One amazing thing about cider is the sense of community; we love both supporting new cider makers and learning from those who came before us. We recently had a question about working with wild yeast:
I’ve never made hard cider before but I read that the skin of organic apples will have enough yeast on them to avoid adding brewing yeast. I only have organic crab apples. Do you think there would be enough yeast on the crab apples to compensate for the store bought sweet apples? Any ideas on ratios to use?
Wild yeast can be really fun, but it is also pretty unpredictable. The amount and types of yeast that ends up in your juice will depend completely on the yeast population where the apples were grown and what yeast might be in the air that ends up in the juice. Every time can be a bit different which is part of what makes it so fun! Unfortunately it also makes it hard to give too much specific advice. But here are a few general tips on trying to start a fermentation with wild yeast:
- Don’t add sulphites to the juice, or if you do, only add one half or less than the amount that most places recommend. Sulphites can help kill off some of the things in the juice that could cause problems, but they can also kill or suppress the wild yeasts you want to thrive.
- Be patient. Even if there aren’t a lot of wild yeast to start, usually if you leave the cider long enough the yeast will keep multiplying. Until the yeast reach a certain population it may look like nothing is happening. I know some people have waited weeks for a wild fermentation to take hold. Keep checking on it, but just because you don’t see any signs of yeast at first doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
- If you are concerned about the store bough apples not having much/any natural yeast it might even work to start the cider with only the crabapple juice (depending on your set up). Once that juice starts fermenting on its own you know there is a healthy yeast population established. At that point you could mix in the juice from the store bought apples.
Good luck with your experimenting! We hope it turns out great!