Sweet and Hard Cider

What are Cider Apples?

Traditional European cider apples have been cultivated and selected for over hundreds of years.

They are high in tannin and/or acid and/or sugar.  They are generally small, dense and woolly in texture.

They can be extremely bitter and chewy.  They can have flavor notes ranging from musky and earthy to spicy, floral and exotic.

Barker’s Classification of Cider Apples (LARS 1903)

Classification Acid (%) Tannin (%)
Sharp > 0.45 < 0.2
Bittersharp > 0.45 > 0.2
Bittersweet < 0.45 > 0.2
Sweet < 0.45 < 0.2

This table is from composite data obtained at the Long Ashton Research Station, near Bristol, over many years from 1905 to 1975. The cultivars shown in red are those which are generally regarded as having that elusive and hard-to-define character of ‘vintage quality’. The acid figures were obtained by straightforward titration with alkali, and the ‘tannin’ figures by permanganate titration (the Lowenthal method).

Composite Cider Apple Data from Long Ashton Research Station

Cultivar Type Flavour Category Malic Acid % Tannin %
Breakwell’s Seedling Early Bittersharp 0.64 0.23
Bulmers / Broxwood Foxwhelp Early Bittersharp 1.91 0.22
Court Royal Early Sweet 0.21 0.11
Ellis Bitter Early Bittersweet 0.20 0.24
Frederick Early Sharp 1.02 0.09
Major Early Bittersweet 0.18 0.41
Nehou Early Bittersweet 0.17 0.60
Reine des Hatives Early Sweet 0.11 0.17
Bulmers Norman Early/mid Bittersweet 0.24 0.27
Lavignee Early/mid Bittersweet 0.21 0.27
Perthyre Early/mid Bittersweet 0.33 0.18
Somerset Redstreak Early/mid Bittersweet 0.19 0.28
Taylors Sweet Early/mid Sweet 0.18 0.14
Tremletts Bitter Early/mid Bittersweet 0.27 0.34
White Jersey Early/mid Bittersweet 0.14 0.20
Balls Bittersweet Mid Bittersweet 0.28 0.28
Browns Apple Mid Sharp 0.72 0.13
Collington Big Bitters Mid Bittersweet 0.21 0.21
Reinette Obry Mid Sharp 0.63 0.13
Michelin Mid Bittersweet 0.25 0.23
Sweet Alford Mid Sweet 0.22 0.15
Sweet Coppin Mid Sweet 0.20 0.14
Ashton Brown Jersey Late Bittersweet 0.14 0.23
Binet Rouge Late Bittersweet 0.15 0.21
Brown Snout Late Bittersweet 0.24 0.24
Brown Thorn Late Bittersweet 0.19 0.24
Chisel Jersey Late Bittersweet 0.22 0.40
Cimetiere Late Bittersweet 0.16 0.28
Dabinett Late Bittersweet 0.18 0.29
Harry Masters Jersey Late Bittersweet 0.20 0.32
Sandford Jersey Late Bittersweet 0.23 0.62
Medaille d’Or Late Bittersweet 0.27 0.64
Reine des Pommes Late Bittersweet 0.24 0.47
Vilberie Late Bittersweet 0.22 0.52
Yarlington Mill Late Bittersweet 0.22 0.32
Kingston Black Late Bittersharp 0.58 0.19
Stoke Red Late Bittersharp 0.64 0.31
Tom Putt Late Sharp 0.68 0.14
Bramley’s Seedling Culinary Sharp 0.85 0.08
Cox’s Orange Pippin Dessert Sharp 0.60 0.07
Worcester Pearmain Dessert Mild Sharp 0.50 0.12
Golden Delicious Dessert Mild Sharp 0.45 0.

Variety Selection

Which apples make the best cider?

Simple:  Whatever apples you have available.

There are three seasons for apples, early, mid and late.  Since mid and late season apples keep awhile and cider apples benefit from a few weeks of “sweating”, cider can be done in two seasons; early and late.  This is an important time and cost saving concept.  It’s a lot less work to process two batches of cider instead of three.

Mid and late season apples generally make richer, fuller, more flavorful cider.

Use apples with the greatest intensity of flavor.

Examples of Varieties (recommendations)


Dessert Cider
William’s Pride Redstreak
Akane Foxwhelp
Gravenstein Taylor’s Sweet
Greensleeves White Jersey
Alkmene Twistbody Jersey
Gingergold Bulmer’s Norman


Dessert Cider
Laxton’s Fortune Chisel Jersey
Kidd’s Orange Red Muscadet de Dieppe
Fiesta Cow Jersey
Jupiter Sweet Coppin
Honeycrisp Kingston Black
Brownlee’s Russet Yarlington Mill


Dessert Russets Cider
Hudson’s Golden Gem Golden Russet Muscadet de Lense
Melrose Roxbury Russet Muscadet de Bernay
Holstein Brown Russet Amere de Berthcourt
Liberty Zabergau Reinette Reines des Pommes
Cox Ashmead’s Kernel Harry Master’s Jersey
Karmijn de Sonnaville Coe’s Golden Drop Marachel
Spigold Claygate Pearmain Gros Frequin
Belle de Boskoop Rosemary Russet Brown Snout
Swaar Minnesota 1734 Vilberie
Spitzenberg Dabinett


Fresh Juice (Sweet Cider)

Sweet Sweet/Semi-Tart Semi-Tart
2/3 to ¾ Sweet Apples 1/2 Sweet Apples 1/3 Sweet Apples
1/4 to 1/3 Semi-Tart Apples ½ Semi-Tart Apples 2/3 Semi-Tart Apples

Hard Cider

First blend Second Blend Latest Blend
5% Sweets 10% Sweets 10% Sweets
15% Mixed Russets 20% Mixed Russets 20% Mixed Russets
65% Mixed Dessert 40% Mixed Dessert 10% Mixed Dessert
15% Bittersweets 30% Bittersweets 50% Bittersweets
10% Bittersharps

Cider Making Process

Harvest.  Pick only fully ripe apples.

Use no windfalls in fresh juice (sweet cider)

Windfalls without rot may be used in hard cider

Sweat apples to fully convert starch to sugar (thumbprint left when pressed)

Sweating is binning or boxing up apples and storing out of the sun.

Blend apples now or process separately and blend juice later

Washing. Sort out damaged and rotten fruit.  Rubber gloves are a good idea.

Use only the apples you would put in your mouth.

Bleach wash for fresh juice (2 TBS bleach in 5 gal. water) soak 10 minutes

Clean water wash for fresh juice and hard cider (use hose spray)

Grinding.  Pea or corn sized bits are best.  Clean and sanitize all equipment

Shredder, grinder, hammermill, garbage disposal

All stainless steel, wood and plastic are OK.  No iron, brass or aluminum.

Pressing.  12-15 lbs. of apples yield 1 gallon juice.

Basket press, bladder press, cheese press.  Clean and sanitize before using.

Use filter bags or cloths when squeezing.  Strain juice into containers.

Juice may be frozen.  Leave out 1 cup per gallon for expansion.

Fermentation.  For hard cider, add sulfite (50-100 ppm, 1 Camden tablet per gallon) if using, let juice settle a day or two at cool temperature (32°F-45°F) and pour off of sediment or siphon into fermentation vessel.

Glass, plastic  or stainless steel with airlock.  Clean and sanitize before using.

Measure and record specific gravity with hydrometer.  Should be between 1.040 and 1.070

Optional:  Measure and record pH (test strips, meter) and titrateable acid (test kit).  pH must be less than 4.0 for healthy cider.  3.2-3.8 is normal.  Titrateable acid should be 0.4%-0.9%, 1% and greater is too sharp.  .5%-.6% is ideal.

Balance acidity with additional juice or malic acid (to increase), calcium carbonate (to decrease).

Balancing the acidity is critical to making good hard cider.

Pitch yeast culture if using, or seal with air lock and wait for wild yeast to start fermentation

Champagne yeast is preferred because it works well at cool temperatures and doesn’t affect fruit character of the cider

Lalvin K1V-1116, EC-1118, D-47 are examples

Ferment cold and slow, the cooler the better.  Leave outside or in unheated building.  55°F-65°F is ideal.

Fill carboy (or other container) only to shoulder to allow room for foam.

Keep additional small container(s) of fermenting juice for future top up.

Racking.  Siphon off of lees to a clean container when fermentation is done (airlock stops bubbling).  Check with hydrometer to be sure (1.000 or lower).  Fermentation should take 2-4 weeks.  Be patient.  Do not let the cider sit on the lees.  Off flavors and aromas will result!

Add sulfite 50 ppm (no more than 1 tablet per 2 gallons)

Top up level to within an inch of the airlock.

Keep air away from the cider from now on to prevent spoilage.

Clearing.  Let cider settle and clear.  This may take an additional 2 months.

Racking may be done a couple more times during this period to help clearing, but there is risk in additional exposure to air.

Fining agents may be used to clear stubborn cider.  Sparkalloid works well, so does SuperKlear.

Bottling.  Use sound, stout, clean bottles.  Beer, champagne, sparkling juice, soda bottles will work.  Crown cap closures are best.

Clean and sanitize all bottles, caps and equipment.

Measure and record the final specific gravity.  It should be 1.000 or less, 0.996 is not uncommon.  The total drop in gravity will give you the potential alcohol content of the finished cider.  Divide the drop in gravity by 7.5 and multiply by 1000 for potential alcohol.  Example:  1.057 – 1.000 = .057.  .057/7.5 = .0076.  .0076 X 1000 = 7.6% ABV

Use a bottling bucket.  They are cheap and make filling easy.

If sparkling cider is desired, prime with ½ cup of table sugar or ¾ cup of corn sugar to 5 gallons of finished cider.

Warning:  specific gravity must not exceed 1.004 in the bottle or glass grenades may result!

Storage.  Store bottles at room temperature or cooler.

Exposure to 80°F and higher for long periods is not a good idea.  Off flavors or spoilage may occur.

Store at least 4 weeks before drinking to develop the carbonation and mature the beverage.  Patience is a virtue, and the rewards are well worth it!

Cider improves with age.  It will reach its peak in 4-6 months after bottling and if well made, will keep for years.



Bulletin PNW 621  Hard Cider Production and Orchard Management in the Pacific NW.

Purchase at:  https://pubs.wsu.edu/ListItems.aspx?Keyword=pnw%20621

Cider, Making, Using & Enjoying Sweet & Hard Cider*, Annie Proulx & Lew Nichols, 2003

Craft Cidermaking, Andrew Lea, 2011

Real Cidermaking on a Small Scale, Michael Pooley & John Lomax, 1999

Cider, Hard and Sweet, Ben Watson, 1999

The Book of Apples, Joan Morgan and Alison Richards, 1993

The History and Virtues of Cyder, R. K. French, 1982 (NAFEX Library)

Apples, Frank Browing, 1998

The American Cider Book, Vrest Orton, 1973

Making the Best Apple Cider, Annie Proulx, 1980

Cider Maker’s Handbook, J. M. Trowbridge, 1903 (NAFEX Library)

A Somerset Pomona, Liz Copas, 2001

Code of Federal Regulations, [2002] 27CFR24– PART 24–WINE


Northwest Cider Association, www.nwcider.com

Northwest Ag Business Center, http://www.agbizcenter.org/node/58

Western Washington Fruit Research Foundation, http://nwfruit.org/

The Cider Digest*, http://www.talisman.com/cider/#Digest

The Wittenham Hill Cider Portal*, http://www.cider.org.uk/

Talisman Farm cider info, www.talisman.com/cider/

Farnum Hill Ciders, http://www.farnumhillciders.com/index.html

The National Association of Cider Makers, http://www.cideruk.com/home_set.htm

Mount Vernon Fruit Horticulture, http://extension.wsu.edu/maritimefruit/Pages/Cider.aspx

The Real Cider and Perry Page*,


Info Cidre, http://www.info-cidre.com/

Somerset Cider Brandy, http://www.ciderbrandy.co.uk/

CAMRA, http://www.camra.org.uk/cider

UK Cider, www.ukcider.co.uk

Bulmer’s, http://www.bulmer.com/

Lambourn Valley Cider, http://www.lambournvalleycider.co.uk/

The Scrumpy Users Guide, http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~gunning/scrumpy.html

Code of Federal Regulations, http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/multidb.cgi

* Recommended




  • Cider more popular than with Romans


  • made cider but favored wine

Medieval western world learned of cider from:

  • Roman writings after collapse
  • Arabs who had access to Greek ideas from in and around Bysantium

5th Century

  • Celts in Britain and France made poor, harsh drinks from crab apples and table fruit
  • Dépense was made from fruit allowed to ferment in water.  Charlemagne had regulations governing the brewing of such drinks

7th Century

  • Cider improved to where it was served to Nobility
  • Cider and Perry fruit cultivation begins

11th Century

  • Olive mills used for grinding apples
  • French learned techniques from Arabs in Spain or olive growing areas of the Mediterranean

12th Century

  • Cider tradition moved into France from the Moors in Spain
  • Moved into England from France after the conquest

13th Century

  • Cider habit well established.  Cultivars came from Normandy
  • Monks tended orchards made Cider
  • Tradition of paying laborer’s wages in Cider began

17th Century

  • Heyday of English Cider “English wine”
  • Quality improved by establishment of the best varieties and blends
  • Famous Redstreak discovered by Lord Scudamore
  • Bottled Cider introduced leading to Champagne style
  • Became national drink

18th Century

  • Decline of popularity in England
  • Cider merchants or middle men profiteered on poor quality high volume
  • Wine took over at the upper end of society, beer at the lower end
  • Orchards neglected in favor of agriculture
  • Protestants had brought apples to New World and by 1775 one in ten New England farms had cider mills
  • Cider became very popular in the colonies
  • Newark, New Jersey had become the cider capital of the New World
  • As early as 1682 over 1000 barrels were filled in Newark

19 Century

  • by 1810 198,000 barrels were produced
  • High point of American cider quality.
  • 1833 saw start of decline with beginning of the Temperance movement
  • People began drinking new carbonated “sodas”
  • 1840’s and 50’s orchards were cut down or neglected
  • German immigrants began brewing beer