A few months ago I stumbled across episode 68 of brewing tv, and subsequently the originating thread on homebrewtalk. From there it went further down the rabbit hole through reddit, and youtube. Graf (or Graff) is a slightly malty hopped cider, inspired by a beverage of the same name from the Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. Fanfic homebrew. I have not read the books, but graf piqued my interest. I thought it was an ingenious way of providing a degree of control over a cider fermentation to a homebrewer. On a commercial scale, cider manufacturers have many ways of controlling the terminal gravity of their ciders. Be it dry, semi-sweet, sweet, or whatever their market research department deems appropriate. On a homebrew scale, it is a bit of a crapshoot. One could carefully monitor the fermentation, stopping fermentation at the desired gravity with sulfites, then force carbonate in keg. This method pretty much requires you to not have a job or sleep, and a kegerator. Another method would be backsweetening after terminal gravity has been reached. Though if you are bottle conditioning, you are limited to using complex sugars which the yeast can not ferment, e.x. lactose, stevia, splenda, maltodextrin. Which I have read can lend off-flavours to the cider. From there there are other methods such as keeving, where nutrients are removed from the cider slowing fermentation down to a crawl. Not impossible on a homebrew scale, but a daunty task none the less.
Because your standard sacchromyces cerevisae is unable to ferment longer chain dextrinous sugars in the malt, by favouring alpha-amylase in the mash you can control the final gravity of the cider by the cider:grist ratio and the mash temperature. If all goes according to plan, the result will be a slightly malty hopped cider, or a graf.
English Mild Cider
15 litres apple cider (10.8ºp~)
450g (1#) wheat malt
560g (1.25#) amber malt
270g (.66#) dark crystal 150l malt
230g (.5#) chocolate malt
8.5g 4.7%aa East Kent Golding 90 minutes 4 ibus
20g 4.7%aa East Kent Golding 10 minutes 3 ibus
28.5g 4.7%aa East Kent Golding 7 days dry hop in secondary
whirlfloc 1 tablet 15 minutes
yeast nutrient 15 minutes
1 packet Fermentis S-04 11g
- Heat 4 litres of dechlorinated water on the stove to the appropriate mash temperature to achieve a mash temperature of 70c. Best to undershoot, as raising the temperature is relatively easy with the stove top.
- Put grains in BIAB/paint strainer bag, and steep in strike water until conversion. If your oven goes down low enough, place the mash pot in the oven at 70c to help maintain temperature.
- Remove mash bag from liquid, and place aside. In another pot heat 4.6 litres to 76c. Steep mash bag in water to extract residual sugars
- Combine first, and second pots for total volume of 8 litres, with an estimated starting gravity of 9.6ºp. Depending on how efficient is your stove top, you may want to adjust starting volume to compensate for the boil off. I had no idea what I would boil off in 90 minutes, so I decided to adjust the volume post-boil. Boil wort, and add hops, and additionals when indicated.
- Cool the wort, and combine with the cider in a clean 23l (6g) carboy. Aereate, and pitch yeast. Ferment at 18-20c.
- When airlock activity ceases, rack to secondary and dry hop for one week. From there bottle, or keg as desired.
The hop variety is not particularly important, the only thing to pay attention to is the alpha acids. Any variety below 5%aa should be fine. The goal is to moderately offset the residual sweetness, not have a hop bomb. Leave making an ICPA for another time.
Yeast strain is also not particularly important, something English would be most appropriate but an American strain would be just fine.
The graf does benefit from a bit of age. It is a tad harsh out of the gate. A week in the fridge after priming does the drink wonders.