A Cyser is a blend between an apple cider and a mead. Fermenting the fruit and honey combination is also referred to a Melomel but the apple and honey base has earned its own name. Cider is traditionally apple juice and a mead is only honey and water, also known as a Hydromol. This magnificent blend of the two delicious recipes makes a fine drink that is sure to disappear quickly if your patients can handle the aging process.
Apple cyser can be a great drink if you are looking for a higher ABV than traditional cider along with complimentary honey and floral flavors. Because of the higher alcohol content, the cyser may require a few months of aging to mellow the alcohol and bring out the flavor.
Since cysers tend to be more like a wine than a cider, they require a yeast that can tolerate the higher alcohol level. Also, honey lacks many nutrients that yeast need to flourish and since it is a major contributor to the recipe, yeast nutrient and energizer are needed to keep them yeastys strong.
For this 1 gallon cyser recipe, I aim for an AVB of 14% which will max out the yeast. Because the yeast can no longer survive in the high alcohol environment, the additional sugars that are left over will leave the cyser semi-sweet.
I chose to use wine variety yeast, Lalvin71B-2211, which has an ABV tolerance of 14%. The ABV will be maxed out to the yeast tolerance so any additional sugar will not be fermented resulting in a semi-sweet cyser.
The type of honey used in a cyser is not as important as it would be when making mead. The flavor of the apple cider will mask the flavor of the honey. A clover or wildflower honey will work great.
Yeast Nutrient and Energizer:
The yeast nutrient and energizer will improve the health of the yeast which will produce finer tasting alcohol (fewer fusel alcohols ). When making a cider, yeast nutrient or DAP, is typically added in the beginning to increase the amount of dissolved nitrogen in the juice. Because a big portion of this recipe will be from honey that contains nearly no nutrients or nitrogen, we need to feed the yeast more nutrient as they consume the high SG must.
The high sugar content also means that the yeast has a lot more work to do and for a longer period of time. To make sure the yeast does not get stressed, indicated by a sulfur smell and high fusel production, we will add the yeast nutrient and energizer in staggered additions.
This means that the total amounts of nutrient and energizer will be measured out but only half will be added at the time of pitching the yeast, then the other half will be added a day later. Staggering the nutrient additions for cyser will make sure the yeast is fed but not given too much of a good thing at once.
How to Make Apple Cyser:
If you are new to cider making, start by reviewing the basic cider making instructions found here.
Preparing Apple Cyser Must:
- Place the honey container in hot water to liquefy the honey
- Pour the cider (room temp or warmer) and honey into a sanitized fermenter and mix vigorously
- Take a hydrometer reading once the honey has completely dissolved in the cider
- Add ½ of the of yeast nutrient and energizer
- Pitch the yeast and attach the airlock
- Wait one day and add the second ½ of yeast nutrient and energizer
The high gravity of a Cyser will require considerably more time to ferment than a traditional cider recipe. Plan for 6-8 weeks before racking into a secondary but sample SG to get a true gauge of fermentation. A time frame is less important than a quality fermentation.
Finishing the Cyser:
Due to the higher alcohol content of a cyser it will need to be aged for several months to mellow out the alcohol or you may notice the flavor of alcohol overpowers the fruit and honey. Similar to mead and wine, a cyser will develop finer flavors with time.
To age the cyser, rack it into a one gallon sanitized vessel for bulk aging to mellow the alcohol flavor and allow the sediment can drop out. Make sure there is very little headspace in the secondary vessel and the airlock is always full. Excessive oxygen exposure at this point can ruin the flavor of the cyser.
If the cyser remains hazy after several months of bulk aging, a fining agent such as Super-Kleer can be added or it can be filtered using a wine filter.
Once the cyser clears and you are happy with the sedimentation, choose your preferred method of bottling for long-term storage. It is suggested to age cyser for a minimum of 6 months to mellow the strong 14% alcohol flavor and bring out the honey apple notes.