Every September Bob of Bob's Homebrew takes orders for cider juice, to be delivered in late October and picked up at the store. The last time I bought juice was in 2004, right before I moved to Miami. I made a Cyser (Cider/Mead) out of it that ranks as one of my favorite things I've ever fermented. It ended fairly dry and chardonnay-like, and didn't score well in competition because the apple was a bit overwhelmed, but it was a good 13% and tended to sucker-punch the unsuspecting. So I was quite excited to be able to order cider this year. It's been a while.
The juice comes from an orchard up on Lopez Island, in the San Juans. The bulk of the press is normal sugary apples, Golden Delicious, Jona Gold, etc. But the grower also planted a variety of English Cider Apples, many of them weird heirloom varieties, and these go in too. All told there is something like 23 kinds of apples in here.
It arrived pre-sulfited so making the cider couldn't have been easier. Sanitize carboy. Drive to Bob's. Fill carboy. Buy Wyeast Cider Yeast. Smack. Get home. Pitch with a couple teaspoons yeast nutrient. Done. Fermenting away in the low 60's. Now we play the waiting game.
I decided not to go the Cyser route this year, as I already have 12 gallons of berry melomel going and another 12ish of Riesling and Pinot Gris, so I'm good on wine. Gravity reading was 1.052, which would make for a 4.75-5.0%ish beer. I had considered adding some brown sugar to go for a New England Style Strong Cider. But I highly suspect that this will ferment down to dry, 0.999, at which point it will be closer to 7% ABV, which is plenty strong enough.
Plan is to keg, diluted and back-sweetened to 5% ABV and 1.006, for a Draught Style Cider on tap, and to bottle the rest, possibly in Belgian bottles, as a dry sparkling cider.