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How Cider is Made

Updated on November 30, 2016

Cider is a beverage made from the juice of apples. In Europe the term generally means a beverage made from fermented apple juice, but in the United States, unless specifically labeled as "hard" cider, it is made of unfermented apple juice.

In France, in Normandy and Brittany, a fermented and aged cider is the native "wine" of those districts. In England, cider rivals beer in popularity in the southern and western sections of the country; cider is also a popular beverage in such countries as Germany, Spain and Switzerland.

In England cider is made chiefly in the counties of Hereford and Worcester, Somerset, Devon, Gloucestershire, and Norfolk; some is made in Kent and some in Ireland.

In the United States and Canada, homemade cider is usually not processed, and has a sweet flavor somewhat heartier than that of apple juice. However, if it is kept in a warm place or neglected for too long a time, it begins to ferment and becomes sharp and vinegary.

Commercially made cider has a uniform flavor, though the characteristic taste of different brands may vary according to the types of apples used. In producing commercial cider, whole apples are grated in a mill and the juice is extracted by means of a press. Preservatives are then added and the cider is pasteurized before being bottled.

How Cider Is Made

Most ciders are made with one-third sweet apples and two-thirds sour or acid apples. The apples are ground or crushed, and the pulp is pressed to extract the juice. To make sweet cider, the juice is usually filtered, pasteurized quickly at high temperatures, and
cooled before bottling. To make hard cider, the juice is fermented in vats or casks.

Relatively sweet, low-alcohol ciders are obtained by allowing the juice to ferment only a short time. Dry, high-alcohol ciders are obtained by fermenting the juice for longer periods.

The hard cider is then filtered and aged to improve its flavor. Some hard cider is carbonated. Hard cider can also be distilled to produce apple brandy, known as applejack or Calvados.

Frozen concentrated cider was introduced in the 1960's. The method used to obtain cider for freezing is similar to that used to obtain cider for bottling. Before freezing, however, the cider is subjected to low temperatures in a high vacuum to remove most of the water. The concentrated cider is then canned and frozen. Before serving, it is mixed with water.

Alcoholic Cider

The amount of alcohol depends on the sugar content of the juice, the method of fermentation, and subsequent treatments, such as blending and sweetening. In England cider contains from about four to eight per cent of alcohol by volume, but strong ciders or apple wines made from juice with added sugar may contain ten per cent or more. Ciders containing much unfermented sugar or sweetened with sugar are known as sweet ciders, those containing little sugar are known as dry ciders.

The true cider apples such as Yarlington Mill, Dabinett, and Bulmer's Norman are high in tannin, and are often blended with eating or cooking apples. The fruit is broken up in a mill and the juice is pressed out from the pulp or pomace. The juice is allowed to ferment spontaneously, or after yeast addition, in vats or tanks, with protection from the air to avoid the formation of vinegar. After fermentation the cider is removed from the yeast, filtered, and stored until it is required for sale. The cider is then blended, sweetened, and carbonated if necessary; finally it is sterilised and put into bottles or other containers. Millions of litres of cider are now made in the UK in large factories with modern equipment for national distribution and export; small amounts are still made by simple methods on farms for local use in the traditional cider areas.

The degree of fermentation of apple juice in commercial processing is highly controlled and can be initiated or halted at desired times. Through these controls and distillation processes other cider products are obtained. A strongly fermented cider produced by distillation is called cider brandy or applejack.


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