Alternative Priming Sugars in Cider experiment

This is a combination of experiments.  The first is the BBR-BYO #9 experiment (Basic Brewing Podcast April 14, 2011 – New Experiments and Scandinavian Brewing) where you hydrate dry yeast for one batch, and then just sprinkle it on others.  I won’t go into the results of that one here (no spoilers). 


For this experiment I chose to replicate the cider brew that was in the Basic Brewing Video   (Jan 30th, 2011, Simple Cider).  The simple steps were:


  1. Buy two jugs of Treehouse cider from Costco.  This is pasteurized and has no preservatives, and comes in a pack with two 1 gallon jugs.
  2. Add yeast (Red Star Pasteur Champagne ).
  3. Place airlock, tin foil, or just light screw the lid on.
  4. Wait (and beg forgiveness from your wife for leaving yet more crap on the counter).


Photo of the jugs:





Now at the end of the experiment I had 2 gallons of cider which I needed to bottle.  Never satisfied to do things simply, I decided to play with alternative priming sugars.  I grabbed some sugars around the house, and using the method discussed in the Basic Brewing Podcast (October 28, 2010 – Alternate Priming Sugars) I tried to calculate the correct amounts to match the amount in 1 carb drop (take grams of sugar from nutrition label and make it  equal to that of a 12 oz, and I think I target 2.4 volumes for 12 oz. Using I targeted about 2g. There was a fair amount of guess work, and honestly on the honey, which was hand labeled "Blackberry," I just did a dollop.  All of the other sugars were unopened so I did not sanitize them.


I added each sugar to one each of the batches, but because their FG was different, I did not taste batch vs. batch.  I actually labeled each with tape, then a paper label.  Each type of sugar priming had its own cap (which I kept a table of as well).  Here are the bottles complete:




Following is the table of the priming schedule, I managed 10 bottles per gallon: 6  sugars had 1 from each batch, I did 2 carb drops , 1 just still, and 1 with a campden tablet and apple juice to sweeten it.


I tasted 2 of them with my friend Toby.  I then brought 6 bottles to the National Homebrewers Conference in June of 2011.  There I gather some friend, hornswoggled John Palmer, and met with the Basic Brewing crew and recorded a podcast.  Only James had a slight clue what I was up to, the tasting was blind.  Here are my notes from memory.




Tasting Notes

Tasted with Toby



Apple juice

16 ml

It was definitely more apple flavored than the honey, almost "concentrated."


Bit on fork

Carbonated but drier than the Apple Juice.  No Honey flavor




Tasted on Podcast



Carb Drop


Control:  Good bubble, good flavor



Less carb, interest flavors

Cinnamon Syrup


Less carb than expect, no cinnamon at all

Mini marshmallow


Funniest, coated the tongue

Light Agave


Most carb, almost a gusher, different flavor than carb drop though



Did not like compared to carb’ed ones



Mixed the remain, was actually quite good




Not Tasted



Camden Tablet and Apple Juice


Thought on this, and it  was a bad idea 🙂


The details will be on the podcast which should air in late July.   It was a lot of fun and we finished with a Princess Peach Ale, which was enjoyed by all.


My favorite line was from Steve who said "I thought you were going to do some thing like Glucose, Dextrose, Fructose."  Really he should have known better 🙂




I was surprised how much the priming sugars added flavor.  Even the agave, which I expect to have little flavor impact, had an impact.  The Cinnamon Syrup was also the surprise in not imparting the expected flavor.  I was hoping for apple pie on that one.  I also was worried the mini-marshmallows were going to not dissolve and land in a  cup like a hot chocolate.


In the future I would probably do a few more sugars:  maple syrup, brown sugars, different honeys, different juices, DME, among others.  I might also just add cinnamon to see what that comes out like.


Most people felt they like the carb drops the best, but I think you could really tweak the final flavor of a cider like this.  I think I would recommend the apple juice.




Big thanks to the (starting on my right in the photos):   John Palmer, Andy Sparks, Nathaniel Muller, Steve Antoch, Michael Berta, Steve Wilkes, and  of course James Spencer who took the photo!


B-Day Label #8 Princess Peach Ale

This time I had a request from Ahn (Mark’s Wife):  Can you make the next one with Peach in it?  I could not say no!

That is of course, assuming I could find peaches.  Turns out there was a shortage.  More than one store was flummoxed when I could not find them in the store.  Finally I called the produce managers and they said they were out, and that the recent rain and cold has prevented the crop from coming in.  Also Apricots, which are often recommended for Peach Beers (supposedly gives more Peach Flavor), were out as well.

Finally I found 6 lbs. of frozen peaches from, again, Remlinger Farms the same local farm that I used for the Blackberry Wit.

In chatting with the local home brew club (Mt Si. Homebrew Club) about how to brew, there was a strong “Do not make a wheat beer and add fruit to it” request.  Luckily I had already thought about a Pale Ale, and I decided that an IPA would offer a nice bitterness against the peach, and allow me to dry hop if the peach did not come through.

I brewed the Cascade IPA (My All Cascade Pale doubled for an IPA, plus Amarillo for fun) and left off the dry hops.  Now I split the batch for the BBR-BYO Experiment on Hydrating vs. Sprinkling Dry Yeast (no spoilers).  And I made about 5.5 gallons total.  When it came time to add the peaches I food processed the peaches and then put them in water and tried to hold the temp at 160-175 to kill anything, but not get pectin haze.  I think that worked.  I then racked both carboys to a bucket, overtop the peaches, which filled the bucket to inches from the top.  I then left on a surprise trip, and hoped the additional sugars did not blow the airlock Smile

When I racked 20 days later, there was lots of pulp (racking took forever) and the taste was not peachy, and frankly not great.

I let it sit for a week and planned on tasting to see if I wanted to dry hop, and go for an IPA only.  WOW the peach had really come out, and the hop nose has bloomed.  I bottled 52 bottles until it was looking a bit too pulpy, and I put the rest in a 2 litre bottle and carbed the bottle.

Now for the label, I wanted to avoid the obvious peach titles (Peach Fuzz, Peachy Keen, Georgia Peach, even though Mark and I met at Georgia Tech).  That’s when my wife hit on the great idea that Ahn’s and Mark’s Son is a Mario nut.  Clearly I had to made it about Princess Peach!  The rest was “easy.”  Here is the label:


In case the test does not read well:  Princess Peach Ale, “Better than eating a ‘shroom.”


Hopville link:

Brewmate link:

BYO-BBR #7, used my idea for an experiment

Updated:  Added a helpful hints section


Hey homebrewers time for a Science-Off!  Please forward to your friends!

The latest BYO-BBR experiment took my idea for an experiment:  Determining when Starch conversion really happens during the mash.

This is based off of a statement Chris Colby made about Conversion really happening in 10-15 minutes.  The experiment is simple:

When mashing (Partial or All Grain), do an iodine starch test every 5 minutes (from the top).

Record the results.

Enter results on the web form below (This includes the grain bill, temp, etc.)

Now I came up with a clever way to record this.  Get a (or two) pill-a-day boxes with a white background like you can get them at Bartells etc. for about a dollar.  I got 2, since 7 days only goes to 35 minutes.100_5613

Take a photo when you are done, and you can send that into Basic Brewing.  That way people can compare photograph results as well as times.

helpful Hints

  • Setup everything you normally setup during Mashing beforehand.  Testing/Photographing every 5 minutes takes up a fair amount of time when you thought you had an hour block
  • Have a 5 minute timer or mash in on a 5 minute mark.  It makes it easier to know when you have to pull the sample.
  • Close the other compartments so you do not drip in the wrong compartment
  • Do not shake, they are not water proof and they leak under the lid
  • Put the containers on a plate, see next hint.
  • Do not spill the iodine.  if you do make sure you have a plate
  • Take a before and after picture of the tests so you can be sure there was a color change

An Example:



If you notice, something is very wrong about my results.  It looks like starch appeared later in the mash.  Well I think that is because I was doing a pumpkin ale, and I believe the pumpkin was releasing starch as the mash was going on.  So lesson learned, puree the pumpkin!



One factor they are looking at is, does stirring makes a difference, so if you brew twice this month, try stirring the mash one time, and not the other.  Other Factors:

1) Stir vs. Non Stirring

2) Mash thickness

3) SG at time of reading

4) Total SG

5) Types of grains

6) Top reading vs. deep reading (not really looking at this)

7) Does the beer taste different if you stop at l

Even if you are not doing AG or PG, you can do the experiment by getting a small amount of grain and just mashing by soaking the ground grain in a measured amount of heated water. (Say 1lb in 1 quart of water).  They describe how to do an iodine test in the podcast, and below.

The Deadline for submitting data is End of February.

I was unaware they were going to use my idea because I was working on doing a quick talk on the idea.  Therefore the more people submit data the better!  So please submit data!


Page to enter data:

Link to BBR podcast and BYO Blog:

The experiment is described from minutes from 8 min to 20 min.

February 3, 2011 – BYO-BBR Conversion Experiment Intro

Chris Colby, editor of Brew Your Own magazine, and James invite you to take part in Collaborative Experiment Seven. Also, Steve Wilkes joins James to talk cider, lagering, and other homebrew business.

iTunes | Streaming mp3

February 10, 2011 – Mash Time Experiment

Home brewer Charles Hoffman and James conduct an experiment comparing the effects of different mash times on a single recipe. Chris Colby and Kai Troester help interpret the results.
Kai’s starch test page

iTunes | Streaming mp3

Chris does not have a blog on it yet.

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