2015 Pumpkin Apfelwein

Fall is the time of year when Americans go nuts over a $6 cup of coffee loaded up with pumpkin-flavored syrup, which is actually in most cases squash-flavored syrup but the word pumpkin happens to be more euphonious.  I decided to join the masses this year and mix some puréed squash pumpkin into our (now in its third year) annual apfelwein made from freshly picked Oak Glen apples.  Ed Wort's apfelwein recipe has such a reputation for being incredibly easy to make that we thought, "hey, let's make it DIFFICULT this time and actually press the apples ourselves!"  Not only did we demonstrate what a bunch of out of shape city dwellers we were while cranking the hand-operated apple scratter, but we voluntarily rummaged through a bee and wasp-infested apple bin like contestants on some bizarre Japanese game show.  Just another humbling experience to remind us that life in the 21st century is pretty damned convenient.

  • 5 gal freshly pressed apple cider
  • 2½ 28 oz. jars of Mom's Country Orchards pumpkin butter
  • 4½ lbs multi-flower honey
  • 3¾ tsp pectic enzyme
  • 5 Campden tablets
  • ½ tsp Yeastex nutrient
  • Lalvin EC-1118 yeast
Yield: 5 gallons

November 1, 2015

In the previous two batches, we've used dextrose to increase the original gravity, as recommended by Ed Wort's apfelwein recipe.  This year, since we're already changing it up with the pumpkin butter, we used honey instead of dextrose, because honey is fucking delicious.  We didn't have to use as much as I thought because the pumpkin butter already contained a decent amount of sugar.  I don't know what to call this anymore.  Like the blueberry pancake mead earlier this year, this is a hybrid sort of concoction.  It's made from cider but it's fermented with Champagne yeast and it contains honey and fruit purée.  Pumpkin cider?  Pumpkin apfelwein?  Kürbiswein?  Once again, not euphonious.

Did I mention Champagne yeast?  EC-1118 will keep fermenting up to about 18% ABV, so I thought I should give the yeasties some work to do.  Our starting gravity was 1.086, which should yield about 11.5%.  Force carbonating this in a keg could be a very irresponsible move on my part.  Watch yourself and leave your keys at the door.

For the sake of record keeping, here are the different specific gravity measurements as we added sugars:

1.050 (cider alone)
1.076 (cider + honey)
1.086 (cider + honey + pumpkin butter)

cider in the fermenter


We let everything sit overnight so the sulfite and pectic enzyme could do their thing.  Apples contain a high amount of pectin and I have no idea whether Mom's Country Orchards uses it in their pumpkin butter so better safe then sorry.

November 3, 2015

Jed hydrated a starter of EC-1118 with some Go-Ferm and nurtured it over the course of the day, then we pitched it into the fermenter in the evening.

pitching yeast

November 5, 2015

specific gravity: 1.082 (~0.5% ABV so far)

November 14, 2015

specific gravity: 1.016 (~9% ABV)

Smells a little yeasty but tastes great.  The pumpkin and spice flavors are still very prominent.  If they diminish once the cider has fermented to dryness, all it needs is some sugar to bring them back out again.  The pumpkin butter was a great idea this year.

November 18, 2015

The airlock activity has slowed down and the specific gravity is now 1.0.  The little bits of nutmeg and cinnamon from the pumpkin butter have made their way to the surface of the bucket and assure me they will be a pain in the ass to clean.

fermented cider

It tastes good but it's a little bit milder than last time.  We added a pinch of malic acid to a sample and that brought out the fruit flavor, especially the apple.

November 22, 2015

specific gravity: 0.998 (~11.5% ABV)

I stirred in 1½ tsp kieselsol, followed by 2 tbsp chitosan an hour later.  Hopefully, this will drop some of the suspended particles before I rack it.  I'll give it 48 hours like the instructions say.  There are almost 5½ gallons of cider in the fermemter, so my plan is to rack as much liquid into the secondary as possible.  I like to keep the carboys filled to the neck.

It's too soon to keg this for Thanksgiving, but we can definitely have this ready by Christmas and New Year's Eve.  Once a decent amount of sediment has precipitated, I'm going to filter it through the Mini Jet with coarse pads and see how that looks.  If it's reasonably clear, I'll just rack it straight into the keg, chill it, and apply CO2.  Having a potent 11.5% pumpkin spice cider on tap in the house is going to be a big hit.