Cider Making Update

Taste the difference?

Another session of apple pressing at Court Farm in Somerset last Wednesday, and another 15L of apple juice en route to becoming cider. This time: crab apples (there’s quite a few crab apple trees scattered around the farm).

There’s an amazing colour difference between the crab apple juice and the juice from the eating apples I picked from the orchard (the crab apple juice is on the left). Interestingly, both the crab apple and orchard apple juice had the same sugar content (SG 1.045), about 10% sugar, which should yield a cider of about 5-6% alcohol.

I posted this photo on Facebook and it evoked a few comments about alcohol content and apple differences, so I thought I’d blog the outcomes of that conversation:

On alcohol content, you can actually get a higher alcohol content by adding sugar to the juice (more sugar = more “food” for the yeast to eat and turn into alcohol). However, I’ve kept mine unadulterated – 5-6% alcohol is plenty for me (most of the beers I drink are less than 5%).

Then there’s the matter of FIZZ. Right now, those airlocks are letting all of the carbon dioxide out of the containers (CO2 is a byproduct of yeast eating sugar). Eventually, the sugar will be used up, and all of the yeast will have settled at the bottom (you can see some of it already). At this point I will “rack” the cider into clean jars and let it mature for another few months. After this, I can pursue the fizz.

Making fizzy cider is pretty simple: I’ll take the matured cider, add a bit of sugar, and put it into sealed bottles. This sugar will kick start another cycle of fermentation. But now that the bottles are in sealed containers, the CO2 will get trapped, and hopefully give me fizzy cider.

The other question is – what’s the difference? Why crab apples vs. eating apples? Crab apples have more tannin than eating apples, and are closer to real “cider apples”. The tannins are said to give cider a greater range and depth of flavour. So we shall see! The nice thing about brewing cider from different apples separately is that I can taste all the differences, then play with blending ciders to get the taste I’m after.

Of course, this is all assuming that the process WORKS. I’ve added no additional chemicals or yeasts to control the process, leaving my cider to the fates of the natural yeasts in the air and juice.

Having said all this, I’m totally learning this cider stuff as I go. My first lesson was from James at Court Farm a few weeks ago when Craft Cider Making by Andrew Lea and Real Cider Making on a Small Scale by Michael Pooley and John Lomax. The latter has a nice flow chart that has helped me come to grips with this process.


Next steps for me are to get a siphon, a funnel and a clean jar, as it’s almost time to rack off the first lot of apple juice. I’d also like to get a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity (and thus sugar) of my cider as it progresses. All in all, the whole process is pretty cheap, and with luck, I will have a LOT of cider to share with friends and family at the end of it. Very excited.

Let the fermentation commence.

Read how it all began: Apple pressing at Court Farm

My crab apples, the true beginning:

Crab apples

4 thoughts on “Cider Making Update

  1. Nome

    Really interesting post, Monica – I never realised you could make cider with crab apples… So they could be useful to me after all! Can’t wait to see how it goes. Roughly what weight of apples would I need to give this a worthwhile go?

  2. Monica Post author

    Most definitely! Crab apples may even be more superior than eating apples – they also tend to have higher sugar which means more alcohol at the end. =)

    As for quantity, it doesn’t take too much – you get about 50-75% juice from apples (so 10kg of fruit will give you 5-7.5L of juice). The demijohns in my picture are 5L each – I think two of those (so about 15-20kg of fruit, or 3-4 supermarket bags full of apples) would be a good start (in case one goes bad!). You totally have to do it!

  3. Mish

    Hello Monica and Cider Makers – what a great thing to do. Where do you get the hydrometers and the curly siphons?

    Also just a fyi – tannins are great at helping prevent tooth/gum problems in humans but are hard on our canine friends kidney/liver’s/etc.


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