Layger Brewhaus Super Simple Infinite Cider Theorem Recipe

The Layger Brewhaus Super Simple Infinite Cider Theorem Recipe takes longer to read than it does to make!

Our simple cider recipe requires just three ingredients, no sanitizer, and no special gear.

Best of all, our recipe makes an infinite amount of still (uncarbonated) hard cider at a rate of about 3 quarts per week.

Juice/Cider: Buy two, 3 qt jugs of Santa Cruz organic apple juice or similar big jug of any apple cider or apple juice that is cloudy and not clear. Make sure it was pasteurized but has no preservatives (like benzoates, sulfates, etc.) Ascorbic acid is okay. You want 100% juice.

Yeast: Buy a brewing or winemaking yeast from your local homebrew store. For drier, winelike flavors (and higher alcohol content), use champagne yeasts. For more fruity, sweeter, or appley flavors, try White Labs WLP775 English Cider Yeast, Wyeast 4766 Cider, or Nottingham Ale Yeast.

Directions

  1. Pour about 2 cups cider from the jug into a pot, cover, and bring to a boil.
  2. Add half a yeast packet to the jug, cap, and shake vigorously.
  3. Once the cider has reached a boil, remove from heat and add about 1 cup brown sugar. Mix.
  4. Flavor time! Add any flavoring agents to your cider now. Consider oak chips, hops, maple syrup, orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, berrie, etc.. After adding them, ensure the cider stays over 160 for about 5 minutes to ensure pasteurization. If you want to make a hopped cider, add ½ oz hops now and simmer for 20 minutes. For aroma hops, add ¼ oz with 2 min left in the boil. After the boil time is reached, remove all hops.
  5. Let the hot cider cool for a few minutes then pour as much as you can back into your cider jug. (Leave about an inch of headspace in the jug.) Recap and shake for 1-2 minutes to mix and aerate the cider.
  6. Uncap the jug and place it into a boil kettle or 5 gal bucket and add the lid to cover. (Or, if you’re a scaredy cat, cap with a sanitized homebrewing airlock.)
  7. Ferment around room temp. For sweeter cider, ferment 4-5 days. For drier cider, ferment up to 10 days. Mess with the fermentation temp and timing to see what happens!
  8. Whenever you decide to stop fermenting, cover your jug’s mouth with foil and transfer it to your fridge. This will put the yeast to sleep and settle them to the bottom of the jug.
  9. Wait 2 days for the yeast to settle at to the bottom of the jug then pour your cider into a clean serving vessel, taking care to keep the yeast cake inside the jug.
  10. Keep the hard cider refrigerated and away from kids. Enjoy!

The Infinite Cider Part

  • If you like the cider’s flavor, reuse your settled yeast! Just get a new jug of cider and repeat steps 1-4 above, then pour your fresh cider into your original jug that contains the yeast layer. Use the new jug’s cap as needed.
  • If fermentation seems slow or slow to start on second and later batches, consider adding half a gram (a little less than 1/8th teaspoon) of yeast nutrient at the beginning of step 3.
  • If you don’t like the cider’s flavor, consider adding flavoring ingredients at step 5 or starting with new or different yeast.

Proofs of the Infinite Cider Theorem

The Nottingham ale yeast strain begun August 12, 2018:

  1. The First Batch started Aug 12, 2018. 5 day ferm. Too sweet, good apple flavor.
  2. The Cinnamon Batch started 8/19/18. Crushed cinnamon sticks, pasteurized. 7 day ferm. Convincing cinnamon aroma. Bitterly dry (started this batch with way more active yeast!) Warms the throat.
  3. Hops Batch started 8/28/18. Boiled ½ oz UK Fuggles 20 min. 6 day ferm. Sweet, a little toothpasty?

New Nottingham ale yeast half packet begun Sep 5, 2018:

  1. Bob’s Big B Farm Apple Cider started 9/5/18. No sugar or adjuncts added.

 

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The Meaning of Sparge

The Layger Brewhaus brewing philosophy can be summed up in one word… Sparge!

  • “‘Tis very important to sparge.”—Benjamin Franklin
  • “One must sparge oneself thoroughly from time to time.”—Plato
  • “Yarrrrrr, prepare to be sparged!”—Barbarosa
  • “Let’s get sparged!”—Van Wilder

None of those people said those things. However, they are all correct: sparging is critical, refreshing, scary, and fun.

Here’s how sparging fits into the brewing process:

  1. Boil a bunch of water.
  2. Crush up some tasty grains.
  3. Stick ’em in a big sock.
  4. Drop the sock in the boiling water for awhile.
  5. Sparge.

As you can see, sparging is fifth on the list – it must be pretty important! Unfortunately, none of the homebrew recipes will tell you what “sparging” is. Instead, the recipes assume some prior knowledge (probably “reading” the entire book that preceded the recipe section – like any brewer is sober enough to read!). The recipes literally say “Sparge.” If you’re lucky, you’ll get a “Sparge the grains.”

Layger Brewhaus will now tell you what “sparging” is: Sparging is a metaphor for life.

As we here at Layger Brewhaus have sparged, we have come to know the many facets of sparge and its many true meanings. A few of those:

  • To sparge is to make major, brew-altering decisions without full prior knowledge of the possible consequences.
  • To sparge is to rely on intuition rather than the explicit, written knowledge of the vastly more experienced.
  • To sparge is to use one’s discretion, exercising restraint with repugnant, traditional beer ingredients like “beer finings”.
  • To sparge is to dare, to dream…to pretend that 100°F is “cool enough” to add the yeast after 2 hours of waiting.
Layger self sparge March 2016

Jon enjoys a self-sparge. No, really. That’s a thing.

In short, to sparge is to be foolhardy, relying on sheer dumb luck, millions of years of evolution, the bombproof recipes of America’s homebrew industry, and the gumption of our forefathers.

More technically, to sparge is to rinse the spent grains with hot water then discard them. Much like we at Layger Brewhaus discard our worries, cleansing our souls with beer and our bodies in the hot tub!

Join us, then, in taking up the call of “Sparge!” as more than just a brewing technique, but as a metaphor for life.

The Layger Brewhaus Sparge Charge:

I, [your name here], hereby pledge to be foolhardy, to rinse my worries away with beer, and to remember always that the first guy who brewed beer had no idea what he was doing… and look how that turned out. Doo doo doo doo doo doooooo—SPARGE!

Earned Wisdom: Layger’s Top 11 Tips for Better Brewing

Taking up a new hobby usually involves spending too much money on things that might or might not make a difference in enjoying your new hobby–or in how good you are at it.

If you could start all over again, how would you start brewing differently? (Thanks, Uri, for the inspiration to write these down!)

Here are a few of the things that have made a difference for Layger Brewhaus.

  1. Write your own recipes. Start with a goal flavor profile in mind. Look up some recipes online and see what they have in common. Then start writing down a recipe that will achieve your flavor profile. I’ve been doing this for about half the time I’ve been brewing, and it’s made brewing much more interesting. Anyone can follow a recipe. But if you write one with a goal in mind, you are actually trying to control your own destiny, which will make you a better, more creative brewer.
  2. Always make a yeast starter. IMG_20150820_145303193~3Since I started making a yeast starter, I have not yet brewed a batch that’s tasted a little off, a little funky, etc. Basically what you do is double the amount of yeast that you pitch. You can do this easily by just buying two of the same yeast packs/tubes, but you can also make it yourself with one yeast pack, a growler, some dry malt extract, and a little advance notice. Here’s how to make a homebrew yeast starter.
  3. Star-San sanitizer. It’s so much better than bleach! It’s much easier to use. It costs more than bleach, but you can re-use it a few times. It won’t destroy your clothes or your ability to smell. Also, it won’t eat off your fingerprints the way bleach seems to.
  4. Use glass carboys. After a few brews, the plastic buckets that make up beginner brewing kits start to make every brew taste kinda the same. Glass can be harder to get squeaky clean, but it doesn’t scratch like plastic meaning a glass carboy will stay cleaner than a plastic one.
  5. Use some grains. Extract brewing (using that syrup-like stuff) is easy, but you’ll start to notice that extract brews start to taste the same. Partial mash (using mostly syrup but also some actual crushed grains) is almost as easy as all-extract brewing but it makes much better beer.
  6. Leaf Hops, every time. Pellet hops will sort of dissolve in your wort and contribute to the big sloppy mess that is home brewing. Don’t cut corners: spend a couple bucks more and get real leaf hops and a little nylon sock to keep them together during the boil. You’ll get better hops flavor with much less mess.
  7. Those big gas burner things: Don’t bother with them. Sure, they might keep your wife happy not brewing up the house, but they mean you have to lug stuff around a lot and worry about if you’ll run out of propane, etc. Just clean the stove and the kitchen really well when you’re done and you’re all set!
  8. The ice bath. Don’t try to ice down your wort in the sink. It takes forever. Get a Coleman-style cooler or big plastic tub (like a keg icing tub) that your brew kettle will fit in. We used to wait hours for wort to cool, and now I can just swish the brew kettle back and forth in an ice/water cooler and cool the wort in about 10-15 minutes. Those “chiller plates” are amazing, too, but they cost a lot, you have to run your hose into/out of them, and they can clog. A simple moving ice-water bath is easy and cheap.
  9. Always secondary ferment. We used to ferment our beer and then put it straight into the bottles, which is why we ended up drinking cloudy, yeasty beer. While it’s extra trouble to drain your carboy into another carboy to let it basically keep it doing the same thing, you essentially filter out most of the yeast, hop sediment, and any adjunct sediment. The result is a much clearer and cleaner tasting beer.Layger Brewhaus
  10. Kegging really is better than bottling. Yes, it requires buying kegs, CO2 hoses/regulators, a CO2 tank, and the CO2. And, yes, it also requires a fridge to keep it cold, but it’s so much easier to clean/sanitize a keg than a million bottles. And you can force carbonate your beer, which is much easier and more controllable than adding bottling sugar. (About once a year, we’d overcarbonate part of a batch and dump a bunch of foam down the sink.) At the very least, bottle in 22 oz bombers or big 1-liter swing-tops!
  11. A chest freezer will open up half the beer world. Ales are just half the beer family and they’re aged at temps in the 60s. Lagers are the other half of the beer family and they’re aged at colder temps that require consistently weather, a cave or cellar, or a fridge. If you’ve got about $250, you can buy yourself a cheap GE chest freezer from Home Depot, a thermostat from Northern Brewer, and you’ll have yourself an awesome temperature controlled place for ales AND… (wait for it) for lagers! Home brewed lagers are awesome and you really can’t make them unless you have a way to get your carboy down to 34 degrees and keep there for 4-8 weeks. A chest freezer with a thermostat is a really good way to go. And when the beer is done fermenting, you can keg it and have a kegerator/keezer.

How to Make a Homebrew Yeast Starter

Totally stolen from Wyeast Laboratories

1/2 Cup Dry Malt Extract (100g, 3.5oz)
1/2 tsp Wyeast Nutrient
1 quart (1L) tap water

Mix DME, nutrient, and water.
Boil 20 minutes to sterilize.
Pour into a sanitized flask or jar with loose lid or foil.
Allow to cool to 70°F.
Add yeast and shake well.

The yeast will multiply for 24-36 hours. If you’re brewing on Saturday evening, start your starter on Thursday evening.

Periodically stir, shake, or otherwise agitate your yeast starter. This helps in several ways.

After 36 hours at room temp, move your yeast starter to a fridge to prevent spoilage before you brew.

IMG_20150820_145303193~3

Layger Brewhaus Upgrades: Our New All Grain Brew Tower

Jon is ready to brew it up a notch! He brought a huge upgrade to Layger Brewhaus on June 17, 2014 after spending all day with his father assembling his first all grain brew tower from Blichmann.

There was a lot to assemble: the tower structure itself, the pipe fittings that carry propane from the external tank to two burners, all the control valve assemblies, the hoses that cascade the hot water down to the mash tun, the valve and bobber in the mash tun, the false bottom that prevents spent grains from draining down from the mash tun to the boil kettle.

The first brew on Jon's all grain brew tower, June 17, 2014.

The first brew on Jon’s all grain brew tower, June 17, 2014.

On this maiden voyage of the brew rack, we brewed outside for two reasons: the weather was nice and we figured you have to run those two giant burners outside for ventilation! This first brew batch took over 9 hours–not including assembly time–as we learned the new workflow on the new gear.

Jon anticipated a problem with future brews: spending 9 hours outside in the dark on Colorado winter evening was going to make brewing a lot less fun. Engineer that he is, he invented a ventilation system so we could brew in the Layger Brewcellar: two window fans bungee corded in place. You can see them behind the brew tower in the basement photos below.

Layger Brewhaus Jon Hughes brewing tower Aug 2015

Jon, during mash. Note the two fans behind the tower exhausting outside.

Fire and Fumes

The move to the cellar was not without problems, aside from the disassembly and reassembly. Dave smelled gas–a lot of it. The many pipe fittings and hose connections involved with the rack were leaking propane — and not a small volume! After very temporarily setting small fires outside the pipe fittings (super dangerous!), Dave and Jon spent about 2 hours wrenching connections tighter until the tower leaked no more. The first brew night in the basement thus took at least another 9 hours.

Which Water?

The next problem was water. All grain brewing requires 8-9 gallons of very hot water. Our choices to get water into Jon’s tapless basement were hose from outside routed through the window or carrying buckets or store-bought gallons down. Hoses are  notoriously contaminated with mold and mildew. so manual labor it is.

But as intermediate homebrewers know, most beer snobs ask that you boil your municipal tap water for 15 minutes to gas off chlorine and other added chemicals that can cause off flavors. Yet the temp ranges for mashing grains are much lower than boiling and cooling off boiled water takes a lot of time.

Grocery stores offer two main types of bottled water: spring and distilled. Spring is unregulated, contains minerals not necessarily called for in a given recipe, and can contain contaminating organisms. Distilled water has no minerals, making it ideal for building a mineral water profile from scratch, but if you just want a basic tap water mineral profile, you really can’t use distilled water.

We’ve tried three options: spring, distilled, and unboiled tap (sparge!). All seem to work fine and even Longmont’s more highly chlorinated water seems to taste fine unboiled.

New Process, New Problems

Using dry malt extract powder or syrups in partial mash brewing really does take away a lot of the work of all-grain brewing. Partial mash brewing involves 1-3 pounds of specialty grains that you must steep, but not at a specific temperature. All-grain brewing means you have to make your own malt extract, in a way, by starting with 8-12 pounds of grains. Using a malt extract means you don’t have to do these steps that are required in all-grain brewing:

  1. Heat water to mash-in temp.
  2. Transfer hot water to mash tun.
  3. Soak grains in mash tun with hot water.
  4. Maintain the grains at a specific temp in the mash tun for 30-60 minutes.

Jon’s brew tower has a burner to heat the water (step 1 above) and a burner for the boil kettle, but there is no middle burner to maintain mash temperature. We have struggled to maintain the correct mash temps (step 4 above). The insulation in the photo below shows one attempt that has helped–but not solved–the problem. The way most all-grain brewers solve the mash temp problem is by using a large, insulated Gatorade-style water cooler with a false bottom and a spigot. We just don’t feel great about routinely putting hot water into a plastic container.

The Layger Brewhaus brewing tower

Jon’s all-grain tower

Putting Hose in Different Area Codes

Homebrewers want to cool their boiled wort as quickly as possible. Aiding us in this endeavor is a new wort chiller plate that robs coolness from a garden hose in exchange for hot wort heat. It’s on the floor just behind the stepladder. Does it work? When it works, it chills 5-7 gallons of 200 degree wort in about 20 minutes. But when it gets clogged with hops flowers or hops dust that’s escaped our hop bags, rectifying the problem can easily at 45 minutes to brew night. We think the solution is very fine mesh hop bags and more care in handling them.

When It All Goes Well…

Our best time so far, start to finish, is 6 hours to brew two batches. Our execution was flawless and the equipment cooperated. Most brews, we’re looking at 7-9 hours. On brews with complicated grain schedules, long boils, or wort chiller plate clogs, we’ve approached 12 hours.

The Analogy

Can a Polaroid camera take a great photo? Sure, if the raw ingredients are right and you get lucky. The new Layger brew tower gives us total control over the brewing process, just as using a DSLR or film camera on manual gives you full control over your photo. And, yes, it requires more knowledge and skill to brew a better beer.

In the end, this new tower has already pushed us in new directions and to higher heights. Our beers are better. We’re more creative. We write our own recipes. We’re in control, for better beer or for worse!