Bottle Conditioned Cider Guide
By Alex Simmens, Llanblethian Orchards
Bottle conditioning is regularly used in home brewing and also if you are making CAMRA approved real ale in a bottle. In bottle conditioning as opposed to méthode champenoise the yeast is left in the bottle after fermentation.
This makes the procedure easier to achieve with modest equipment although care must be taken on pouring to avoid pouring the sediment into the glass. Most online guides and books tend to either have a table or online calculator showing the required sugar addition without explaining the fundamental workings of the procedure.
The aim of this guide is to produce a safe naturally carbonated product consistently and to limit the chance of unwanted microbial contamination by considering the fundamentals of the procedure. To do this we need to understand the fermentation process and carbonation requirements for different styles as well as the potential pitfalls.
In general terms we take a finished cider and add a quantity of priming sugar and yeast to it and bottle the cider. The yeast then ferments the added sugar in the cider and produces Carbon Dioxide carbonating the cider.
Another method is to predict when a cider is going to finish fermenting and bottle it just beforehand allowing the fermentation to finish in the bottle. This procedure can work very well if you can accurately estimate how much farther the fermentation has to go consistently.
This guide will not cover this procedure and personally I would advise against it until a level of experience has been obtained as inconsistent levels of carbonation plagues the brewing industry where it is practised and as a consumer it is frankly infuriating when one of the bottles you have just bought foams everywhere mixing the yeast back into the product ruining the drink.
If you are determined to do this I would advise you to take into account ciders with a reasonably high alcohol content (7%+) will finish BELOW SG 1.000. In these situations it is best to rack off a sample of the cider in question and keep it at 20ºc with some added nutrient and yeast to encourage it to rapidly finish fermenting so you can accurately calculate the real final gravity.
In this guide we will consider each of the points in the bottle conditioning process in depth followed by a troubleshooting section and a concise worksheet of the process to achieve a satisfactory product.
To read the full guide please click on the PDF link at the top of this page