Simple Cyser - a cider mead anyone can make.
This months article will feature a simple recipe that can be
made without a lot of expensive equipment, and produces a nice, drinkable alcoholic beverage that would go well with a dinner,
or just sitting around with friends enjoying company. I am hoping to make this as easy to understand for the non-brewer as
I can, without losing the experienced ones.
The subject of this article is a simple Cyser that
can be made with a minimum of equipment, and does not require vast brewing knowledge to produce a tasty beverage. I learned
this particular drink from a great book on making meads called "Mead Made Easy <http://www.best.com/~davep/mme/pubpage.html>"2 by Dave Polaschek with Tim Mitchell. In this book he describes a "Hangover Cyser" that is
perfect for making the next day after a party, and part of the recipe is drinking some of the leftover apple juice. I have
simplified this recipe some, so that anyone can make it.
Traditional mead contains nothing but honey, water, and yeast,
but there is a small problem with this. Honey lacks a high volume of the proper types of sugars that are necessary for healthy
yeast fermentation. This is one of the reasons traditional mead can take over a year to ferment out. Something brewers over
the ages have done to aid the fermentation process is to add things with sugars that are more readily fermented by yeast.
Adding apple juice is a great way to add enough sugars (fructose) to get the yeast going, and provides a nice flavor to the
"By using a fruit juice base instead of water, many
of the required nutrients and acids which honey lacks are supplied by the juice. Several fruits were used so often for this
purpose within the period of our study that specific names were developed for melomels made from them. Among these drinks
are piment, made from grapes, cyser, made from apples, morath, made from mulberries and perry, made from pears." 1
"Cyser - Honey and apple juice. This evolved into
hard cider, and was likely the `strong drink' referred to in the Bible. It can vary from a cider-like taste to a taste almost
like a sherry wine." 2
Without further ado...
1 gallon of Pure Apple Juice (no preservatives, preferably not
from concentrate) in a large glass jar. Preferably natural, even fresh squeezed juice.
2-4 pounds of honey - different types of honey will give different
flavors to the resulting Cyser this is where the fun of experimentation comes in. My first batch used standard store bought
honey, and turned out fine.
1 packet of Champagne Yeast - Brewing stores carry these, and
are pretty cheap. They come in dry form and need to be rehydrated before use. Prise de Mousse is nice general-purpose champagne
yeast to get you started. This is another area of great experimentation. This will produce a nice dry tasting Cyser.
Airlock. Most brewing stores in this area sell cheap plastic
airlocks, and drilled rubber stoppers for a couple of bucks. This is needed to keep the cyser-to-be from getting infected
with any number of airborne bacteria, and turning undrinkable. Also a hose that fits snug into the mouth of the bottle, and
hangs down the side into a small glass of water would work as well. If nothing else, a clean cotton cloth rubber-banded around
the bottle mouth would probably work, if care was taken to seclude the bottle, and keep it out of the kitchen. (this method
is the most risky, but is still acceptable)
One-gallon glass jar. Now do you see why I told you to buy your
apple cider in a large glass jar?
In a clean sanitized container pour off about a 1/3 - 1/2 of
the juice. Cover, and set aside for later.
Pour 2 pounds of Honey into the glass jar with the majority
of the juice. This is why we poured off some of the juice earlier, to make room for the honey. Make sure you pour off enough
juice to handle 2 pounds of honey. You can always add the remaining juice back in to top it off if needed.
Shake vigorously until honey is dissolved completely.
Rehydrate the yeast by adding the contents of the package to
a cup of warm tap water and cover with a paper towel for 5-10 minutes. Or, alternatively follow the directions on the package.
Add the yeast to the jar of juice and honey.
Add enough of the apple juice to fill the bottle to a little
ways before the bottom of the neck of the bottle. Be careful to leave some room for the yeast to work in. Not leaving enough
room could result in a mess, when the actively fermenting yeast makes a break for it out the top of the bottle. An inch or
so from the bottom of the neck should be fine.
Attach the airlock (filled part of the way with water if using
one from the brewing store), and set aside someplace where it won't be disturbed for a month or so at a time, and stays at
a constant temperature (65-78 degrees). One important part of brewing anything, but especially brewing mead, is having someplace
to keep the fermenting beverage undisturbed at a fairly constant temperature. Also try to keep it from prolonged exposure
In 1-3 months this will finish fermenting completely. Then you
It is best to bottle the result in a corked or crown capped
airtight container, but if you don't have expensive brewing and capping equipment, just make sure that the Cyser is finished
fermenting, and bottle in clean sterile glass bottle, with screw top lids. Make sure you drink it fairly quickly if you do
this, as it will go bad after a while if not properly sealed. Since this Barony has quite a number of brewing types, you could
ask someone to use their bottling equipment in exchange for a nice massage, or chocolate. J I usually save Martinellies bottles,
and cork them like wine bottles with a cheap plastic Corker ($6). A one-gallon batch will usually make about 5 Martinellies
bottles full. Its a good idea to age corked bottles for a few months, to let the character fully develop, but you may start
drinking it immediately.
Sanitation is VERY important. An infection can ruin an entire
batch. A soak in a weak bleach solution (a 1/2 teaspoon of bleach in 2 gallons of water, yes that weak) and good rinsing of
any bottles or anything in contact with Cyser. Common sense is your best weapon against infection here.
1) "Alcoholic Drinks of the Middle" Ages by Mark
2) "Mead Made Easy" by Dave Polaschek with Tim Mitchell
"The New Complete Joy of HomeBrewing" by Charlie Papazian
I hope you find this article of interest, and will gladly answer
questions in person or via e-mail. I would also love to hear your experiences with this if you try, and of course samples
would not be turned away.