Monday, February 2, 2015

Thar She Blows...

If you stopped by the Facebook page or over on Instagram last week, you might have noticed I had a bit of a debacle with the Cider Experiment. I was wrapping up some work in my office when all of a sudden I heard a loud noise, somewhere between a pop and a bang, that seemed to come from our storage room.

When I opened the door, the pleasant yeasty apple smell of hard cider hung in the air. There was a tiny puddle seeping out from one of the cases that we had stored on the floor, and was creeping its way to the floor drain. By some stroke of luck, it happened to be the one case that we'd closed the cardboard lid on. Cautiously, I opened the box, to find that one of the bottles of cider had, in fact, over pressurized and exploded. I chuckled to myself about how lucky I was that it was a self contained mess, snapped a quick picture, and started cleaning up.

I picked up a couple of the intact bottles, and brought them out to our bar area. I knew I needed to get them into colder storage, so I rinsed and dried the bottles and put them in the fridge. When I went back to get more, I thought it was silly to make a bunch of trips back and forth, so I slid the case out of the puddle and picked it up. This, friends, is where everything went wrong.

The soggy cardboard bottom gave out. I could feel it start to happen, but the only thing I could do was squeeze my eyes shut and try to put the box back down. That didn't work. Six more highly pressurized glass bottles hit the concrete floor at my feet. They, too, exploded. This time, however, there was no cardboard to contain anything. Shards of glass flew out in every direction, even bouncing off the wall behind me, some 15 feet away. My shins took a direct hit: pieces of glass went through my pants and actually cut me. Cider went everywhere.

After some much grumbling and cleaning up, all is well. I got the rest of the bottles cleaned off and packed away in the fridge. I also learned the valuable lesson that all of the warnings you see about exploding ferments are quite real. Next year, all of our cider will be packaged in well ventilated boxes with lids while they rest before being refrigerated.

On the plus side, no one was seriously hurt, and that batch of cider is really quite good. Explosions and mess notwithstanding, I'm pleased with how it turned out and am looking forward to making more next year.

Have you ever had a ferment get out of control like this? I've heard from a few folks already who have had similar experiences. What about you?

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