"Succum ex Pomis Vinosissimum"
A Cyser Recipe
by Lord Richard of Woodenbridge
As the autumn air arrives from the north and the days wax
short to herald the cold darkness of winter, so too arrives
the season of the last harvest bestowing upon us in
abundance the sweet toothsome apple and rich honey. What
better time then to speak of cyser, a close relative of our
precious mead married with the flavors and bouquet of the
We must first not confuse the juice of the apple sometimes
called cider and fermented apple juice known as hard cider
with cyser, a most especial concoction from the juice of
apples and honey, fermented to produce the “strong drink”
(sicera - the Latin for “strong drink” adopted into
English-cyser, ciser, siser, syther and cyder) spoken of in
Thought to be first made in England in 1284, it was served
centuries earlier at a Royal Banquet by Harold Godwinson.
The Norse had used the apple in regions such as Normandy and
the Channel Islands, the Celts in Western England, and the
Slavs and Goths in Europe presenting several possible
sources for cysers origins. Wherever it did originate,
through the time of our culture it was known as very potent
vintage, in taste as well as alcohol content.
"without sider and wyn and meeth men and wommen myght lyve
full long." -Peacock, 1449
I do rarely make precise measure in my production of any
meads, pyments, beers or cysers Each lot is inspired by the
moment, experience and personal preference. I tend to see
the making of fermented potables as an art and no two
batches could nor should be identical. In home brewing it is
most impossible to maintain the exact conditions from batch
to batch, temperature, vitality of yeast, quality and flavor
of honey, especially when purchased directly from a
beekeeper. As with grapes, apples and all natural
ingredients, growing conditions vary from year to year, and
as a consequence so too will the ensuing product vary. This
is the wondrous beauty of our world.
Nor do I ever use sulfites. Careful sanitary procedure and
sterilization of all implements is absolutely critical, but
are not difficult and well worth the extra effort to avoid
using sulfites which, on occasion, cause adverse reactions
in consumption and always adversely affects flavor in the
tasting. Too, it should be noted that while we can boil a
honey/water mixture one should never boil fruit juices as
the fruit pectin will set and the ferment may not clarify.
This will adversely affect the taste.
I offer this recipe* and following the techniques used in
the making of mead should bearforth a fine drink.
Using the ingredients following follow the usual procedures
For five gallons:
Apple juice 4.75 gals.
Honey 7 lbs.
yeast nutrient 5 tsp.
Adequate wine yeast (usually one packet)
1/3 tsp sodium or potassium metabisulfite
acid blend to bring to between .4 and .5
Presently, I offer some of my techniques which until now
have been kept guarded save for those in my household.
First, I double the measure of honey (to 15 Lbs) and reduce
the amount of juice by one quart, maybe two.
Boiling the honey and water in meads seems to possess two
qualities. One, the boiling procedure acts as a
“pasteurization” eliminating any viable unwanted yeast and
bacteria. Two, it assists in breaking down the sugars to a
more readily processed form making it easier for the yeast
during fermentation. An additional benefit during boiling is
the ability to “skim” the other impurities such as wax, hive
debris, and bee parts which may rise to the surface in foam.
I always do this. In the making of Cyser, I reduce the
amount of apple juice by a half gallon, replacing it with
water so I may mix it with the honey for this pasteurization
process. Any “spicing” can be done here, my additions in
this area shall for now remain guarded. Cheap beer yeast is
added to the boil. This eliminates the need for yeast
nutrient as the fermenting yeast ( I prefer good champagne
yeast) added later will be nourished upon the remains of the
beer yeast. The addition of a goodly pinch of Irish moss
during boiling helps the clarification. It should be removed
prior to combining with the apple juice. This mixture must
cool well below 160 degrees before it is added to the apple
The use of acid blend is fine yet I prefer to add the juice
of one lemon or lime to the apple juice. It is natural and
imparts a hint of flavor to the product. Orange may be used
but more juice is necessary as it is less acidic, lending
perhaps too much flavor. I would rather suggest saving the
addition of orange to a mead spiced with ginger! Count
Bonniface has done this and it is magnificent!
During fermentation I keep all my brews in a relatively warm
area (75ľ to 80ľ) as this expedites the process. Some say a
slow ferment is best, I know not, I am quite impatient and
always have gotten delicious results in three months or
less. During fermentation I speak well to it and sometimes
play the recorder or lute (guitar) and never put a batch up
on a new moon. Once fermentation is complete I move it to a
cool place to clear.
Should you put up a cyser and have any questions feel free
to contact me and I would be well pleased to partake the
fruits of your labor and toast the Autumn harvests!
* This recipe is found in Wassail! In Mazers of Mead by Lt.
Colonel Robert Gayre with the last five chapters devoted to
brewing a variety of “meads” by Charlie Papazian of the
American Homebrewers Association