using just a #7.5 bung and airlock – great for experimenting with different yeasts and additions.

With the goodwill of Frank E’s and Kamil Juices in working with our group of homebrewers, the added costs of transportation and handling our juice were minimal. Those who participated received the high convenience of local distribution as well as high value for the juice itself. We’ve already begun discussing next year’s buy! For now, I’ve shared some pictures and captions from the buy below.

Here are some of the first jugs to be filled with cider at Kamil Juices. Connor and Adrian at Kamil Juices filled these 3 gallon jugs to approximately 2.5 gallons for us.
The majority of the filled jugs are shown here, we had 105 total. These were then moved to Kamil Juices -1C walk in cooler for storage until picked up by True Grist members.
By the time the volunteer crew came to filled member-supplied containers the next day, we were already down to 60% of the second tote of juice.
The pick up window for the 2.5 gallon jugs of cider opened approximately 24hrs before we filled member supplied containers. Amazingly 80%+ were already picked up by the time we arrived on Thursday, and the rest were picked up Friday morning.
With our order we left very little room for error in terms of filling inaccuracies and wastage. Thankfully by the time the second tote was emptied, everyone had received their allotment, and we were left with about 7 gallons “excess” (don’t worry, none was wasted!).
The starting gravity of our cider was approximately 1.052. If fermented dry this will yield a ~7% cider. This is comparable to last year’s juice.
The pH of our juice was approximately 3.1. The effectiveness of sulphites is highly pH dependent, which is one reason we may measure this. With a pH near 3.1, 50ppm SO2 should result in a “total yeast kill”, and 25ppm a “partial yeast kill” with this juice. Juice used for hard cider making is much more tart than that used in sweet cider, which predominantly use low-acid apple varieties.
There is a huge variety of conditions that this cider is being fermented under – check out the forum or our social media to share what you’re doing with yours!