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Racking Cider

I racked the cider we pressed a couple of weeks ago from the primary fermenter to a secondary glass vessel.

Everything went well.  Since we only pressed about 3 gallons of cider and my vessel holds 5 gallons, I felt I needed to deal with the large head space between the cider and the fermentation lock.

I added just a little sugar (1/2 cup boiled in a cup of water for 15 mins) to the vessel before racking  for the yeast to chew on to build up some CO2 and force the air out.

There was one item of note during last night’s racking session. After I opened up the lid of my primary fermenter, I wanted to take a whiff of the cider to see how things were progressing.

I was knocked back two feet. There was so much acidic, nostril burning, carbon dioxide coming out of the top of the bucket that I jumped away from the fermenter.

It took me a while to get my sense of smell back. Ok, like 10 seconds but I had never encountered this phenomenon with beer. It’s been a much more pleasant experience.

I am pretty sure the peak of fermentation was over. It’s not like I took off the lid with the airlock a-clacking…

Not sure why I got this overpowering shot of CO2. Is it coming from the yeast strain (first time using champagne yeast)? Is this normal behavior of a fruit must (first time for that too)?

Maybe a combo of both.

Anyway, tasted the sample from my hydrometer tube (1.000 reading). Tasted good but young. There is a hint of the old press in the aftertaste. Yum?


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  1. I’m surprised you are racking it so soon. Ciders take forever to ferment. Last year I left mine in the primary for 2 months and in the secondary for 4 months. The gravity was still dropping when I moved it over. It is not a vigorous fermentation like beer, but more of a slow and steady one.

  2. I kept an eye on my fermentation lock over the past few weeks. It had behaved like a beer. Its activity was pretty slow if moving at all over the last few days .

    If the hydrometer reading had been higher, I may not have racked but it was 1.000.

    The sample tasted pretty dry. With the volume (2.75 gallons) and the temperature (60°F), I felt the primary was done and I could start conditioning it in glass and get it ready for fining in a few weeks.

  3. I think the reason mine took so much longer than yours was that it was fermenting at a much colder temp. It was pretty constant between 45-50. I also added some honey to the batch which gave the yeast a bunch more sugars to nom on.

  4. I was talking to Mike about cider fermentation and he was telling me a story about somebody (a cider expert, maybe? I don’t remember exactly whom…) who ferments his cider as cold as possible….near freezing. This person said that you lose a lot of the apple fragrance and delicacies in the flavor when you ferment at higher temperatures.

    Of course, fermenting at this temperature extends the fermentation time considerably. I am just not patient enough to wait that long….at least not this time around with my first one.

  5. sean

    If you’re fermenting in the cold, you’re lagering. You need yeast specifically for lagering, top-fermenting yeast like champagne yeast isn’t going to be suited for it. Bottom-fermenting yeasts have their own ideal ranges of temperatures, so make sure you set to the right temperature. And while lagering does take longer than normal fermenting, it shouldn’t take 2 months.

  6. Hi Sean,

    The Champagne yeast strain I used had an optimal temperature range of 59-86°F.
    The temperature band on the side of the fermentation bucket was in the mid 60s for most of the 2 weeks.

    I am not sure what strains other brewers were using for ciders at those cold temperatures, but I feel I was doing the right thing for what I was using.

  7. Ali

    I use the wild yeast on the apples, and generally rack after 3-4 weeks. The acidic carbon dioxide experience is one that I’ve had, and it’s nothing to worry about if the cider tasted ok when you sampled it. It will mellow with age, and that acidic bite will come off it.

    If you keep the secondary warm, you will likely get a malo-lactic fermentation which will further mellow the acidity.

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