Book Review #8, Tasting Cider by Erin James of CIDERCRAFT Magazine

For the eighth book review here at Cider Says (see here for the first seven):  “Tasting Cider, The CIDERCRAFT Guide to the Distinctive Flavors of North American Hard Cider”, by Erin James, published July 2017, paperback, retailing for $19.95 ($13.45 on Amazon).  Erin James is the editor-in-chief of CIDERCRAFT magazine (the first and only print magazine in the U.S. focused on cider) as well as Sip Northwest magazine.

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>>This is a review of a sample copy of the book provided by the book’s publisher, Storey.  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received the products for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my review cue.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.<<

Book Description:

This complete guide to North America’s oldest beverage celebrates hard cider’s rich history and its modern makers, as well as its deliciously diverse possibilities. Flavor profiles and tasting guidelines highlight 100 selections of cider — including single varietal, dessert, hopped, and barrel-aged — plus perry, cider’s pear-based cousin. A perfect addition to any meal, cider pairings are featured in 30 food recipes, from Brussels sprouts salad to salmon chowder, brined quail, and poached pear frangipane. An additional 30 cocktail recipes include creative combinations such as Maple Basil Ciderita and Pear-fect Rye Fizz.

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The book is split into four main parts:

  • cider facts, history, apples, glassware, terminology, sweetness, flavors, etc
  • descriptions of cider styles, profiles of cideries, and tasting notes on ciders
  • cider cocktails
  • cider recipes (both cooking with and pairing with)

The Pros:

  • Wide variety of content, yet focused.   I think they were spot-on in choosing a more narrow topic than just “cider” (namely, an overview of what makes up the Northern America cider scene), and sticking to it.  Some books seem a bit scattered as they try to cover everything “cider”, which just isn’t possible in one book.
  • In-depth coverage of different cider styles and cidery profiles.  All the iconic U.S. cideries that I would have expected to see covered were, such as Farnum Hill, West County, E.Z. Orchards, Alpenfire, Reverend Nat’s, and even Angry Orchard.
  • Tasting notes on various ciders.  This is interesting to read, and can also be helpful if you want to taste the same cider and learn about cider descriptors.
  • The book layout was easy to understand and made sense.
  • This is the most recently published book on cider.

The Cons:

  • Exterior quality.  This is a paperback book, not one of those pretty coffee table type books that looks nice on display or makes a great gift.  The focus was on content, not aesthetics.  I would have preferred a slightly higher list price in exchange for something more sturdy (for example, it was mailed in a padded envelope and it arrived with a bent spine).
    • World’s Best Ciders (by Pete Brown & Bill Bradshaw, now only $7.50 on Amazon) makes a better coffee table book (and it is one at my house!).  It has larger dimensions, is hardcover, and is of higher printing quality.  Also, it is a longer book (more content).  However, WBC has a significant negative – it was published in 2013, which is quite outdated for a printed book; so, if up-to-date content is a priority, TC is the better choice.

And The In Between:

  • About half of the book is cocktails and recipes.  If that is something of interest to you, then it is a pro.  If it isn’t, than its a con.  I fall in the later category…I don’t really see the point in mixing things with good cider (although to be fair I haven’t tried many cider cocktails) and the cost & hassle of buying multiple ingredients for one drink, and I don’t enjoy cooking.
  • The placement of cideries in categories seemed at times random.  This is likely as most cideries fit in multiple categories (orchard-based, single-varietal, fruit-infused, barrel-aged, etc).  I would have kept the cider classifications separate from the cidery profiles.  However, I imagine the premise was just to use the cideries as an example of the concept more so than saying they are defined by it, and at the end of the day it didn’t really matter.
  • This book is on the more introductory end (vs. for example Jolicoeur’s The New Cider Maker’s Handbook, which is on the other end of the spectrum as it includes technical instructions on cidermaking).  However, I’d consider myself at the intermediate level in cider education and I still got plenty out of this book.  For example, I haven’t seen a book with as many in-depth cidery profiles.  That sort of information just isn’t available, let alone all in one source.
  • Many ciders featured in the book won’t be available to the reader, as cider is so regional (many cideries only have a small distribution area), and on top of that, ciders may be a special release and/or seasonal.  However, its always interesting to read about cider, and the cider cocktails & pairings can be used more generally.

Most Similar Books:

  • World’s Best Ciders has a similar focus on tasting cider (varieties, cideries, and ciders) and lots of beautiful cider photography.  However, WBC has a larger world-wide focus, while TC focuses on the U.S. and Canada.  WBC has more ciders profiled than TC, but TC has a wider variety of coverage.  Both books provide some cider history, terminology, and cidery profiles.
  • Cider Made Simple (by Jeff Alworth, $11.59 on Amazon) has similar cider history, terminology, and more, but as that is its only focus, although it is a shorter book, it goes into more depth (and also includes more on international cider styles)
  • Cider Cocktails – Another Bite of the Apple (by Darlene Hayes, $15.95 on Amazon) is the only book I know of with a cider cocktail focus, with 30 cider cocktails and 10 cider recipes.  Cider Journal did a nice profile piece here.
  • CIDERCRAFT magazine (and its website) has cider recipes

Launch Party:

There is a book launch party in Seattle WA at Seattle Cider on September 14, 2017.

In Summary:

“Tasting Cider” would be a great addition to any cider enthusiast’s book collection!  It has a little bit of everything (but has a focus and stays on point), which is sure to please any cider enthusiast.  I haven’t had a chance to sample any of the cider cocktails or recipes yet, but I want to give them a try.

Book Review #7, Cider Made Simple by Jeff Alworth

For the seventh book review here at Cider Says (see here for the first six):  “Cider Made Simple – All About Your New Favorite Drink”, by Jeff Alworth with illustrations by Lydia Nichols, published September 2015, with a suggested price of $19.95 ($13.28 on Amazon).  Jeff Alworth is best known for his writings on beer (online and in print), and lives in Portland Oregon.  For this book he traveled to France, England, Spain, Canada, and around the United States for interviews.

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I suggested that my local library add this book to their collection, and they bought it for me to borrow!  I think libraries are great to check out a book to see if you may want to purchase it.  And, this is one I think I do want my own copy of (same with World’s Best Ciders, which is an awesome coffee table book on cider).  In fact, Cider Made Simple is my favorite general cider book so far.  Unlike most books on cider, it doesn’t have a cider-making focus, so its great for a cider drinking enthusiast who doesn’t necessarily have an interest in making cider.  While a quick read, I also found it quite detailed, and learned a lot new information.


Cider Basics: Don’t Call It Hard (info on cider apples, tasting, properties, regions, and types)

A is for Apple (history, growing, and orchards)

Sweating, Grinding, and Fermenting (cider apple types, back-sweetening, flavor enhancers, and how its made)

Proper English Cider (traditions, industrialization, small farms, producers)

Cider Under Cork (French cider, terroir, producers, and Calvados & Pommeau)

Breaking the Cider (Spanish cider, characteristics, producers, throwing the cider, sourness, and regions)

The American Cider Renaissance (Farnum Hill, EZ Orchards, Reverend Nat’s, and traditionalists vs. modernists vs. experimentalists)

Winter Harvest in Quebec (ice cider)

The writing style was spot-on, the book was well-organized, and the language was easy to understand.  I think anyone from a cider newbie to someone with a bit more experience would get something from this book.  It filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge.  I liked that it didn’t go as much into the history of cider, but into other details that aren’t covered in many other books (or at least not in this way).  There wasn’t really a single portion of the book I didn’t enjoy or think wasn’t helpful.

I especially enjoyed the portions on cider tasting, and all his stories from his travels to visit different cideries and cider regions around the world (I’m jealous!).  I was a bit apprehensive learning the author mostly had beer experience, but it wasn’t apparent.  My only complaint is the cover shows a glass of beer, not cider…note all the foam and the hue (oops).  Highly recommended!

Book Review #6, Craft Cider – How to Turn Apples into Alcohol

For the sixth book review here at Cider Says (see here for the first five):  “Craft Cider – How to Turn Apples Into Alcohol”, by Jeff Smith, published September 2015, with a suggested price of $17.95.  Jeff Smith is the one who started Bushwhacker Cider in Portland OR, a cider bar and cidery.  I suggested that my local library add this book to their collection, and they bought it for me to borrow!  I think libraries are great to check out a book to see if you may want to purchase it.

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I always like reading about cider, and this was a nice quick weekend vacation read.

This book includes the following Chapters:

  • The World of Cider (the cider industry & some cider history)
  • Styles of Cider (English, Spanish, French, American, German, Irish, Scandinavian, Ice, & Pommeau)
  • Sourcing Fruit and Juice (Farmer’s Markets, Local Orchards, Grocery Stores, Juice, Neighbors, What Makes a Cider Apple Different?, and Apple Varieties)
  • A Cider Maker’s Necessary Equipment (Fermentation Vessel, Sourcing and Using Wood Barrels, Hydrometer, Wine Thief, Thermometer, pH Meter and pH Strips, Airlocks and Bungs, Cleaning Chemicals, Sanitizer, Siphons, Bottling Equipment, Kegging Equipment, More About Kegging)
  • Step by Step (process of making cider)
  • So You Want to Press Your Own Apples? (Presses, Basic Overview)
  • Recipes (Basic Dry, Bushwhacker Smoked, New England Style, Lingonberry, Local Cyser, Scrumpy, Cherry, Ginger, Pear Cider and Perry, Dry Oaked, Spanish-Style, Cranberry, High Gravity, Bushwhacker Italian Plum, Spiced, Sweet, Bushwhacker Alice, Forgotten Trail)
  • How to Taste Cider (Tasting at Home, Setting up a Tasting, Cellaring Ciders, Terms)
  • Cooking with Cider (Bushwhacker Cider Vinaigrette, Apple Coleslaw, Pulled Pork Butt, Cider House Fondue)
  • Cider Cocktails (Pommeau Manhattan, Bushwhacker G&T, Apply Brandy “Cide-Car”, Cherry 88, Cider Mule, Forgetful Rob, Basque-Tini, Cider Dark & Stormy, Cider Julep, Apple Cosmo, Big Apple Iced Tea)
  • Resources (Blogs, Organizations, Events, Country-Specific Cider Terms, Cider-Making Terms)

My favorite parts were those which were unique to this book, such as about using wood barrels, pros & cons of kegging, and cellaring cider.

Overall this book isn’t a bad choice for a newbie to cider, especially one who wants to get into making their own cider, but for others like me, they may not get much out of it.  I also didn’t like how often the book mentioned the author’s cider bar & cidery, Bushwhacker (it literally seemed like almost every page), and its language was almost too informal (didn’t seem like it had much editing).  I’m glad I got to get it from the library, but its not something I see the need to buy for my own collection.

Book Review #5, Apples to Cider – How to Make Cider at Home

For the fifth book review here at Cider Says (see here for the first four):  “Apples to Cider – How to Make Cider at Home”, by April White, with Stephen Wood of Farnum Hill Ciders, published February 2015.  It is currently $18.72 on Amazon.

This is a review of a book provided to Cider Says by Farnum Hill Ciders.  Thanks Farnum Hill!  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received it for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my review cue.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.

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<front & back covers; click to biggify>

Unlike some of the other books in the earlier four part series of books from my library, I read this one cover to cover.  It was a fairly quick read, and I was lucky enough to be on an airplane, so I read it in one sitting.  It was written by April White (not associated with Farnum Hill), but it appears she spent extensive time with the Farnum Hill folks, and there are some subsections written by Steve Wood from Farnum Hill.

Although the main focus of this book is presenting a cider making method for amateur home cidermakers to follow, there is a great amount of information which would appear to anyone who has an interest in cider.  I especially liked some of the history of Farnum Hill Cider / Poverty Lane Orchards, cider styles & regions, cidermaking methods, extensive cider apple variety descriptions, and the terminology & glossary sections.  They also included some information on the cidermaking methods used at Eden Ice Cider (Ice Cider, VT), E.Z. Orchards (French Cidre, OR), and Eve’s Cidery (Methode Champenoise, NY) in addition to Farnum Hill (NH).


  • Very well laid out and easy to read.
  • Lots of beautiful and helpful photos!
  • Although I didn’t test out the cidermaking instructions, they were very clear, including specific equipment lists, timelines, methods, measurements, etc, in a way I haven’t noticed in the other cidermaking books I’ve seen.


  • They used some terminology without defining it.  After a bit I realized there was a glossary, so that would mostly solve that issue for the true beginner cider reader.
    • The only term I don’t think was very well defined is tannin, which can be difficult to describe and understand.  They only defined it as “A substance present in apples that provides the structure, astringency, and bitterness in cider.”  Maybe there was some assumption of a wine background?  I think information such that they contribute to bitterness and astringency, can cause a mouth-puckering taste, and in excess can dry the mouth, would be helpful.
  • The book left me wanting more (which could also be a good thing)


Introduction (including Farnum Hill Ciders Story and Farnum Hill Ciders Philosophy)

What is Cider? (including History, Perry, Science, Styles, Methods, Tastes, Terms, Trends, and Farnum Hill Ciders Style)

Tasting Cider (including Preparing, Process, Resetting Sense of Smell, Training Your Nose, Vocabulary, Defining What You Like, and Other People’s Cider)

Starting with Apples (including In The Orchard, The Apple, A Sampling of Apples, Turning Apples into Juice, Sources for Juice, and An Apple Grower and His Apple Trees)

Your Cider Room (including Where to Make Cider, Equipment, Ingredients, Best Practices for Sanitation, and A Commercial Cider Room)

Your First Batch of Cider (including Adding Sulfur Dioxide, Testing, Pitching the Yeast, Waiting, Moving the Carboy, Adding the Bored Bung, Adding the Airlock, Feeding the Yeast, Waiting, Testing, Racking, Tasting, Maturing, Bottling, and Our First Ciders)

Your Second Batch of Cider (including Excess Hydrogen Sulfide, Unintended Malolactic Fermentation, Acetic Fermentation, Other Potential Flaws, I Don’t Love It, and Don’t Fear the Stink)

Your Third Batch of Cider and Beyond (including Blending, Carbonation, Returning Sugar, Methode Champenoise, Cidre (French), Ice Cider, and Respecting the Apple)

Conclusion, Glossary, Resources, The People Behind Farnum Hill Ciders, About April White, Photographer Credits, Acknowledgements, Index

Some Quotes of Interest:

  • When blended and fermented, the most celebrated cider apples — often called inedible — reveal flavors such as apricot, black tea, honey, and pine.
  • A cidermaker’s responsibility is to coax the best from the fruit without unnecessary additives or techniques that would obscure the apple.
  • Cider, like wine, is an agricultural product and each batch you make will be unique.
  • The sugar is the food for the yeast, which will convert it into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
  • A cidermaker’s choice of apples has the biggest impact on the cider produced.
  • A geographic style develops over decades, or perhaps centuries, as cidermakers in a specific region, working with similar types of apples grown in similar conditions learn from and influence each other.
  • You can learn the most from your cider tasting if you develop a procedure and a vocabulary for tasting that controls as many variables as possible and allows for consistent and objective evaluation of each batch of cider.
  • And don’t taste with food, which will change your perception of smell, taste, and sensation.
  • The ideal tasting temperature is about 60 deg F…the aromas, tastes, and sensations of a cider are stronger and any flaws are more noticeable,
  • The tongue can only perceive acid, bitter, sweet, sour, salty, and savory flavors.  Your sense of “taste” is truly your nose at work again, perceiving the changing aromas of a food in your mouth.
  • Tasting is really noting more than an effort to objectify characteristics that are essentially subjective.
  • During the fermentation process, the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast forms a protective layer over the developing cider, preventing the cider from coming into contact with oxygen.
  • Typically, over time, the tannins in the cider round out, becoming less astringent, and acids soften, becoming less harsh.
  • There’s one piece of advice every would be cidermaker needs:  It’s all about the apple.

In summary, it is a well-written book which is a great addition to anyone’s cider library.  I’d recommend it for folks interested in making their own cider at home as well as those who just want further information on cider, how it is made, cider apples, cider styles/regions/methods, Farnum Hill Ciders, etc.

About half of the book was specific to cidermaking, but I even found that interesting despite no current plans to get into cidermaking.  In case you are curious, I don’t want to put a lot of effort into something and be disappointed, I don’t like to start something without the time to truly devote myself to it (I tend to get a bit obsessive so everything else gets ignored), and there is so much awesome cider in my area that is ready to drink already!

Book Review #4, World’s Best Ciders – Taste, Tradition, and Terroir

Part four of four of reviews of cider-related books I obtained from my local library.  Here are links to part 1part 2, and part 3.  This time the book is World’s Best Ciders – Taste, Tradition, and Terroir (Pete Brown & Bill Bradshaw, hardcover, published 2013).  Its is available on Amazon for $17.56 (a great deal compared to the $30 list price on the book).  The pair is also coming out with a film about cider (The Cider Hunters)!  Check out the trailer here and follow the page on Facebook here.

This book is much more cider enthusiast (vs. cidermaking) friendly than the previous three books.  I enjoyed it so much that I bought a copy, which says a lot as I haven’t bought a book in years!  Its a great coffee table book about cider with lovely photos & graphics.  There are lots of cider recommendations and information indexed by region.  This is truly a world guide in cider!  It also has a very well-written introduction with some basic information about cider, its history, styles, flavors, tasting, etc.

I was even lucky enough to attend Capitol Cider’s meet & greet, book signing, and tasting with co-author Bill Bradshaw last night!  We’re lucky to have him in Seattle for Cider Summit as he resides in the UK.  (a post on that event is in work)

world's best ciders



Cider Basics
History of Cider
Apples, Orchards, and the Cider Year
How CIder is Made
Cider Flavors
Commercial Brands
Profile: Peter Mitchell
Tasting Cider
Tasting Symbols

Planet Cider
A World of Cider
(each of these subchapters has an introduction, profiles, styles, cider suggestions, etc)

United Kingdom
Rest of Europe

The Americas
United States
Argentina and Chile

Australia and New Zealand

Rest of World
South Africa

Cider and Food

Some Great Excerpts:

  • First sentence of the book:  Cider is the world’s most misunderstood drink.
  • Cider takes us back to an earlier, simpler time.  It reconnects us with the land and the cycle of the seasons.  And maybe, in an increasingly virtual, synthetic, and prepackaged age, that’s why cider’s popularity is blooming around the world.
  • We do not claim that the 244 ciders in this book are definitely the best 244 in the world, but that they are 244 of the best.  Every cider in this book is one that we’ve enjoyed and one we think worth trying.  Still, everyone’s palate is different.
  • It is one of the fastest growing drinks in the world, sweeter than beer, less potent than wine, simple and yet capable of complex greatness.  Welcome to the cider revolution.
  • Those who don’t know cider can have a snide attitude if the word terroir is used in conjunction with it.  Social conditioning tells us that this is a concept exclusive to the sophistication and subtlety of wine.  But if we accept that climate (or microclimate), temperature, and soil can have a profound effect on one particular fruit–which we do, because it is true–then logically it would be bizarre to suggest it has no such effect on other fruit.
  • When we began writing this book, a leading drinks writer said to us, “Interesting, but what can you write about cider?  It tastes like apples.  What else is there to say?”
  • Some of us have far higher concentrations of taste buds than others, which creates dramatically different perceptions of flavor.  There’s also an emerging body of research that seems to prove that taste cannot be separated from other stimuli and that context, environment, mood, and memory all make something “taste” different.
  • Drink straight from the bottle and you’re cutting your nose–and about 80 percent of the flavor compounds–out of the equation.

In closing, this book comes highly recommended!  Its a great addition to our living room and a conversation starter.  For me this isn’t so much a book that you read cover to cover, but one that you pick up from time to time and leaf through a section, such as when a particular cider region strikes your fancy.  Its also a great introduction to cider to share with our houseguests before/during/after we have a cider tasting (as always happens in our house as few folks are familiar with good craft cider).

Book Review #3, CIDER – Hard and Sweet – History, Traditions and Making Your Own

Part three of four of interesting notes from cider-related books I obtained from my local library.  Here are links to part 1 and part 2.  This time around is CIDER – Hard and Sweet – History, Traditions and Making Your Own (Ben Watson, 2nd edition, published in 2009).  The first edition was published in 1999.  There is now however a 3rd edition (published 2013), paperback available for $11.43 on Amazon.  Overall I enjoyed this book more than Cider – Making, Using, & Enjoying Sweet & Hard Cider.  However, my favorite of the four cider books is yet to come!  (but is quite different than these first three)

cider hard and sweet


The History of Cider
Roman history
Western Europe

Apple Varieties for Cider
Sex and the Single Apple
Basic Types of Apples
Keeping Things in Proportion
Finding Your Cider Apples

Sweet Cider: From Tree to Juice
In Defense of Real Cider
How Safe Is Real Cider?
A Glass a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
Making Your Own Sweet Cider
Harvesting the Fruit
Support Your Local Cidermaker
Sweating the Apples
Milling the Fruit
Pressing the Juice
Apple Juice
Traditional Cidermaking Photo Series

Hard Cider: From Juice to Bottle
Cidermaking 101
Basic Equipment (fermentation vessels, other fermentation equipment, measuring tools, racking and bottling equipment, cleaning and sanitizing equipment, miscellaneous items)
The Juice Before Fermentation (Sugars, Specific Gravity, and Potential Alcohol; Acids; Tannins; Yeast Nutrients and Pectic Enzymes; Sulfur Dioxide; Common Cider Disorders)
Fermentation (Yeasts, Wild and Domesticated; Starting a Yeast Culture; Some Commercial Yeast Strains Used for Cidermaking; Primary Fermentation)
Maturation and Bottling

Cider Styles and Traditions
The Influence of Soils and Climate
Regional Ciders (Spain, France, United Kingdom)
Basic Cider Styles (Draft Cider, Farmhouse or Farm Cider, French Cider, Sparkling Cider, Cyser, Apple Wine, New England-Style Cider, Specialty Ciders)
Apple Wine

Tasting and Evaluating Cider
Organizing a Cider Tasting
Collecting Ciders for Your Tasting
Props and Procedures
Evaluating Cider
Sample Cider-Tasting Score Sheet
Sample Cider-Tasting Results
Common Cider-Tasting Terms

Perry, or Pear Cider
A Short History of Perry
Making Your Own Perry
English Perry Pears Grown in North America

Stronger Waters: Cider Vinegar and Spirits
Apple Brandy (Calvados)
Ice Cider
Cider Vinegar

Cooking with Cider
Cider in American Cooking (Boiled Cider, Cider Syrup, Cider Jelly)
Using Cider in Recipes
Recipes (Old-Fashioned Apple Butter, Hot Mulled Cider, Cider Wassail Bowl, Pork Chops Braised in Hard Cider, Chicken Breasts Vallée d’Auge, Crème Fraîche, Apple Cider Marinade, Fish Poached in Cider, Onion Cider Relish, Red Cabbage Braised in Cider, Harvest Stuffed Squash, Pears Poached in Cider, Caramel Apple Gelato, Lost Nation Cider Pie, Tarte aux Pommes – Apple Tart, Pâte Brisée, Boiled Cider Apple Crisp, Pears Preserved in Calvados)

Cidermaking: Beyond the Basics
Scaling Up
Measuring Instruments
Traditional Sparkling Cider
Fermentation Vessels and Supplies
Fermenting and Aging in Oak Barrels
Kegging, Filtration, and Bottling Equipment
Keeping Things Sweet (Keeving; Cold Shocking, Filtering, and Stabilizing Cider)
In-Bottle Pasteurization
A Final Thought

What I Found Interesting:


  • Only a few species of small wild apples are native to North America (crabapples).  The first apples as we know them were brought by colonists from England and Western Europe, as early as 1623.
  • The American folk hero Johnny Appleseed (real name John Chapman) became a symbol of the apple’s spread as it followed Western settlement in the years after the Revolutionary War.  He operated an extensive frontier nursery In Pennsylvania, and traveled planting apple seeds and selling seedling trees to settlers.
  • By 1767 in Massachusetts more than 35 gallons of cider per person per year was consumed.  Cider was even a common unit of exchange.
  • By 1775 one out of every ten farms in New England owned and operated its own cider mill.  Most early settlers preferred not to drink the local water, which could be unpalatable or even polluted.
  • The first apple trees came to Washington state around 1848.  By 2000, Washington produced half of the U.S. apple crop (5% of the world crop).
  • Cider production had already dropped (due to decreased consumption) prior to Prohibition, from 55 million gallons in 1899 to 13 million gallons in 1919.
  • China is the world’s largest apple growing nation.  [which is probably why we hear of some cidermakers unfortunately using cheap Chinese imported apple juice concentrate in cider]

Cider Apple Varieties

  • Most apples benefit from being cross-pollinated by another tree of a separate variety.
  • A good fresh cider requires sweetness and body, sprightliness and aroma, and very few if any single apple varieties possess all of these qualities.
  • True cider apples are mainly bitter-tasting varieties that are used in making the classic hard ciders of Northwest Europe and England.  The bitterness and astringency of those apples come from the tannins that are present in both the skin and flesh of the fruit.
  • Apples vary wildly in sugar content from around 6% to nearly 25% (Wickson, a small high-sugar and high-acid variety from intentionally crossing the Newtown Pippin and Esopus Spitzenburg).
  • Apples of the same variety may vary considerably in sweetness during different growing seasons and regions.
  • Apples vary wildly in acid content, from 0.1% to 1.3%.


  • Sweet cider naturally contains approximately 15% sucrose, 74% fructose, and 11% glucose.
  • Tannins give a hard cider body and a dry finish, and help clarify (fine) the cider making it less hazy and more brilliant.
  • The complex bouquet of a hard cider is partly due to the aromatic varieties of apples used in the blend, but also partly due to the fragrant compounds produced as a result of yeast fermentation.

Cider Styles and Traditions

  • An important contributor to the character of any cider is something the French call terroir, a term referring to the place where the fruit is grown (soil composition, climate, microclimate, etc).
  • Two relatively unknown types of cider in the U.S. are German Apfelwein (8% of the world’s cider) and cider from South Africa (14% of the world’s cider, second only to the UK).
  • The greatest, oldest, and most highly regarded cidermaking areas of Europe are England’s West Country, Normandy and Brittany in France, and Asturias and the Basque region of Spain.
  • French cider is classified as Cidre Doux (up to 3% ABV), Demi-Sec (3-5% ABV), and Cidre Brut (over 5% ABV), and is 9% of the cider produced worldwide.
  • Draft cider is the most common variety in America, and most often sold in six-packs.  It is usually made of juice from surplus dessert apples, fermented to dryness, filtered, cut with carbonated water and/or apple juice to 5-6% ABV, and sulfited before bottling.  It is sweet to semi-sweet and should be drunk very cold.
  • Farmhouse or farm cider is traditional, “real” cider, or English dry cider.  It is usually still, dry, fully fermented to 5%+ ABV, and may have sweeteners added.
  • French cider of cidre doux relies on a process known as keeving, in which pectins and nitrogenous yeast nutrients are precipitated out of the cider, then clarified juice is siphoned into another container to begin a long slow period of fermentation  It has some residual sweetness and is only 2-4% ABV.
  • Sparkling cider is carbonated in some way, either by natural carbonation (secondary fermentation with a small amount of sugar), the French “closed cuvee” champagne method, or force/artificial carbonation.
  • The main difference between sparkling and effervescent ciders is the clarify and brilliance of the former, from removal of spent yeasts and other residues.
  • Apple wine is produced when sugar is added to raise the specific gravity high enough to obtain a 10-12% ABV product.  Otherwise there is little or no difference from hard cider.

Book Review #2, Cider – Making, Using, & Enjoying Sweet & Hard Cider

Part two of four of interesting notes from cider-related books I obtained from my local library (Part 1 is available here).  This time around is Cider – Making, Using, & Enjoying Sweet & Hard Cider (Annie Proulx & Lew Nichols, 3rd edition, published in 2003).  Similarly to The New Cider Maker’s Handbook, the majority of this book has a cidermaking focus.  Paperback priced at $10.75 on Amazon.  From my perusal, The New Cider Maker’s Handbook seems to be a better choice over this one, mostly as it is more thorough and has an easier to read layout.  Additionally, hard cider has really evolved in the U.S. since 2003!

making using enjoying cider


Cidermaking: What You Need and How to Do It
Cidermaking, Step by Step
Equipment and Materials: How to Use Them
Cider Disorders

Making Different Cider Varieties
Basic Still Blended Cider from North American Varieties
Naturally Sparkling and Champagne Ciders
Old-Fashioned New England Cider
French Cider
Cider in a Hurry!

Apples for Cider
The Apple – Body and Soul
Good Cider Apples
European Cider Apples
Canadian Apples
North American Astringents
North American Cultivars Used in Making Cider

The Home Cider Orchard
The Orchard – from Dream to Reality
Climate and Weather
Sizing up the Site
Staking Out Your Orchard’s Claim
Orchard Care
Diseases, Insects, and Wildlife
The Harvest
Developing Your Own Cider Apple Trees

Beyond Cider:  Vinegars, Brandy, Tasting, and Cooking
How to Make Vinegar
Aromatic and Herb Vinegars
Applejack and Apple Brandy
Apple Brandy
Cider for Tasting, Drinking, and Cooking
Cider to Drink and in the Kitchen

Cider and the Law
U.S. and Federal Law and Regulations

Appendix: Making Your Own Equipment

What I Found Interesting:

  • Twelve steps of cidermaking:  harvest, “sweating”, washing, grinding, pressing, blending, testing, fermentation, racking off, filtering or fining, bottling, and storage.
  • Popular proportions for juices are neutral base (30-60%), tart (10-20%), aromatic (10-20%), and astringent (5-20%).
  • Tannins are complex phenolics which add a slight bitter tang and astringency to cider, and give the finest ciders their flavor and personality.  They do not add acidity to the juice, as does malic, tartaric, or citric acids.  Dessert apples have about one-fifth the tannins of European cider apples.
  • The single most important step in cidermaking is acquiring fine-flavored, well-ripened apples with good levels of acid and tannin.
  • A standard apple tree will produce about ten bushels of apples and has a lifespan of around a hundred years.  (there are also semidwarf and dwarf trees)
    • One bushel of apples weighs about 45 pounds, and will yield 2-3 gallons of cider.
  • Tulip-shaped clear wine glasses are recommended to hold the cider bouquet at the lip of the glass.
  • The sweeter the cider the colder it should be served.  Drier cider may be served at room temperature.
  • Describing scents, flavors, and tastes is a difficult job, since they are perceived differently by people, linked to obscure personal memories, and to different culturally acquired food habits.
  • Cider color varies based on both the apple varieties and the way it was made.
  • For a cider tasting, go from dry to sweet, young to old, and lighter to heavier alcohol content.

Book Review #1, The New Cider Maker’s Handbook

I picked up The New Cider Maker’s Handbook, A Comprehensive Guide for Craft Producers (Claude Jolicoeur, 2013 edition) from my local library.  Hardcover priced at $26.19 on Amazon.  I also found a few other cider-related books, and placed a hold on all four books they had available on hard cider in the network.  So, this is part one of at least four on cider-related books.  I’m a huge fan of libraries, especially in this case to preview books to determine which I may want to purchase.

Fun fact – I worked at my library in college for all four years!  Note that libraries can typically obtain books from any library in their network.  It they don’t have what you want, if you ask, they may use the interlibrary loan system to obtain it through the mail, or purchase it for the library.

I only read what I found interesting, as I’m honestly not interested in cidermaking.  I care more about what pertains to my enjoyment of cider and advancement of my knowledge about it.  This is definitely a handbook (lots of text and few photos), and has a cidermaking focus, so there may not be much added value for the non-cidermaker.  I nonetheless enjoyed flipping through it and finding the bits which were of interest to me.

new cider maker's handbook


Part I, Basics of Cidermaking
Materials and Supplies
The Raw Material: Apple Juice
Cider Preparation

Part II, Growing Apples for Cider
The Cider Orchard
The Varietal Selection

Part III, Juice Extraction
Apple Mills
Apple Presses

Part IV, The Apple Juice or Must
(note that “must” is a winemaker’s term for unfermented, sweet juice, akin to “wort” in brewing)
The Sugars
The Acids
The Tannins or Phenolic Substances
The Nitrogenous Substances
The Pectic Substances

Part V, Fermentation and Beyond
The Fermentation Process
Cider Diversity
Cider Troubles and How to Avoid Them

Appendix 1, Units and Measures

Appendix 2, Companion Materials

What I Found Interesting:

I especially liked the chapter on Apple Varieties in Part II, and all of Part IV (which was almost 50 pages, mostly composed of the chapter on sugars, with focus on measuring & calculations).

Notes on Apple Varieties

  • True cider orchards are mostly found in Europe (France, England, and Spain).
  • North American orchards mainly contain dessert apples, which don’t have as much body and mouthfeel that is obtained with cider apples with more tannins.
  • The “perfect” cider apple would have high sugar, medium acidity, and medium tannins.  There are not many of these, but Kingston Black, a famous English variety, would be an example.
  • Cider apples should have at least one of these features:  high sugar to produce alcohol, moderate or low acidity to balance blend, and some tannin to give body & mouthfeel.

Notes on Sugars

  • High sugar level in juice translates into high alcohol content after fermentation.
  • The Brix scale for residual sugar content in a liquid (sweetness) is primarily used in North America.
  • Apples with most sugar often have the most flavor, and produce a richer cider.
    • Fructose (levulose or fruit sugar) is the most abundant, 7-11% by mass.  It is a simple & reducing sugar, thus easier to transform to alcohol.
      • Simple = does not hydrolyse (break down) to give other sugars
      • Reducing = capacity to interact chemically with other compounds
    • Glucose (dextrose or grape sugar), 1-3% by mass, is also simple & reducing.  Its concentration decreases as an apple ripens.
    • Sucrose (saccharose or cane sugar) 2-5% by mass, is a double sugar (di-saccharide) and nonreducing.  However, it may be inverted, particularly by yeasts.
      • Inversion = chemical reaction where sucrose combines with a bit of water to give equal amounts glucose & fructose
    • There are also very low concentrations of other fermentable sugars, such as sorbitol.
      • Apple juice also contains very small amount of sorbitol (0.2-1%).
      • Pear juice has more sorbitol (up to 2%).
      • Sorbitol has a sweetening effect but technically isn’t a sugar, but a polyol (sugar alcohol)
      • Sorbitol is why dry perry is never as dry as a bone-dry cider.

A Chart on Specific Gravity, Acidity, & Apple Varieties

cider maker's handbook chart