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Fermentation 101: Tips and Tricks for Successful Cider Making

by Andy

Cider making is a fun and rewarding craft that has been enjoyed for centuries. One of the most crucial steps in the process is fermentation. This is where the natural sugars in apple juice are transformed into alcohol, creating that signature crisp and refreshing flavour. To help you master this essential part of cider making, we've put together this Fermentation 101 guide with tips and tricks for a successful cider fermentation.

Yeast Selection

The choice of yeast can significantly impact the flavour, aroma, and overall quality of your cider. There are various yeast strains available, each with its unique characteristics. Here are a few popular options to consider:

Young's Dried Active Yeast 100g: This yeast strain is a versatile choice, known for its ability to produce clean and crisp ciders. It's a great option for those looking to create a classic, traditional cider.

Mangrove Jack's M02 Cider Yeast: If you're seeking a yeast strain tailored specifically for cider production, Mangrove Jack's M02 is an excellent choice. It can bring out the fruity and estery notes, creating a cider with an enhanced apple aroma and flavour.

Cider Yeast 100g (saccharomyces bayanus strain): For those who prefer a slightly different approach, the saccharomyces bayanus strain is a reliable option. This strain creates a cider with a crisp finish and a well-defined apple character, making it a popular choice among cider enthusiasts.

Temperature Control

Fermentation temperature is important to the cider-making process. It influences the flavour, smell, and the yeast's activity. Here are some temperature control tips:

Steady Temperature: Maintain a consistent fermentation temperature, ideally between 15-24°C (60-70°F) for most yeast strains. Changes in temperature can lead to flavours being off and stressed yeast.

Cool Fermentation: If you want a cleaner, crisper cider, opt for a lower fermentation temperature within the recommended range above.

Warm Fermentation: To promote fruity esters and a more complex flavour profile, ferment at the higher end of the recommended temperature range above.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Cider fermentation can be tricky, and issues may happen. Here are some common problems and how to fix them:

Stuck Fermentation: If your fermentation stops before it's complete, try gently stirring the cider to resuspend the yeast. You can also add yeast nutrient, like our Yeast Nutrient 100g, to boost yeast activity.

Off-Flavours: Off-flavours can be caused by a variety of factors. To prevent this, ensure your equipment is properly sanitised, and your cider is well aerated before fermentation. Controlling the fermentation temperature and using the right yeast strain for your desired flavour can also help.

Cloudy Cider: If your cider appears hazy, it could be due to suspended yeast. Give it more time to settle, or consider using fining agents, like the Cider Brite Cider Finings, to clarify the cider.

Unwanted Smells: If your cider has a funky or sulphur-like smell, it might be due to stressed yeast. Proper temperature control and nutrient addition can help mitigate this issue.

Acidity and Sweetness: Balancing acidity and sweetness can be tricky. Taste your cider regularly and adjust with sugar or acid additions as needed to achieve the desired balance.

Successful cider fermentation is an art, and with these tips and tricks, you'll be well on your way to crafting amazing ciders. Remember that practice makes perfect, and it's okay to experiment with different yeast strains and fermentation techniques to find the flavour profile that suits your taste. As you continue your cider-making journey, you'll discover that the possibilities are as endless as the apple orchards themselves. Cheers from us at Vigo Presses to your next batch of delicious homemade cider!

Time Is Ticking! Don’t Miss Out On ‘The Big Pick’ Open Orchard Event Soon.

by Andy

The calendar is ticking, and the anticipation is building as we gear up for The Big Pick! Mark your calendars for the 23rd and 24th of September, because this is a two-day event you won't want to miss. As part of the 16-day Taste East Devon Festival, the ancient Whiteways orchard is set to open its gates once again to welcome you into a world of natural beauty, live music, and cider-making magic.

A Taste of Tradition

Nestled in the heart of Southbrook Lane, Whimple, 'Courtney's of Whimple' ancient cider orchard is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. This orchard has a rich history, and during these two days, from 11am to 5pm, it will be open to the public. It's a family-friendly event, so bring your loved ones along, and let's make memories together.

What's in Store for You?

Apple Picking - Join in the Courtneys Cider making experience by helping to harvest this year’s apple crop. Explore and relax in our ancient orchards, experiencing nature at its finest.

Apple Pressing - The opportunity to press apples you have brought with you to create your own fresh juice or press the apples you have picked from the orchard (note: charge £2 per kg - bring your own vessels for juice or we will provide free of charge).

Live Music - The live music will be the soundtrack to your day, filling the Orchard with great vibes at various times on both days.

Bar - Experience the Courtney's Drinks range including cocktails, award-winning ciders, and refreshing soft drinks from their cider bar. And for 2023, we have exciting additions: Sparkling Apple Juice and Courtney's Cloudy Cider.

Refreshments - Hot and cold refreshments will be available throughout the day.

Tickets and Other Details

Adult tickets are just £6 per person, Under 16s are only £1, and little ones under 2 years old get in for FREE. But remember, these prices are per day, and tickets are non-refundable. 

Don't wait until the last minute; secure your spot now here!

Feel free to bring your well-behaved dogs along, but please make sure they're on leads, as there are sheep grazing in the orchards. 

Parking is limited, so if you can, consider walking or cycling if you are close by.

Don't forget to register for a ticket  to attend and, if your plans change, please cancel your ticket to give someone else the chance to enjoy the day. 

As you explore the orchard, be mindful of the busy bees who play a crucial role in pollinating our trees!

How to Find Us

Getting to Courtney's Orchards is a breeze. Head to The Old Orchards, Southbrook Lane, Whimple, EX5 2PD. You can also find us on Google Maps here.

Your Sat Nav may take you to a neighbouring farm. Our orchard is on 'Southbrook Lane' just past the railway bridge. 1 mile from the old A30.

what3words: themes.extreme.flattered.

For those who are nearby, it's a short walk or cycle from Cranbrook, Whimple, Broadclyst, and Rockbeare.

Don't Miss Out!

The Big Pick is just around the corner, and we can't wait to welcome you. It's a chance to connect with nature, enjoy live music, and indulge in delicious cider and apple treats. So mark those dates on your calendar, buy your tickets, and prepare for a day of fun and relaxation in the heart of East Devon. See you there!

When Are Apples Ripe? Our Guide to Harvesting Apples

by Andy
Apple orchard for harvesting apples. Apples on the ground falled from the apple tree.

When it comes to making top-quality juice or cider, harvesting apples at the right time is absolutely crucial. The flavour and overall quality of your final product will depend on it. Harvesting apples too early can result in hard, sour apples that are unsuitable for pressing. So, let's explore some essential tips to ensure you get the best harvest possible and make the most out of your apple trees.

Fruit Thinning for Optimal Growth:

To encourage further growth and prevent damage to your apple trees, consider fruit thinning. If you notice branches heavily laden with fruit, gently remove the smallest apples to allow space for the others to grow. This step also helps sunlight to penetrate clusters, aiding in the ripening process.

Summer Pruning for Healthier Trees:

By engaging in some summer pruning of your apple trees, you can encourage the development of fruit buds for the following year. This practice helps even out a tree's natural tendency to be biennial and sets the stage for healthy apples in the future.

Determining Apple Ripeness for Pressing:

Knowing when your apples are ripe and ready for pressing is crucial. We want to make sure you are harvesting apples the right way, so here are three helpful tips to judge their ripeness:

  1. Cut a sample apple in half and check the colour of the pips. Ripe apples should have black and glossy pips, while pale or brown ones need more time on the tree. Only apples with black pips are suitable for juicing and cider making.
  2. Hold a large apple in your hand and gently twist it off the stem. A ripe apple will readily fall into your hand, ensuring a bruise-free harvest. For hard-to-reach apples, consider using harvesting tools to help in your apple harvest.
  3. Never use rotten apples for pressing or storage, as they can spoil the rest of your apples. Follow the golden rule: don't press what you wouldn't want to eat. Small blemishes, however, are generally fine for cider making.

Apple Varieties & Ripening Times:

Identifying the apple varieties you have and understanding their typical ripening times is incredibly helpful. To keep track of your trees, label them with metal tags. Additionally, you can create a named garden plan to ensure you don't forget essential details when you are harvesting apples.

Crafting Your Perfect Cider:

For cider making, apples with a high sugar content are ideal, as they provide the yeast with the necessary ingredients for fermentation and influence the alcohol content of the finished cider. Different regions have unique cider styles. In the West Country it boasts special varieties of cider apples that are high in tannin which produces a rich, brown juice. On the other hand, the Eastern Counties prefer paler ciders created from blends of dessert and culinary apples.

To achieve a well-balanced cider, try to avoid using solely acidic fruit, as the acidity becomes more pronounced after the sugar converts to alcohol. For culinary apples, consider letting them mature until late in the season before pressing, ideally in December or the New Year. When storing maturing apples, remember to exclude any rotten or bruised fruit, and keep them in a cool, airy place while regularly checking for signs of rot.

By following these friendly tips and tricks, you'll be well on your way to perfectly harvesting apples for juicing or cider making. Remember to be patient and let your apples ripen fully to enjoy the best flavours and yields. Harvesting apples the right way for juicing and cider-making is easier, and pressing apples is even easier with Vigo Presses' Complete Starter Kit. Happy harvesting and cheers to fruitful cider-making!

Prepare for Cider Making Season with Vigo Presses' Complete Starter Kit!

by Andy
Crushed apples being poured into a 12 Litre Hobby Press for cider making

As cider making season approaches, it's time to gear up and get ready to create your own delicious homemade cider. Whether you're a seasoned cider enthusiast or a complete beginner, proper preparation is key to ensure a successful and enjoyable cider making experience. Vigo Presses' Complete Starter Kit is here to make your journey into cider making a breeze. This all-in-one kit provides you with the necessary equipment and resources, including the 12 litre Hobby Press, steriliser sachets, and ‘how to’ guides, to kickstart your cider making adventure. Let's delve into the essential steps to prepare for cider season and explore how this kit can help you get started!

Clean and Organise:
Before diving into cider making, it's crucial to have a clean and organised workspace. Clear out any clutter and ensure that your equipment is easily accessible. The Complete Starter Kit includes steriliser sachets, allowing you to thoroughly clean and sanitise your equipment, ensuring a pristine environment for fermentation.

Source Fresh Apples or Juice:
The heart and soul of any cider is the fruit it's made from. Seek out local orchards or farmers' markets to find the freshest apples available for pressing. Alternatively, you can use your own apples to kickstart your cider making process. The Hobby Press included in the kit is designed to efficiently extract the juice from apples, ensuring maximum flavour and yield.

Understand the Process:
For beginners, familiarising yourself with the cider making process is essential. Vigo Presses provides a basic juice and cider making booklet and the ‘Craft Cider Making’ book by Andrew Lea, which offers step-by-step instructions to guide you through the process. From crushing the fruit to fermentation and bottling, this booklet will equip you with the knowledge needed to create your own delicious cider.

Experiment with Flavour Profiles:
Cider making allows for endless possibilities when it comes to flavour profiles. Take advantage of the season by experimenting with different apple varieties or adding unique cultured yeasts to create your signature blend. Vigo Presses' Complete Starter Kit provides you with the necessary tools to get creative and craft your perfect cider.

Upgrade and Expand:
As your passion for cider making grows, so might your desire to increase your production capacity. The Hobby Press included in the Complete Starter Kit is just the beginning of your cider making journey. Vigo Presses offers a 10% discount on larger and cast iron presses within 2 years of your initial purchase, allowing you to scale up your cider production and explore new possibilities!

With cider making season around the corner, it's time to get prepared and embark on an exciting journey of crafting your own delicious cider. Vigo Presses' Complete Starter Kit provides the perfect foundation for beginners, offering essential equipment and resources to kickstart your cider making adventure. From sterilisation sachets for proper cleaning to understanding the process and experimenting with flavours, this kit has you covered. Embrace the joy of cider making and savour the fruits of your labour during the upcoming cider season. Cheers to a fruitful and satisfying cider making season approaching!

Buy your Complete Starter Kit here: https://vigopresses.co.uk/cider-making-kit-with-12-litre-hobby-press/

ITV's 'Love Your Weekend' - featuring Vigo Presses

by Andy Ben Hall

It had been quite a little while since Vigo Presses had been aired on national TV but on 25th September 2022 that all changed with Vigo Presses being featured on ITV’s ‘Love Your Weekend’.

Why Vigo Presses?

We were delighted to be contacted by a research team looking for leading fruit press and equipment suppliers in the country. The feedback we received was hugely positive and very welcomed, they loved the look of the new 'Vigo Presses' website so got in touch to discuss our availability to appear on ITV’s ‘Love Your Weekend’ with Alan Titchmarsh.

On the day

During the broadcast Paul Courtney, Vigo Presses' business owner and well-known maker of  ‘Courtney’s Cider’, demonstrated the ease of making apple juice and cider alongside Alan Titchmarsh - all filmed on one of the hottest days of the year!

Commenting, Paul said ‘This was a fantastic experience and a great opportunity to educate viewers in the art of apple juice and cider making, so we jumped at the chance. Whilst we sell quality equipment, we also pride ourselves in giving important advice and supporting our customers on their journey. We all know people that give away their apples after making a couple of pies, so hopefully this will encourage more of the nation to start a exciting new hobby and make great tasting juice and cider’.

If you fancy making your own juice or cider, then check out our easy-to-follow guide and if you still have any questions please contact us directly and we will do all we can to assist.

Paul Courtney on ITV with Apple Crusher and Fruit Press

Image: Alan Titchmarsh and Paul Courtney with 12 Litre Cross Beam and Classic Crusher Combo and a selection of Vigo Presses equipment. {image by Melissa Vagg}

2022 Cornwall Cider Championships

by Andy Ben Hall

The annual Cornwall Cider Championships, held at the Royal Cornwall Show, saw a great turnout this year and it was wonderful to see so many fantastic ciders on display from both hobbyists and professionals alike. Our sister company, Courtney's Drinks, were extremely pleased to scoop up a handful of prizes in a hugely competitive show!

At Vigo Presses, we're proud to have sponsored the 'Best Cider Exhibited by a Hobbyist' category, and would like to extend our best wishes and congratulations to the winner, Maxine Millichip. Maxine won a £100 prize voucher with us and we're looking forward to hearing from her about what she'd like to spend it on! Maxine is shown below collecting her prize from Tom Bray:

A huge well done to all of the competitors that entered, and we look forward to seeing you all soon!