Tom was in town for the Royal Bath and West Show, so while we weren’t able to visit his farm and cidery as a group, he graciously agreed to come to our hotel and talk with us for an afternoon to discuss the mysteriously fickle art of keeving.
What is keeving? A sub 5.5% ABV cider, that is naturally sweet, unfiltered (only racking), and then bottle conditioned. The reason for this is that if it is over 5.5% then you have to pay the high duty rate of champagne.
In Tom’s opinion, keeving has a high failure rate – so here are some keys to consider:
- Ambient Temp of 10°C – better at 8°, even better at 6°, 12° is alright but 8 is best
- Minimum intervention – DO NOT BULLY!
- Old Trees, Traditionally Grown (only because traditional orchards mean old)
- Bittersweets (for their gentle and soft characteristics) and some bittersharps – NO HARD TANNIN FOR KEEVING!
- Stay away from acids
- Fruit is key! (Doesn’t measure YAN – just knows from many, many years of keeves)
- Maceration: time fruit spends after milling is crucial – 24-48 hours
- This will lend you less problems down the road
- Longer chain tannins come back to haunt when bottling (create snow globes)
- USE A PACK PRESS!
- Find out what your fruit requires
- Tools, apples, resources: “Whatcha got, is whatcha got”
- Poo is a crime
In Tom’s opinion, a true keeved cider happens naturally but these few things help the process:
- Picking apples between Oct – Nov
- PME (producers: STDANA, SANICO) and then Calcium Chloride flakes (powder) or liquid when it Floculates (3rd Day)
- Take 1L, mix in the Calcium Chloride, wait until it becomes the texture of semolina
- Ferments in 1000L totes (IBC), the plastic allows you to shine a Halogen light on the side to track the process
- You want Fermentation to start but just barely – Never above 14°
- Rack a couple times heading into Christmas, maybe once over New Year’s
- Rack when Barometric pressure is high, 3-4 times before the cold weather comes
- “IF A KEEVE IS A KEEVE IT’S A KEEVE!”
- Should be 1.020 when you bottle, in the bottle it will drops to 1.016 (no yeast into bottle!)
- Use cidre bouche corks – small, non-mushrooms short corks