Making Alcohol with Cranberries
November 17, 2010
Making alcohol with cranberries is interesting and challenging. The problem is with fermenting cranberry juice is that it is very acidic, being about 2.3 to 2.5 pH. As a result, straight cranberry juice is too acidic to make wine. It must be blended with something to raise the pH to the 3.2 – 3.8 range required for making wine. Supposedly, licensed winemakers are not allowed to dilute a fruit juice with water to ferment, so other juices are usually substituted, such as apple juice.
I tried making a cinnamon cranberry apple cider once, and it was awful. I thought the pH got to low, causing it to taste funny. Peter Mitchell tried it and said that I had too much cranberry. It was about 25% cranberry juice and 75% apple juice.
On our way out to the Pacific Coast Cranberry Research Foundation Museum and Gift Shop, we stumbled upon Gray Parrot Brewing Co in Long Beach, WA. It was a former brew pub that scaled back to just a brewery. That day, he had a cranberry wheat beer to try, which I actually drank. He was very nice and answered lots of questions, so I asked him how much cranberry was actually in the beer. He said there was about 2% cranberry juice in it. Though, I should say that in making beer, the pH should be higher than wine at about 5.2 to 5.6, which would mean that the cranberry juice quantity would have to be lower. At such a low dose, it is kind of cranberry flavored.
On the positive side of making alcohol with cranberries, supposedly cranberries contain tannin, and tannins are desirable in ciders and red wines. However, I do not know how much, or how it really affects the flavor of the alcohol. Plus, at lower levels of cranberry juice, the tannins may not have much of an affect.
I should try making a cranberry cider again. At the moment, I am trying to make a cranberry whey wine like Shallon Winery does at 75% whey and 25% cranberry juice. The verdict is still out on if my batches of this will turn out or not.
One last thing I want to note is that I have purchased from Clear Creek Distillery a cranberry liqueur. It would not be that hard to make a cranberry liqueur at home. Also, there are flavored cranberry vodkas out there, and cranberry juice is quite popular being added to a spirit as a well drink such as a Cranberry and Vodka, or a Cape Cod if a lime is added.