When it comes to making hard cider, the use of yeast is not always necessary. This is because natural yeast present in the juice will naturally ferment the sugar into alcohol. This natural fermentation process occurs when the yeast consumes the sugar in the juice and converts it into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
In fact, many traditional cider-making methods rely solely on the natural yeast present in the juice. This can give the cider a unique flavor profile and can be a more hands-off approach for the home cider maker. Allowing the natural yeast to do its work can result in a more rustic and authentic cider.
However, there are cases where adding yeast can be beneficial. Some fermentation processes call for killing all the yeast in the pure cider with sulfur dioxide. This is done to ensure a clean and controlled fermentation. After waiting for 24 hours, wine yeast is then added to initiate fermentation. This method is often used in commercial cider production to ensure consistency and to avoid any off-flavors or spoilage.
For the average homeowner making cider, this additional step of killing the natural yeast and adding wine yeast is not necessary. The natural yeast present in the juice is typically sufficient to ferment the sugar and produce alcohol. It is a simpler and more natural approach that can produce excellent results.
In my personal experience as a sommelier and brewer, I have made cider using both methods – with and without adding yeast. I found that allowing the natural yeast to ferment the cider resulted in a more nuanced and complex flavor profile. The cider had a certain wildness to it that added to its charm. On the other hand, when I added wine yeast, the fermentation process was more controlled and predictable. The resulting cider was clean and crisp, with a more refined taste.
Ultimately, whether or not you choose to add yeast to your cider depends on your personal preference and the desired outcome. Both methods can yield delicious results, so it is worth experimenting to find the approach that suits your taste.