Minimum Sulphite Dose at Bottling

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Patrick McCauley

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Jun 7, 2024, 11:03:33 AMJun 7
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Hi all. I always seek to make as natural of a cider as possible, and have had great success over the years using a very small sulfite dose of around 25ppm prior to fermentation, and then fermenting with wild yeasts. I rarely get off flavors in my cider prior to bottling, but I've had a number of ciders that develop some off flavors in the bottle. I had some ciders that were completely amazing(and award winning) after a year in the bottle, but after that, they developed some less than desirable flavors and aromas. I'm 100% certain that this is just MLF at work, as the flavors and aromas are usually a mild barnyard funk. The ciders also seem to lose some of their zest, and don't taste quite as bright and lively. I'm sure that some of this is just the acids mellowing over time, but I'm fairly certain it's the malolactic bacteria doing their thing. While I love my cider to be "living" and bottle all of them Pet Nat, I'm curious if there is a minimum dose of sulfite that I could add at bottling to avoid some of these less-desirable MLF flavors, while not affecting the pet-nat style I love? I'm curious if I just added 25ppm of sulfite at bottling, would that be enough to counteract the worst of these malolactic bacteria, especially over a year, or two, or three? I've read that most commercial operations do a higher dose than that, but again, I want to keep it as natural as possible. Let me know what you think might be the minimum sulfite dosage at bottling to help to avoid these off-flavors. Thanks!

Pat McCauley
Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

gareth chapman

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Jun 9, 2024, 4:40:52 AMJun 9
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The sulphite dose required is pH dependent , but equally some organisms will be more sensitive to sulphite than others. so the amounts needed could vary.
IMHO once you have made the decision to add sulphite  add the right amount to achieve your aims, you're either wanting to produce a totally natural product or not.
But in direct answer to your question MLB are extremely sensitive to sulphite so yes a low dose might well be effective.

Claude Jolicoeur

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Jun 9, 2024, 8:59:46 AMJun 9
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Not a direct answer to your question... but may help
I did, some years ago, some testing, adding different dosages of sulfite at bottling for pet-nat.
Dosages went from 20 ppm and up to 80 ppm.
My aim at the time was to figure the maximum dosage that didn't leave a residual sulfite flavor in the finished cider.

The results were very interesting:
  • Even with a 80 ppm addition, I couldn't taste the sulfite in the cider. It all got bound during the in-bottle fermentation and there was no remaining free sulfite.
  • The sulfited bottles had slightly cleaner flavor than unsulfited.
  • The higher the sulfite dosage, the more sparkling the cider. While this result was at first surprizing, it can be explained by assuming the higher sulfite dosages killed the competition to the yeast, which could then do more work than if competition from other microorganisms is present.
In any case I'd suggest you do some testing.

Patrick McCauley

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Jun 9, 2024, 10:20:51 AMJun 9
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Thanks so much, Claude. That was going to be my next question. How does the sulfite dose affect the in-bottle fermentation/carbonation? Thanks for letting me know. I feel like the best ciders have interesting and complex flavors from a mixed microbe fermentation, but it's a challenge to hit the right point between "complex and interesting" and "too funky and weird" for the average consumer. I'm trying to keep it on the interesting and complex side of that divide. After some conversations with other cider makers that I know, I'm going to shoot for an additional 25ppm at bottling, especially on my higher-tannin ciders, which tend to get extra funky/mlf going on after aging. I appreciate the input!

Pat McCauley

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Claude Jolicoeur

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Jun 9, 2024, 11:16:33 AMJun 9
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Yes, 20 to 30 ppm looks good to me. Yesterday I just opened a first bottle of a perry I bottled mid December. This was an earlier season perry with Thorn and Ure pears, which fermented very fast.
I was able to stabilize it at SG1.011 after multiple rackings and bottled with 30 ppm of sulfite, 8 g/L of sugar (which raised SG to 1.0135) and 10 ppm of dry yeast. It is very clean, with a perfect sparkle, no off flavor.
For my part, I tend to use sulfite only on early batches as it is warmer for the beginning of fermentation, which leaves the door open for other unpleasant organisms - in particular I have had some brett proliferation in 2021 and (to a lesser extend) in 2022, which can give a quite nasty funk. But this only happened on early batches, and we had a very warm fall in 2021. The bulk of my batches are started when temperatures are colder and don't get this sort of problem even if no sulfite is used (either before fermentation or at bottling).

moo...@gmail.com

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Jun 10, 2024, 1:23:34 PMJun 10
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Out of curiosity, does anyone know if there is a point of in-bottle pressure where MLF is inhibited and if so, would that point be less / more than the point at which yeast activity would be inhibited? In other words, if you shoot for more carbonation, could you potentially use less sulfite?

Matt

Per Buhre

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Jun 10, 2024, 3:01:18 PMJun 10
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We made some interesting experiments last year. Same blend of cider. 

1. Just natural
2. 30 ppm sulfite
3. Added Chitosan ( fining, anti-bacterial)
4. Added some cider with very high acidity

1. Great, but sadly a hint of mousiness
2. Lack of fruitiness and reductive
3. Great, different from 1 but very fruity clear and nice. 
4. Great. Especially after some time in bottle. 

Juice was fermented with ”natural” yeast. Swedish apples. 

/ Per





Skickat från min iPhone

10 juni 2024 kl. 19:23 skrev moo...@gmail.com <moo...@gmail.com>:

Out of curiosity, does anyone know if there is a point of in-bottle pressure where MLF is inhibited and if so, would that point be less / more than the point at which yeast activity would be inhibited? In other words, if you shoot for more carbonation, could you potentially use less sulfite?

David Lemieux

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Jun 10, 2024, 3:09:56 PMJun 10
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Hello,

Introducing a yeast with a competitive factor at bottling for conditioning may create an environment hostile to ML bacteria.

If you can quantify your malate you may be able to confirm this suspicion.

Disgorgement may also help the ageing potential without compromising the pet-nat approach.

Matthew Moser Miller

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Jun 10, 2024, 3:33:41 PMJun 10
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Hi David,

Could you elaborate on how the competitive factor of a yeast would discourage MLF? I'm thinking of "kill factor" (which may be a different thing), but I had always seen that described as something from inter-yeast competition, as opposed to discouraging microbial competition more broadly.

Thanks,

Matt Moser Miller

LL

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Jun 14, 2024, 5:58:49 PMJun 14
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Claude,
Just out of curiosity, how do you identify brett contamination? To my understanding, volatile phenols in cider are often the result of lactobacillus. But maybe you identify some other off-flavour or take a look at your cider in a microscope?
Kind regards 
Love

Claude Jolicoeur

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Jun 14, 2024, 11:58:58 PMJun 14
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Just by taste... There are cider makers in North America who intentionally inoculate some brett culture in cider making - I have some difficulty to understand why they do that! But I think this comes from beer making, where brett is traditional for some styles of belgium beers, and it is possible to buy brett inoculum.
In any case, when you have tasted some of these beers and some brett-inoculated ciders, it becomes quite easy to identify it.
But I agree, some lactic bacteria may give quite similar flavors.

love.client

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Jun 15, 2024, 8:46:50 PMJun 15
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Ah. I see. I find these barnyard aromas very hard to accept and I want to avoid them. When searching for info about it some time ago, I came across a paper which says: 

"Although lactic acid bacteria have been shown to produce low levels of volatile phenols in wines (12), in synthetic media simulating cider conditions, the production of ethylphenols by these bacteria was faster than production by Brettanomyces/Dekkera, the microorganism traditionally associated with volatile phenol defects in wine (13)."


So I have kind of been hoping that it is mostly caused by bacteria in cider, which would mean sulfites should work well as protection. Since much of the traditional tannin rich cider is low in acidity and is spontaneously fermented (I presume without sulfites), it would also make sense if lactic bacteria thrived in there. But if it is brett, I suppose it is more difficult to control?
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gareth chapman

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Jun 16, 2024, 4:06:25 AMJun 16
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Indeed Brett can be much harder to control with some strains being highly sulphite tolerant and again where sulphite might work acidity will also be a contributing  factor.
Generally Barnyard, Old Horse etc caused by  LAB also brings spicy high note whereas Brett. generally doesn't and if anything may subdue other flavours and lead to a more "flabby" flavour profile.
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