At its most basic level, cider is an alcoholic beverage that is the result of the fermentation of apple juice – effectively following the same process as wine. However apple juice typically contains far less natural sugar than wine, so the final alcohol by volume will normally be 5% - 7.5%.
The key factor in determining the characteristics of a cider are the apple varieties used. In New Zealand, dessert apples for the export market have been an integral part of the country’s economy for decades. It is little wonder, then, that New Zealand cider makers predominantly utilise these types of apple for making their cider. These apple varieties are characterised by fresh, clean aromas and crisp, green apple flavours.
Here is a step by step guide to the cider making process:
- When fully ripe, the apples wall fall to the ground
- Windfalls, or tree picked fruit, can be ‘tumped’ – heaped to allow maturation
- Key to a quality cider is ripe fruit, otherwise the drink will display a harshness
Milling & Pressing
- Juice cannot be easily extracted from whole apples
- They need to be chopped, a process known as milling or scratting, into a pulp
- This pulp is then pressed - an application of pressure across a fabric that separates the liquid juice from the solid apple pomace
- The natural, fermentable sugars within the juice are turned into alcohol by the action of yeasts
- The cider maker could choose to use a cultured wine yeast – most commonly a champagne style yeast – or allow a ‘wild’ fermentation, utilising the natural flora
- Fermentation is normally fairly rapid bit with some wild fermentations could take many months, but ultimately all the sugar will ferment to alcohol under normal circumstances, resulting in a dry cider (see French cider for naturally sweet cider)
- When fermentation has finished, this ‘young’ cider is allowed time to sit and develop its range of complex flavours and aromas
- This process takes anywhere from a few weeks to couple of years!
- It may iould include a malolactic fermentation
- The cider maker’s dark art!
- Commercial producers will need to blend to create a consistent brand, whereas smaller producers will try to produce unique blends that have a good balance between acidity, tannin and sweetness
- Sugar or apple juice can be added to amend the sweetness level
- Fruits and other adjuncts can be added at this point if making a flavoured cider
- Most ciders will be filtered to make them crystal clear
- Unfiltered ciders could be perceived as being less refined, but with care and consideration, a light haze can enhance the natural flavours and improve mouth texture
- Most people prefer to have their cider with a sparkle, normally achieved through carbon dioxide injection. A natural sparkle can be achieved through an in-bottle fermentation or conditioning.
- Cider can be packaged and served in many different ways: keg, bag-in-box, can or bottle
Take a look at The Ciderologist for more.
- Gabe Cook - The Ciderologist
Impress your friends with this cider related trivia. Everything you ever wanted to know, from A to Z!
- Gabe Cook - The Ciderologist
Pairing your cider with a well matched food can help bring out flavours in your drink, and lead to greater enjoyment.