So, after not dying from the results of a small batch of homebrewed apple cider, I decided to up my game and increase my production scale to up to 5 gallons. This took on the form of a trip a week ago to the local homebrew shop (which is brand new and kind of a half-assed side operation of a taphouse) to pick up a 6.5 gallon bucket, a 5-gallon glass carboy, and some ale yeast, in the hopes that it won't inpart as strong of a flavor as you standard Red Star you pick up in the baking good section.
Then I needed to acquire juice. It's the middle of the week and I do all my grocery shopping on weekends. So I was going to the store basically just to buy 5 gallons of apple juice. If I had decided to buy a funnel that night too (I held off because I don't need that until bottling, which is still weeks away), I would have had this weird feeling like I was a meth maker a decade ago who would go in and buy a entire Walgreens worth of Sudafed before they put that back behind the counter. Anyways, I decide that this batch would be 4 gallons worth of apple juice, along with a half-gallon of cranberry juice to see if I could put an extra bit of tart into it.
So, now comes the first big surprise in my cidermaking: Sugar.
Sugar levels are important in brewing. Sugar is the food for your yeast. So, you want to know how much sugar is in your juice at the beginning, because that's going to give you an idea of what the alcohol percentage will be in your end product. You do that using a tool called a hydrometer, which measure the density of the liquid. The higher the density of your cider, the more sugar there is, the higher the finished ABV will be.
So, I pour a little bit of the 100% apple juice into my measurement beaker and drop in the hydrometer.
Holy shit, you guys. The apple juice, right out of the bottle, had a gravity of 1.050. What does this mean? Well, basically, without adding any extra sugar, I could make cider with a ABV of 6.5 percent, which is close to a lot of IPAs out there.
So yeah, the story here: Fruit juice is REALLY FUCKING SUGARY.
I still added an extra bit of sugar to bump the original gravity to 1.060, which should put the finished cider in the high 7s on alcohol content. I moved it from the bucket to the carboy a couple of days ago after the super-aggresive fermentation was done just so I can keep a better eye on things. Yes, it's currently sitting on top of my washing machine until I move it back into my spare room.
ETA: If one more person posts about sterlization, I'm going to rage flip a table. I KNOW, OK?