Keeveing Instructions
Wild-Horton Keeved Apple Cider

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When reading the keeving steps below, please keep in mind that based on the types of apples selected, the soil conditions that the trees live in, and the type of climate they endure, have played a great part in my personal keeving success rate of 78%. For you...YOU and your success rate, you will do well if you learn what types of apples make the best juice for keeving in your area. GOOD LUCK! The information is often hidden in old books, or outright non-existent in many parts of the world. So, you will be on a technical adventure.

Remember, juice pressed from the same apple cultivar grown in different countries, counties, provinces, and orchards will often render juice that behaves differently during keeving. It will likely exhibit different flavours in the finished cider. This is true even if the climate is similar. But to help you, the following books, have been a great resource for me. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that juice pressed from wild or struggling apple trees often makes some of the finest hard-apple cider.

A little hint 4-U: "Why would one want to grow an orchard of unhealthy apple trees?

With a little practice, and learning the Art and Science of Keeving, you can match and likely surpass my success rate. I am sure that you can easily improve on the methods below. In the examples given below, I attempt to keep the terminology and science simple. For getting the real exact details and many alternate methods used in keeving, refer to these books. The numbers stated for temperatures, time, and quantities are not exact and can vary a few percent. Some steps may be able to be skipped, altered. Some steps may be missing for you to discover in your own process. Have fun and become a master of keeved cider.

Keeving Process Results (2012):

The keeving process for the Wild Horton juice was a huge success!

The naturally carbonated keeved cider exhibited as I can only describe as being blessed with an extreme fragrance of pleasingly-ripe apple that finished off with an incredible heavy-butterscotch and caramel fragrance. No notes involved on this batch...the bouquet was bold and capturing. The flavor and body was light and refreshing as said by the people who tasted it. A few of them asked if I had back sweetened or added flavors. I did not. For my taste palette, the cider was a bit on the light side. My mistake was that I did not blend in a high-tannin apple juice, for a little extra body and mouth feel. I think then it would have been almost perfect… for me. And yet with that said, when the cider was chilled to a temperature of 32ºF (0ºC), the clean apple flavor with a light and sweet finishing taste of the butterscotch/caramel was even crisper and not rich and heavy. I personally especially enjoy the ciders that are vacant of the bitter yeast aftertaste. But again that is my preference. I think that if I would have added aggressive commercial yeast, the yeast aftertaste would have masked the butterscotch/caramel flavor element.

For this single variety cider, only natural yeast was used. I was lucky on this batch, as the juice was perfect for keeving and all of the main juice properties were already on target. As a result, no sugar, malic acid, or Campden tablets (sodium metabisulfite or potassium) were added, and the natural yeast was robust enough as not to become stuck in long-term ferment, so no yeast energizer or nutrients were added. I did use the Keeving Kit. I firmly believe that using the purest Calcium Chloride and PME specifically formulated for keeving makes a huge difference in the quality of the finished cider.

For my jump-start mix, I did use a dash of yeast energizer in the same juice to get the natural yeast population up quickly. I always like to have this yeast inoculation ready for emergencies. The alcohol content was approximately at 4.5%. I did not age the cider in an oak barrel or did I add any oak chips. The cider was only racked once after keeving, and disgorged the French way after the carbonation completed.

In 2014, I will repeat this keeve but add a high-tannin keeved and finished apple cider to address the body issue. I will report on the second trial of Keeved Wild-Horton Cider in early 2015.

Apple Cultivar Summary:

The apples pressed to make this single variety cider were from a wild apple tree that I discovered and named as Wild-Horton (named after the road that it growing by). The 2-inch ( cm) yellow red blushed spur-type apples ripen mid-September. The skin is smooth, thin, and the flesh is white and soft. The tree is extremely productive. The apples ripen at the same time, picking can be done by shaking the tree, but the fruit bruises easily. The tree and fruit appear to be immune to apple scab. Apples seemed a bit dry for pressing and expecting a large amount of juice. Flavor is mild sweet with a light-taste of tannins. Based on the number of tree trunks, I estimated the tree to be approximately 35-years old and has never been maintained. Narrow crotch angles have allowed many branches to split-off with snow loads. I took scions from the tree as it is looking likely that local business park construction may take its life soon.

Environmental Summary:

Apple growing season has been sunny without any rain for almost four months... “on the rainy-side” of the Cascade Mountain Range it has been the driest ever on record for Washington State. As far as the temperature, it was only an averagely hot summer with only two or three days where temperatures exceeded 80ºF (26.6ºC).


Tested for Optium Harvest Time:

Test for ripeness and sugar levels.The minimum goal is to have sugar levels at at least 12% on the Brix scale.

Sep-12: Brix = Approx. 12.5%

Sep-14: Brix = Approx. 12.5%

Sep-17: Brix = Approx. 13.2%

Sep-20: Brix = Approx. 13.8%



Sep-21: Vigorously shook the tree branches and most all of the apples fell from the spurs into a sheet placed ontop of the grass. In about 45-minutes, I filled four boxes, or seven 5-gallon (19L) buckets worth of apples.


Sep-22:  To help convert the remaining starches to sugar and reduce the amount of Nitrogen in the apples, for 2-days I sweated the apples in buckets. After the two days, the  smooth skin on the apples became slightly waxy or oily to the touch, became easy to dent when squeezed firmly. The fruit also emitted a heavy but pleasing smell of overipe apples. As a result of my picking method, the apples displayed considerable bruising over 75% of their surface, and most of the flesh had become brown and grainy from the impact. Combined with the warm weather (
Day: 71
º F (21.6C) and Night: 65º F (18C), I became concerned that I would lose many of them to rot. So I made an unpopular decision to cancel my dinner so I could begin the milling process.

Note:  Late season apples can take up to a month or more to be properly ripened. A starch test can be used for more precice ripeness testing.


Sep-24: On the sorting bench, I discarded any rotten or worm-damaged apples, stems, leaves, and any other foreign material.


Sep-24: To fully expel contaminants from apple pores,  and using my home-made apple washer, the apples were washed in water that was approximately 10 degrees warmer than that of the apples.

TIP: I have noticed that, the cleaner the apples, the longer lead time there is for keeving without mold dots forming on top of the initial cap.


Sep-24: From the sorting bench, I milled the apples in the home-made grinder that was placed over a single collection drum.


Added PME:
Sep-24:   At this point I chose to add the PME to the pulp. Why Didn’t I add the PME to the Juice Instead?

  1. From two Keeving Kits, I dissolved the PME (PART A) in 2-cups (0.4L) of the juice, and poured the solution over the pulp.
  2. Using a wooden spoon, I mixed the pulp for approximately 5-munites to fully distribute the PME into the pulp.
  3. Packed the pulp into 5-gallon buckets, snapped lids closed, and placed in pre-chilled refrigerator  of 32º F (0º C).
Note: Some cider makers do not use PME whatsoever, as they have found the best apples for keeving.


Sep-24: Allowed the pulp to be refrigerated for 24 hours, to allow the PME to the release of more pectin from the apple skins and have a higher juice yield.


Sep-25: Removed the pulp from the refrigerator, pressed the pulp, filled carboy with juice, and placed a paper dust cap over the opening of the keeving carboy. I do not all the air-lock at this time. The dust cap is merely a paper towel formed like a bonnet with an elastic band securing it to the neck of the carboy.


Established Baseline Values:
Tested for juice baseline-properties. I was lucky! I the three baseline numbers were very reasonable, no adjustments needed:

SG = 1.058

pH = 3.5

Brix = 13.2%


Added Calcium Chloride Solution:
At this point I added one pack of Calcium Chloride. Why did I only use one pack of Calcium Chloride, when I Earlier used Two Packs of PME?

  1. From the Keeving Kit, I added one package Calcium Chloride (PART B) into a pre-filled container containing 1-cup (0.2L) of the juice.
  2. Next I placed the lid on the container and shook it vigorously until all of the Calcium Chloride was completely diluted and was foamy.
  3. I started a vigorous swirl to the pressed juice, and immediately poured the Calcium Chloride solution into the swirling juice. The foamy portion of the solution stays on top and usually creates an initial cap within 5-minutes.


Began the Keeving Babysitting:
Next I refrigerated the juice at ~37º F (2.8º C) and check on it a few times a day for up to 20-days until hopefully the lees rise to the surface in the form of the big-thick cap or Brun. This indicates that the keeve has occurred, and celebration is in order! During this refrigerated keeving period, the cold temperature delays fermentation long enough to let the nutrients that support extended yeast life settle to the bottom of carboy. During this process, the juice clears and the sugar remains. The table below summarized how the Juice, Lees, and Initial Cap changed during the 12-day keeving reaction.


Initial Cap
Sep-25: Dark-murky Thick, unsettled, no layering Clearly formed, buoyant, approximately 3/4" (1.9 cm) thick
Sep-26: Dark-murky with dark-to light zoning Thick, unsettled but layers started to form, surface cloudy Unchanged
Sep-27: Dark-murky at bottom, cloudy at top Thick, layers more defined, surface cloudy Unchanged
Sep-28: Dark-murky at bottom, cloudy at top Thick, clear layering, surface fluffy Unchanged
Sep-29: Dark-cloudy at bottom, hazy at top Starting to compress, surface fluffy Slight compression, more dense
Sep-30: Dark-haze at bottom, slightly hazy at top Fairly compact, surface fluffy Color becoming layered slightly
Oct-01: Slight-haze at bottom, clear at top Fairly compact, surface smoothe Surface becoming blotchy color
Oct-02: Slight-haze Very compact, surface smooth Becoming puffed and blotchy, few mold dots forming on surface also
Oct-03: Clear Very compact, surface smooth Slightly more puffed and blotchy, more mold dots forming on surface
Oct-04: Clear Very compact, surface smooth Still very buoyant, sealing well, mold dots began to multiply faster
Oct-05: Very Clear Very compact, surface smooth Sealing well, mold dots turned dark and multiplied even faster


I Caught the Pre-Keeve:

Oct-06: At this point, the juice was refrigerated for 12-days at ~42ºF (5ºC), and the babysitting paid-off. I caught the lees beginning pre-flight. This is a great situation because I was able to warm and cool the juice and take any other measures to ensure that the keeve would occur.

If I missed the pre-keeve, and allowed 24-hours pass, it is possible that the cap would have risen for a short while, lost buoyancy, and sunk back to the bottom--I never would have known.

Another situation that could have happened during my absence was that depending on how aggressive the natural yeast was, a full-blown ferment could have started blowing-apart the lees and initial cap (with its mold-dots included) and mixing it with the juice leading to a failed keeve and contaminated juice.

Raised Temperature to Help Rise the Lees

Oct-06: At this point I decided that the juice was clear enough, and it was time to help this keeve along to completion. To do this, I raised the juice temperature to ~60ºF (15.5ºC). Generally this temperature rise is sufficient to induce a slight fermentation. If done slowly (VERY SLOWLY), the gasses are trapped in the lees and it floats to the surface to form the Cap or in French the Chapeau Brun.

IMPORTANT: It is critical that when raising the temperature that it is done very slowly over a period of several hours and that you inspect progress frequently. The reason is that the temperature rise MUST be consistent throughout the entire volume of cider. If you are impatient and ignore this, the sides of the container will warm the juice before the center core of the juice has equalized in temperature. The result will be that a temperature differential will cause enough turbulence inside of your carboy to destroy the cap and mix it with the juice leading to a failed keeve and contaminated juice.

Additionally, watch for gas scars in the lees that can indicate the ferment is beginning to quickly and gasses are escaping the lees; cool the juice down a few degrees to slow this. Additionally, with some natural yeasts on the apples, if temperature only rises a few degrees instead of reaching the ~60ºF (15.5ºC), fermentation activity can unexpectedly explode with exponential growth activity destroying the cap and mix it with the juice, and again, leading to a failed keeve and contaminated juice.

In most cases for me, once the lees begin to rise, it takes approximately 40-munites to form the cap. It is not uncommon to have the heavier lees and sediment stay-put at the bottom and never rise with the cap.



Lowered Temprature to Retard Fermentation & Allow for Full Cap Compression

Oct-06: I refrigerated the juice for 3.5 hours, and was satisfied with the clarity of the juice and the amount of cap compression.

The nutrients that would feed the yeast in addition to the sugar have been separated from the sugar and are trapped in the cap.

Until the cap was left behind by the racking process, I could not call it a Successful Keeve!



Racked to Protect the Keeved Juice

Oct-6: At this point to avoid the risk of the cap sinking from a retarded fermentation and loss of bouyancy, I chose to rack (siphon out) the juice into the long-term fermenting vessel or carboy.

Hopefully now, the juice that is racked into the long-term fermenting carboy will ferment slowly until the yeast dies-off before all sugar is consumed.

TIP: To help fight the constant threat of airborne bacteria and mold spores, I often purge the fully-cooled, pre-sterilized, and filtered-capped carboys with CO2. Also remember when the juice begins to flow through racking tube, allow some juice to flow through it into a waste container as to flush the tube.

CAUTION: The surface of the cap can be tough like a piece of soft leather. If you merely attempt to push or drop the racking cane through the cap without cutting a slot in the cap surface and folding the moldy skin back, it is not uncommon to push a round plug of mold into the juice. Or worse, the skin may fail to split. Then like a rotten-moldy rag, in a blink of an eye, the skin can fold up around the racking cane and follow it to the bottom of the carboy. In a matter of a second the juice would be contaminated.




IMPORTANT: When cutting a slot in the cap, and when pushing the cane through into the juice, be extremely careful as not to disturb or vibrate the cap whatsoever. Often even the slightest cap agitation or movement will cause material from the cap underside to break apart and rain down to the bottom of the carboy. This will delay a nice clean racking.

Shown Below is the tough skin from an initial cap on late-season keeved apple juice.


Added Jump-Start Mix:

Oct-6: While the juice and yeast is refrigerated, it can be a considerable amount of time before the yeast can grow to a population where enough alcohol will be produced and the juice becomes sterilized.

So I tested the pH again and it was approximately 3.5, this was okay.

But for a little more added insurance, I inoculated the juice with the previously prepared jump-start mix. Next I placed the airlock onto the carboy for the first time and allowed the juice to sit in the aging cabinet at ~60ºF (15.5ºC) for two days. By doing so, this would immediately increase the yeast population to a high level so alcohol would start to sterilize the juice and discourage mold growth. So going into refrigeration fermentation and sterilization is already in progress.

When fermenting bubbles were seen on the edge of the juice, I moved the juice to the refrigerator for long-term ferment.

TIP: To prevent a stuck ferment, once a week, I turned the refrigerator OFF and allowed the temperature raise to ~60ºF (15.5ºC) for approximately 8-hours, and turned it back on to cool the juice back down to ~42ºF (5ºC).

Over the next several months as long-term cold fermentation proceeded, I used the hydrometer to track the SG (Specific Gravity) of the cider and logged the readings for two reasons.

First, when the appropriate SG reading was indicated, I knew when it was safe to bottle the cider into Champaign bottles for natural carbonation avoiding a bottle explosion hazard.

Second, the readings enabled me to estimate the final alcohol level by comparing the final SG reading with the initial SG reading that was taken at the beginning of the keeving process months earlier.