Apple Brandy Recipe

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cranky
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Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by cranky » Mon Oct 16, 2017 6:57 pm

Many people come here looking to make apple brandy then struggle to find a recipe because the information tends to get scattered and lost among the many brandy threads on the website. So after much thought and typing I have decided to write up a single post describing my apple brandy "recipe"

First off I would like to say if you are wanting to make something good and fast that you can drink straight from the still don't make apple brandy. I think it was Gooseye said it best when he said something like "This year's fruit is next year's brandy". Brandy in general takes a lot of patience and considerable time. It is not something you can rush.

I would like to note that although I specify apples in this recipe it works equally well with pears, and many other fruit for that matter, but cuts are much different with pears and most other fruit.

One of the big problem with an apple brandy recipe is that there really isn't one as such but here are the basic steps.

Step 1) Get a bunch of apples.
Step 2) Grind or chop the apples.
Step 3) Press the apples.
Step 4) Add a good wine/cider yeast to fresh pressed apple juice/sweet cider.
Step 5) Wait for cider to ferment. Don't worry if it takes a while, just be patient.
Step 6) Distill cider
Step 7) Patience, lots and lots of patience. As GaFlatwoods says "Patience is the hardest thing to put in a bottle" but it is one of the most important ingredients, particularly with apple brandy.

*Note: it is possible to make apple brandy from store bought juice with no preservatives if you desire, so if you are using store bought juice you can skip step 1 through 3.

I would also like to note, I did not list sugar, Compden tablets (or any metabisulfite) or any other added ingredients. The best recipe for apple cider to be used for brandy is apple juice / sweet cider, yeast and time, nothing else.

Some things I would like to explain at this point are some terms I may use.

Because I live in the USA we tend to use some terms other parts of the world may have trouble with.

Apple juice = filtered and clarified apple juice

Apple cider / sweet cider = apple juice that has not been fermented or clarified, this is commonly referred to in the US as just "cider". I try to use the older term "sweet cider" for clarity's sake.

Hard cider = Apple cider / apple juice which has been fermented

Now on to the details

Steps 1-3) Getting apple juice / sweet cider

It is possible to make brandy from store bought apple juice or cider. Ideally it would be unpasteurized fresh pressed purchased at the source. In the United States you cannot legally buy any unpasteurized sweet cider except at the source. Next on my list would be pasteurized sweet cider and last would be store bought apple juice. Personally I find the final product made from store bought apple juice is a bit lacking over home pressed juice but many people have made fine brandy from it. If you use commercial juice you can skip steps 1 through 3 because someone else has already done that for you but make sure the juice contains no preservatives besides citric acid. If it must be store bought apple juice, my personal favorite is Tree Top fresh pressed. They have one called "Sweet and Tart apple cider" which I think would be good, and a "3 Tree Blend" that I know is good. One thing to keep in mind is many apple juice producers use apple juice from China, which bothers many people so if you are using store bought juice and where it comes from matters to you it may require some research on your part. I have done some and Tree Top is made from USA apples from the Pacific Northwest which is one of the reasons I favor them.

Now if you want to do things the hard way you will go out and find some apple trees and pick your own. Be aware that on average you can rely on it taking approximately 16 pounds of apples to get a single gallon of juice. Some apples produce a bit more juice per pound and others a bit less but generally it runs about 16 pounds per gallon. This makes buying store bought apples and pressing them yourself something I wouldn't recommend. You may be able to buy a bin of apples and process them yourself at a reasonable price if you want to do it that way.

To make my annual brandy I need a minimum of 600-750 Lbs of apples. That will fill the boiler 3 times but not leave much for drinking as cider.

Not far from where I live, from time to time some people offer 1,000 pound bins of apples for cider or livestock for as little as 10-15 cents a pound. So if I do the math right that could potentially give you 62 gallons of sweet cider but is going to be a lot of work to make. The advantage to this is for $150 you could potentially have enough cider to make up to 3.75 gallons or around 19 bottles of finished 80 proof brandy, maybe a little more. That's about $8-10 a bottle after figuring the cost of yeast and electricity.

One question that gets asked a lot is
"What type of apples are best for brandy?"

There has always been debate about which varieties of apples and in what proportion make the best brandy. People who know me know I have a simple answer to that question.
My personal opinion is the best apples to use for apple brandy are free apples :wink: I have actually found an even better apple than free which is, free apples somebody else picks but those tend to be few and far between :lol: . With free apples you take what you can get. Of course I am aware that not everybody is going to be able to get free apples but as explained above buying them can get costly. If you have to buy them I would recommend selecting a variety of apples making sure to include "cooking" type apples if possible. It seems like the worst apples make the best brandy.

My own apple scrounging season lasts from early July to around the first of December and has been known to include more than 20 distinct varieties of apples, it often includes various pears as well. Of course there is no need to go to extremes but ideally you would include at least 3 varieties.

Step 4) A little bit about yeast

Once you have figured out how to get your juice / sweet cider it is time to ferment. This is actually where the real magic happens. Yeast absolutely love apple so leave a bit of head space for foaming, particularly if you are using unpasteurized sweet cider.
CIDER 03 AUG 17 #4 - C.JPG
This is an example of how much head space I use at the beginning of a ferment. That is a 12 gallon carboy with 8 gallons of juice and 2 five gallon carboys with 4 gallons of juice.
CIDER 04 AUG 17 #4 - C.JPG
This is a picture to show how much these foam up. It's hard to see but it came within a couple inches of the top. If I had 1 or 2 more inches of juice it would have filled the airlock and overflowed or blown out giving the fruit flies a chance to ruin the batch.

My normal procedure is to start off with lots of head space then after it settles down adding more juice until there is about 2 inches of head space. If you overfill you will either wind up with an airlock full of apple foam or blown completely out of the fermenter.

The yeast you use is very important. Never use bread yeast for apple brandy, it simply doesn't work out well. If this is your first time making apple brandy I always recommend you start with EC-1118 yeast. It is a good honest yeast that will ferment clean and make cuts much easier. After you get some experience with apple brandy you can start branching out to other yeast. I like to use 47B-1122 and D-47 because they actually add some extra fruitiness but they also make cuts much more difficult.

Other yeasts that are popular for hard cider and brandy are Nottingham and Safale S-04 but I haven't used those yet so I can't say how well they work. Some people also prefer to use wild yeast which is fine but while my experiences with wild yeast have produced acceptable results I personally find my results are better with store bought yeast.

Step 5) Wait

One thing to be aware of is yeast should match the temperature of the ferment and the temp of the ferment should match the yeast. I feel I get best results fermenting at lower temperatures which will take a bit longer so don't get in a hurry. One of the reasons for this is if the ferment is too warm and fast my understanding is it can blow the flavor compounds right out of the airlock or add off flavors. If your temperatures are too high to ferment with the yeast you want you need to find a way to cool your ferment down or a find a wine or ale yeast that will ferment at the temperature you have but don't use bread yeast.

After the cider has finished fermenting I like to let it rest for a while. This is not really necessary but I feel it improves the final product. I actually wait 30 days for the cider to ferment, then rack it off the sediment into another carboy. I fill the carboy to within an inch or two of the top to minimize airspace, then let it rest at least another month. I actually don't consider a ferment "finished" until it sucks back on the airlock.
AIRLOCK #2 - C.jpg
I seldom take an SG reading after the initial one because I figure it finishes where and when it finishes and whether that is .999 or .995 is largely irrelevant to me, when it sucks back it's ready. Often I will let the finished cider rest for a long period of time. I'm in no hurry so it may even go close to a year provided no infections show up. If an infection does show up I will run it as soon as possible. Normally left undisturbed under airlock it will sit there patiently for as long as I want to let it.

Step 6) Run it

When I'm ready to run I rack it to my boiler, flip the switch and let it run. I have run apple brandy through a pot still, a flute with 4 plates and 3 plates and the flute without using any reflux and have to say my personal preference is to run it through a simple pot still. The reason for this is that although I get higher ABV out of a single run through the flute no matter how it was run, cuts tend to be very difficult because most of the apple flavor is in the heads and the heads are so compressed it makes it difficult to reconstruct the apple flavor and I just like the final product out of the pot still better..

I have often been asked if I prefer a single run or double run, or a 1.5 run. The answer to that isn't easy either. The truth is the apple varieties I pick can vary considerably from year to year and even if they didn't the apples themselves can produce significantly different juice from one year to another. Often I will do a stripping run but run it like a spirit run to see if I like the results. More often than not I will go ahead and run it a second time. Usually the second run will produce a much nicer final product. Sometimes I will decide to run 2 or 3 stripping runs and top up my boiler with the low wines and fully fermented cider for a sort of 1.5 or perhaps better put a 1.75 run.

One big problem for a lot of people is getting enough cider for 3 stripping runs and a spirit run but I feel if you can it is worth it.

Cuts

Although brandy is generally regarded as a difficult thing to learn to distill the real problem is with the cuts. If you learn to distill making whiskey or cereal washes chances are you are cutting most if not all of the heads out and perhaps collecting into the early tails for the flavor and complexity they provide. Apple brandy requires thinking a bit differently about those cuts because the majority of the apple flavor hides in the heads. The real trick is in trying to blend back the flavor without giving yourself too much of a headache. It can be very tricky because what you really have on your hands is apple flavor that has been deconstructed and has to be put back together. This is why I collect in very small jars. By very small I mean for 12 gallons of low wines I collect in half pint increments. It means using a lot of jars but I think it makes blending much easier.

The next problem you encounter with brandy is you can't expect it to taste like the fresh fruit you made it out of. What you should be after is actually the ghost of that original fruit, after all that's why its called "spirit" isn't it? That brings us to the the next problem with apple, that ghost of the original fruit may take months to finally show up which brings us to the final step in the process.

Step 7) Patience, or as some like to call it "Aging".

At this point what GaFlatwoods says bears repeating "Patience is the hardest thing to put in a bottle" but it is necessary, especially with apple brandy. Whether you age on wood, or age white apple brandy needs time to develop. Novices often make the mistake of thinking they can age something in a week or two, or microwave it with some oak and it will magically be like 10 year old spirits in a few days. Sadly this is not true and there really is no substitute for time. Put it away and wait, when you think you have waited long enough wait some more. wait at least 6 months before trying it, then put it away and wait a year, or two, it will only get better with time.

I personally use some pretty complicated and perhaps strange aging processes at times but that's part of the fun of hobby distilling, that is also a subject for another thread.

A few links about building your own press that you may also find helpful are
My apple press which is basically made from scrap wood.
http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 50&t=62539

Bushman made one out of a Harbor Freight hydraulic press here
http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 83&t=51537

and Jimbo's is documented here
http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 83&t=32309

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by macampbell » Fri Mar 08, 2019 8:56 am

Thanks very much for posting this recipe. Just read it and it's very informative. I'm new to the forum and to distilling. I'm actually working on a business plan to build a micro-distillery on my farm in west Texas in the hopes of making brandy from my own fruit and from local grapes. I have a small orchard that I'm continually adding to, peaches, pears, & plums. May plant some strawberries as well in the near future. There are also lots of grapes being grown near me and several wineries in operation within 100 miles of my place. Hopefully that will be the feed stock for the distillery. I know this is a Home Distillers group and I respect that. But I'm looking for people to help me get my distillery up and running. If there are folks on here that would be interested in putting their skills to work, I would like to visit with you. If not, that's OK too. Hope you will allow me to be part of the discussions. Thanks again

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by still_stirrin » Fri Mar 08, 2019 1:28 pm

macampbell wrote:... I'm looking for people to help me get my distillery up and running. If there are folks on here that would be interested in putting their skills to work, I would like to visit with you. If not, that's OK too. Hope you will allow me to be part of the discussions. Thanks again
In an effort to avoid derailing Cranky’s thread, you should look in this forum for many valuable threads. A lot of questions and answers there specifically towards your interest.

viewforum.php?f=75

Have fun.
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Attention new distillers: Cranky's spoon feed info
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My 5-grain Bourbon recipe: Special K

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by belgianale » Tue Jul 09, 2019 6:08 pm

I think this looks very cool and I will definitely try something like this in the near future. I’m brand new but this doesn’t look hard and does intrigue me. Has anyone else made this?

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by cranky » Tue Jul 09, 2019 7:19 pm

belgianale wrote:I think this looks very cool and I will definitely try something like this in the near future. I’m brand new but this doesn’t look hard and does intrigue me. Has anyone else made this?
It's not really hard but it is time consuming and requires a lot of patience. The most difficult thing to get right are the cuts, reconstructing apple flavor that may not show its self for months can be quite difficult. The majority of apple flavor is in the heads. If you are doing apple for the first time you probably want to use store bought apple juice. Ferment with 1118 yeast and cuts will be much easier than with other yeasts and be patient.

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by butterpants » Tue Jul 09, 2019 8:11 pm

Terrific writeup.

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by cranky » Tue Jul 09, 2019 8:25 pm

butterpants wrote:Terrific writeup.
Thank you

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by Saltbush Bill » Wed Jul 10, 2019 12:17 am

Nice write up Cranky :thumbup:
Never have ventured down the apple path.
When that time comes I will definately be following you instruction.

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by cranky » Wed Jul 10, 2019 6:13 pm

Saltbush Bill wrote:Nice write up Cranky :thumbup:
Never have ventured down the apple path.
When that time comes I will definately be following you instruction.
Thank you, I'm surprised you haven't done apple but then I've never done a proper all grain whiskey but one of these days I will.

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by Stargazer14 » Thu Jul 11, 2019 3:38 pm

Thanks for this post.
I have a question regarding cuts and that is after running a couple batches
of apple I have a gallon that has been aging a year but has an issue - it gives me a headache.
It tastes great and is really smoothing out but if I drink an ounce or three, I get a headache in about 30 mins.
I am pretty careful in my cuts but may have over done it this time.

Other than rerunning this aged batch, is there a way to minimize this headache syndrome?
I did leave the top off the gallon bottle for a few months
but tried it again this week with same result, tho less.

Anyone have a de-heading method? It taste so nice I’d hate to ruin it.

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by cranky » Sun Jul 14, 2019 4:38 pm

Stargazer14 wrote:Thanks for this post.
I have a question regarding cuts and that is after running a couple batches
of apple I have a gallon that has been aging a year but has an issue - it gives me a headache.
It tastes great and is really smoothing out but if I drink an ounce or three, I get a headache in about 30 mins.
I am pretty careful in my cuts but may have over done it this time.

Other than rerunning this aged batch, is there a way to minimize this headache syndrome?
I did leave the top off the gallon bottle for a few months
but tried it again this week with same result, tho less.

Anyone have a de-heading method? It taste so nice I’d hate to ruin it.
I don't know if you can age that out. I had some blackberry brandy once that did the same thing. I wound up rerunning it. By chance did you age it on wood?

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by Joe_54321 » Sun Jul 21, 2019 7:00 pm

Might have to run some questions by y'all I'm in the process of putting together my first still and the 50 apple trees we planted in 2000 are whispering to me....we should make Brandy.

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by cranky » Mon Jul 22, 2019 4:32 am

Joe_54321 wrote:Might have to run some questions by y'all I'm in the process of putting together my first still and the 50 apple trees we planted in 2000 are whispering to me....we should make Brandy.
Wow, 50 twenty year old trees, what's that yield? Something like 15,000 - 30,000 LBS of apples? That's a lot of apples.

Lets see 15,000/16= 937.5 gallons of juice, or about 56 gallons of finished brandy :crazy:

I tried to cover most everything that comes up in my original post but I'm happy to answer any questions you have.

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by Captain Pappy » Wed Aug 07, 2019 10:44 am

cranky,
I know this is an old thread, but I wanted to ask something that you didn't mention nor did anyone else ask. In my experience, apple throws a LOT of lees (yeast sediment). I have seen up to 2 inches worth of yeast settle out of apple wine, and still not be clarified. Aren't you afraid of autolysis letting the cider/wine sit on so much sediment?

I personally always move the cider/wine off the lees into a new carboy once the "primary" ferment is complete. By primary, I mean once the yeast does start to drop, but it's still fermenting slowly. Then two weeks later I probably still get another half inch and I need to rack one more time for to add clarifiers and floccalants before it's ready for long term bulk storage.

Now I know you aren't making wine, you are making a feedstock for the boiler, but your comment about letting it sit as long as you want kinda spooked me a little.

Thanks for your thoughts.

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by Sunshineer » Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:22 am

Mr. Cranky for president outstanding post my friend. My first try with apple cider turned to vinegar don't know what happened because I was in the hospital with kidney stones was doing fine when I went in an was vinegar a month later. I learned how to distill making cherry brandy with my grandparents we had six bing cherry trees and every spring we would make a new batch then into the wine cellar for at least TWENTY YEARS . It usually stayed in the barrel for six months then into glass for the long wait. Only time I every saw my Dad cry was when my Mother dropped and broke the last gallon of it.

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by cranky » Wed Aug 07, 2019 6:30 pm

Captain Pappy wrote:
Wed Aug 07, 2019 10:44 am
cranky,
I know this is an old thread, but I wanted to ask something that you didn't mention nor did anyone else ask. In my experience, apple throws a LOT of lees (yeast sediment). I have seen up to 2 inches worth of yeast settle out of apple wine, and still not be clarified. Aren't you afraid of autolysis letting the cider/wine sit on so much sediment?

I personally always move the cider/wine off the lees into a new carboy once the "primary" ferment is complete. By primary, I mean once the yeast does start to drop, but it's still fermenting slowly. Then two weeks later I probably still get another half inch and I need to rack one more time for to add clarifiers and floccalants before it's ready for long term bulk storage.

Now I know you aren't making wine, you are making a feedstock for the boiler, but your comment about letting it sit as long as you want kinda spooked me a little.

Thanks for your thoughts.
You must have missed this part
cranky wrote:
Mon Oct 16, 2017 6:57 pm
I actually wait 30 days for the cider to ferment, then rack it off the sediment into another carboy.
I don't always rack it off the lees but if I know it will sit more than a few months I do. I never use clarifiers or anything else even on what's going to be bottled as cider. I don't worry about it being crystal clear as the haze is usually just a pectic haze but I have never had one that failed to clarify.

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by cranky » Wed Aug 07, 2019 6:39 pm

Sunshineer wrote:
Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:22 am
Mr. Cranky for president outstanding post my friend. My first try with apple cider turned to vinegar don't know what happened because I was in the hospital with kidney stones was doing fine when I went in an was vinegar a month later. I learned how to distill making cherry brandy with my grandparents we had six bing cherry trees and every spring we would make a new batch then into the wine cellar for at least TWENTY YEARS . It usually stayed in the barrel for six months then into glass for the long wait. Only time I every saw my Dad cry was when my Mother dropped and broke the last gallon of it.
I had a 10 gallon batch of cider turn to vinegar one year due to a badly fitting top on a coffee dispenser. Since that day I try to only ferment in 5 gallon containers for fear of losing all that work it took to make it. I ran it anyway and it produced a very nice brandy. vinegar boils off at much higher temperature than alcohol so it doesn't affect the brandy. Since that day I usually purposely make some of it into vinegar...that is until my wife threw out mu mother a couple months ago.

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by Captain Pappy » Thu Aug 08, 2019 5:27 am

Since that day I usually purposely make some of it into vinegar...that is until my wife threw out mu mother a couple months ago.
Now that right there, that's funny!!!
You must have missed this part

cranky wrote: ↑Mon Oct 16, 2017 10:57 pm
I actually wait 30 days for the cider to ferment, then rack it off the sediment into another carboy.
I guess I must have missed.


Overall, sure for making brandy why would one worry about clarifying right? I only mentioned it because winemaking is where my experience is. By the way, if you try to filter apple wine and didn't use pectinase, you'll burn through filters like there is no tomorrow. I learned that the hard way the first time.

Do you have a favorite apple or blend of apples to use for brandy?

Thanks again

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by cranky » Thu Aug 08, 2019 7:13 pm

Captain Pappy wrote:
Thu Aug 08, 2019 5:27 am
Do you have a favorite apple or blend of apples to use for brandy?
Yep, Free apples someone else picked :mrgreen:

2nd on the list is free apples I have to pick :lol:

I don't have the luxury of paying for apples or being too choosy about what I get. Trees come and go and the amount of apples you get and sugar content can vary drastically from year to year. On a very good year I can have as many as 24 distinct varieties many of which are a mystery as to exactly what they are.

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by Sunshineer » Sun Aug 11, 2019 3:03 pm

My motto is if it's free it's for me don't have any northern fruit trees that need that cold to flower in spring but I do have a good friend who enjoys a nice drink occasionally who is a wholesale fruit and vegetables supplier who gives me first crack at all the fruit to ripe to sell but just right to ferment. Soon as I have enough room going to try this with cider. Have so many things fermenting at one time I don't have anyplace but the attic left to put any more full cartboys and it's just to hot up there or I'd already be there. I have another friend who works for a water bottling company when ever one of his drivers brings in any cartboys bigger than the five gallon ones they use he puts them to the side for me to pick up for free so I have a bunch of empties up in the attic already because I never can say no. Most are six or seven gallons wish he would find some bigger but none so far. Guess I'm a big glass bottle hoarder now on top of a fruit hoarder like Cranky.

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by DetroitDIY » Fri Oct 11, 2019 4:18 am

Thanks for all the info Cranky, I really appreciate your thorough write up. I'm just starting my first strip on 35 gallons of cider I pressed this year... following your pot still 1.75 protocol, except for the 2-12 months fermentation time. I saw a little something white floating on the top of two of my fermenters and didn't want it to get too infected. I'm stripping 2x13 gallons, then planning to run the remaining 9 with the ~3 gallons of strip for a final. I'm generally running 2-3 plates on my flute, but for this brandy my "pot still" simply looks like 4' of height.

Edit... Oops, looks like I'm going to have more like 5 gallons of strip. I forgot some of this cider had been frozen for a year and the juice was concentrated to a higher brix.

Cheers,
DetroitDIY

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by DetroitDIY » Mon Oct 28, 2019 10:05 am

A year ago I came by >60 gallons of apple pear pomace. I added 50 gal. water, ~50 lbs sugar, and pitched it on 71B. let it sit 5 months, ran it on a flute with only 1 plate, and have been aging it now for 6 months on toasted oak. It smells of... ethanol. :esad: I had the chance to grab a bunch of spent pomace again recently, and passed.

This fall I fermented a bunch of apple must I had pressed myself (last post), and ran it in pot mode... total of 5 gallons strip and 8 gallons fresh in my spirit run. A blend of apple varieties (whatever I could find), pitched in batches on a variety of yeasts (EC1118, WL Merlot Red, D47). I collected 4.9 liters, kept 2.7 liters, cut it down to 63% and put it on toasted oak. Hokey smokes, it already smells heavenly. Rich, candy sweet, apple smell... I want to say caramely, cooked fruit, sherry type of smell. Amazing, and it hasn't aged but two weeks.

Many thanks to the group, particularly Cranky, who's practice I've been trying to emulate. I foresee that this is a new Fall protocol for me. :thumbup:

Cheers all!
DetroitDIY

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by cranky » Sat Nov 02, 2019 6:21 pm

DetroitDIY wrote:
Mon Oct 28, 2019 10:05 am
A year ago I came by >60 gallons of apple pear pomace. I added 50 gal. water, ~50 lbs sugar, and pitched it on 71B. let it sit 5 months, ran it on a flute with only 1 plate, and have been aging it now for 6 months on toasted oak. It smells of... ethanol. :esad: I had the chance to grab a bunch of spent pomace again recently, and passed.
I've never been a fan of trying to reuse pomace, mostly because after doing all the work to press all the apples I don't want to do it a second time. Some commercial brandy makers will re-wet and repress the pomace in order to make a marc brandy but the Calvados process leaves more available juice behind than most operations in America.
DetroitDIY wrote:
Mon Oct 28, 2019 10:05 am
Many thanks to the group, particularly Cranky, who's practice I've been trying to emulate.
Your welcome, good luck, even I have trouble emulating what I do sometimes :roll:

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Bombo80
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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by Bombo80 » Mon Jan 06, 2020 2:12 pm

I did a small batch of apple brandy last year. I had about 1.5 gallons after making my cuts. I aged it on toasted apple wood, at 60% ABV, for about 6 months. But when I took it down to 40%, it lost something. Fortunately I didn't use everything I had when I proofed it down.

This year i bought more fresh cider. I belong to a homebrew club, and every fall they contract with a local orchard, and get as many gallons of fresh cider as we can get members to pre-pay for. It has been $5 a gallon for many years. The sugar level varies, but I usually freeze several 7/8 gallon jugs and thaw them out to get a more concentrated apple essence, and as much of the sugar as I can get. Just trying to remove the water. It works pretty well. I can typically get 2 liter at about 1.090. This added back into fresh cider, that varies from 1.045 to 1.054, gives enough of a bump in SG without having to add granulated sugar to it.

I have also found UV pasteurized fresh cider at Costco. It comes out of Michigan. I was happy with it last year, and I got a bunch this year too. It was $5 a gallon also. I even went back one day, and they had dropped the price to $4 a gallon. Well, I just had to buy more.

I will have about 25 gallons for brandy this year. I am planning on doing two slow stripping runs on 9 1/2 gallons each run, then doing the 1.5/1.75 spirit run with the low wines and topped off with the remaining 6 gallons of fresh hard cider. This I will run in a typical spirit run, as cranky has described. And using many small collection jars. It should be a good year.

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by cayars » Wed Jan 08, 2020 9:38 am

Ouch, that's expensive cider. I get fresh cider from a couple of different orchards for less than $4 a gallon just as a normal customer.
While probably not fresh pressed Walmart sells cider for less than $4.50 a gallon.

Like everything else, depends on where you live I guess.
Programmer specializing in process control for ExxonMobil (ethanol refinery control), WT, Omron, Bosch, Honeywell & Boeing.
More than a decade working for NASA & FAA Tech with computer code used on Space Shuttles and some airline flight recorders.

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by Dutchsprings » Mon May 11, 2020 5:36 am

I also live in the state’s but am very very lucky to have an orcharder involved with my spirit making so there is no cost for me.(thankfully because I love apple spirits). My question is has anyone ever experimented with specific variations of apples and or mixes. We have the ability to juice whatever apple we want and am looking for some insight over and above which apple has the highest sugar content.
Thanks in advance

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by stillanoob » Mon May 11, 2020 6:19 am

Dutch, I have just started making apple brandy but I have made hard cider for many years, decades in fact. Usually 40-50 gallons a year. I am ramping up to double or triple that this year. I have 10 gallons of hard cider that I fortified with honey to bring up to 10% that I will run in the next couple of weeks.

Anyway, as far as the cider itself goes, I have found that the apples with the highest sugar have the least flavor. Golden delicious and Gravenstein being two examples. What I do is use 60-70 percent sweet apples and then a mix of other tart apple. Jonathan and Breaburn being two examples. If you make a cider using only sugar apples withing 6 months it becomes a generic white wine-ish thing that you can't really tell came from apples. Dry and pleasant, just no character.

I do what I call the nibble test. Nibble the skin and first 1/8" of an apple. This are the flavors that will really carry through past fermentation. Look for tart, tannic apples that have a lot of flavor and dry your mouth out a little. There are some little red tannic apples that I get from an abandoned house near me and they are fantastic for flavor. I believe those flavors are also what will carry forward when distilling, although I have yet to prove that. However, I am finishing up a run of sweetfeed and will run what I made last fall soon.

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by cranky » Mon May 11, 2020 7:05 pm

Dutchsprings wrote:
Mon May 11, 2020 5:36 am
I also live in the state’s but am very very lucky to have an orcharder involved with my spirit making so there is no cost for me.(thankfully because I love apple spirits). My question is has anyone ever experimented with specific variations of apples and or mixes. We have the ability to juice whatever apple we want and am looking for some insight over and above which apple has the highest sugar content.
Thanks in advance
There is a lot of debate about what apples make the best brandy but apple variety is only part of the equation.

Commercially grown dessert apples tend to be watery although they also tend to have a perceived high sugar content. I test a lot of apples and what are often sold as sweet dessert apples actually don't have any more sugar than apples that are considered not to be sweet. One of my best apples can actually produce up to 12% alcohol without adding sugar and retain the most amazing fresh apple flavor but I have never distilled them, they are reserved for ice cider. However I am certain if I did distill them they would make an exceptional brandy.

Sweet apples tend to have lower acid causing then to taste sweeter than tart or bitter apples but can often have the same or even higher brix. I often say the worst apples make the best brandy but what you want for a good brandy is complexity, you can only get that through a variety of sweet, bitter and tart apples and size matters. You actually want small apples with a high skin to meat ratio because there is more flavor in and near the skin.

If you take the method the Calvados makers use they use a blend of sweet, bittersweet, tart and bitter and can use upwards of 100 different varieties.

They do a lot of other things too, like require the apples to fall from the tree, although shaking the tree is allowed. This lets the full flavor of the apples develop. Most commercial apples are harvested long before they are ready to drop, in the US you are actually not legally allowed to use drops.

After the apples are harvested they grind them then let the pulp rest before pressing and never taking more than 65% of the total weight in juice. There is a reason for this. Apple pulp changes after grinding and the rest lets it oxidize and bleed. When you press the apples it's kind of like olive oil. When you buy olive oil you can get "olive oil", "virgin", "extra virgin" and even "extra, extra virgin" depending on how it was extracted, the most flavorful being the least pressed. With apples you would get the most flavorful juice from the juice that just bleeds off naturally. Then when you begin pressing the first juice that comes off has a little less flavor but is still very flavorful. As you press harder and harder the juice has less and less flavor so if you press every last drop you can it eventually has very little flavor. If you take it to an extreme and after pressing freeze the pummes, then thaw it and press again you will still get more of what is technically juice. It will have just as much sugar as the first pressing but will lack body and flavor. When you ferment it it will tend to lose every flavor it did have and it will be pointless to use for brandy because by then there will be nothing to taste and it will actually take away from the final product if mixed with the other juices.

The French also think a long ferment with a rest is important to allow flavor to meld and develop. I myself came to that conclusion long before I read about the French doing it. Some people will try to get the juice to ferment as fast as possible but a fast hot ferment can blow flavor right out the airlock. I also find that something magical happens somewhere around the 60 day mark. The cider changes to become superior and feel it produces a better product.

The still you use is also important, I've tried different ways and am convinced the best results come from a plain old pot still and usually a double distillation.

If you want to produce the best apple brandy it can get pretty complicated and not just apple varieties.

I hope this answers your question.

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by stillanoob » Mon May 11, 2020 8:32 pm

Cranky, very interesting post. I have always done a long ferment simply because the cider house is unheated and it makes for a clear and tasty cider. I start drinking it well before it is fully done, I love it in all the stages from freshly pressed to bone dry. I used EC1118 for the first time this year and boy is it slow! It isn't fully done yet, it was pressed in October last year.

As I mentioned above, I am ramping up to make more cider this year as I now have a still to make brandy with. I am thinking of getting a garbage disposal to process apples faster. Usually I use a grinder. The output will be much finer than with the grinder. What effect do you think this will have? I was also planning on shorter ferment by heating the fermenters. Partially to get the job done but also because I would need to buy a lot more carboys if I was to do the same slow ferment that I do for the drinking cider. I usually ferment for a week or so in a Brute to let the head fall and then rack into glass. For the spirit cider I was thinking of just keeping it in the brute's until done, hoping that I could do it in 2 weeks or so. Your thoughts?

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Re: Apple Brandy Recipe

Post by cranky » Mon May 11, 2020 9:35 pm

stillanoob wrote:
Mon May 11, 2020 8:32 pm
Cranky, very interesting post. I have always done a long ferment simply because the cider house is unheated and it makes for a clear and tasty cider. I start drinking it well before it is fully done, I love it in all the stages from freshly pressed to bone dry. I used EC1118 for the first time this year and boy is it slow! It isn't fully done yet, it was pressed in October last year.

As I mentioned above, I am ramping up to make more cider this year as I now have a still to make brandy with. I am thinking of getting a garbage disposal to process apples faster. Usually I use a grinder. The output will be much finer than with the grinder. What effect do you think this will have? I was also planning on shorter ferment by heating the fermenters. Partially to get the job done but also because I would need to buy a lot more carboys if I was to do the same slow ferment that I do for the drinking cider. I usually ferment for a week or so in a Brute to let the head fall and then rack into glass. For the spirit cider I was thinking of just keeping it in the brute's until done, hoping that I could do it in 2 weeks or so. Your thoughts?
I'm not big on fast ferments, although I don't think I've ever had one last as long as you. My garage is unheated and I've had 1118 going at 45f and still finish within a couple months. I've read that fast ferments can blow desirable attributes right out the airlock but plenty of people do fine with them. I also don't like keeping ferments as one single large ferment because some time back I had 10 out of 50 gallons go vinegar. It was amazing vinegar but 10 gallons is way more than I will ever need and I sure as hell didn't need 50 gallons of it. Last year I had 4 containers get infected with 4 distinctly different infections even though they were from the same pressing and sitting right next to each other. I have a way with accumulating carboys, whenever I find one cheap I can't help myself but buy them. I don't even know how many I have but I can easily do over 100 gallons so I prefer to keep everything in small batches where I can keep an eye on them. In the past whenever I ran out of carboys I would just go buy food grade buckets at lowe's and ferment in them.

I'm also not a fan of the whizbang design (garbage disposal) they often have problems with overheating and popping the breaker and tend to chop up the seeds which I don't like. I've actually spent some years developing a fairly simple apple chopper that can handle as much as 3,000 lbs per hour and you don;t have to pre cut them.
viewtopic.php?f=50&t=62167
For the money some people have done well with a harbor freight chipper shredder.

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