I've been brewing both beer, hard cider and a very good graff for some time now. After following recipes strictly, I began to experiment. I heated a gallon of decent quality supermarket apple juice, added half a pound of honey, some shaved fresh ginger, and three chai teabags. The smell was wonderful. I pitched some ale yeast once it cooled to 70 degrees, and capped it. The fermentation activity was a joy to behold. I made another batch (again, just to experiment) with all the same ingredients, but no fresh ginger. I may also have added some additional cinnamon or other baking spices to the batches. I am a poor scientist, and did not take careful notes.
Two weeks later, I bottled with honey as priming sugar. Another two weeks pass, and I try a bottle. On popping the cap, I get nothing. No carbonation whatsoever. Dead flat. The flavor is very good, actually, but it's also much sweeter than a beverage that has fermented is supposed to be. The cider is also still very thick/syrupy. Both batches were like this. Good flavor…QUITE good flavor actually, but way too sweet to have fermented, and totally flat. I'm very confused, to say the least. I did taste alcohol in the cider, and did actually get a bit buzzed. What I FAILED to do was take a hydrometer reading neither before fermentation nor after. I had had success with recipes before, so I didn't bother with the hydrometer this time around. Stupid, I know.
My question is this:
why, even though I saw vigorous fermentation in my carboys, did the cider not ferment completely? Am I correct in assuming that the fermentation was incomplete? Is it possible that I had too much fermentable sugar (too high an original gravity) for the amount of yeast? Should I have used more yeast? Is it possible that the chai teabags, or another ingredient killed, or nullified the yeast? Again, I DID see vigorous fermentation, but…what do I know?
Is it possible that I fermented to such a high alcohol content that the yeast partied themselves out and passed out on the floor of the carboy without eating the rest of the sugar? You know how yeast can be.
Question number 2 is:
Is there anything I can do about this now? It's not terrible, but it's not real good, either. Should I just let it age for a while and see what happens? Can I dump it all back in a carboy (or cargirl) and add more yeast? Should I start from scratch with the same recipe and take hydrometer readings? Should I give it all up and go back to law school?
Please forgive the lengthy question. I'm really enjoying myself with all this, and making some wonderful stuff, but I would love to know why this particular effort failed. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.