Cider Tasting Terminology 101

As my cider journey has evolved and I’ve been reviewing ciders, I’ve been more interested in cider tasting (descriptor) terminology.  So, I thought I’d share some common cider tasting vocabulary:


Acidity:  The presence of significant malic acid, which causes a sharpness, briskness, sourness, or “zing” in a cider.

Aftertaste:  The lingering taste of the cider on the back of the throat, hopefully pleasant.

Apple juice concentrate:  Syrup from apple juice with water content reduced.  Often used in commercial cidermaking to cheaply make a sweeter cider.

Balanced:  A cider which has no single component (such as sweetness, bitterness, or acidity) as overpowering.

Barrel aged:  Further aging of a cider in a wood barrel, which influences the cider, imparting additional flavor.  This can add a good deal of complexity.  Note that cider can also be barrel fermented.

Bittersharp cider apple:  High acid and high tannin apples.

Bittersweet cider apple:  Low acid and high tannin apples.

Brix:  Residual sugar content in liquid (sweetness).  One degree Brix is 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of solution  Measured using a hydrometer (which also can tell you the Alcohol by Volume, ABV, and specific gravity, relative density of the liquid).  A formula can be used to determine Brix and in turn specific gravity if you know how many grams of sugar there are in a certain amount of cider.

Clarity:  A cider’s opacity.  Brilliant, clear, slightly hazy, hazy, or cloudy.

Cloying:  Sticky, tacky, syrupy, or sickly sweet in taste & mouthfeel.

Diacetyl:  Aroma and flavor described at butter, butterscotch, or toffee.

Ester:  Sweet chemically artificial, banana, or tropical fruit flavor or aroma.

Mouthfeel:  The feel / impression of the cider in the mouth.  Its body, weight, texture, etc.

Sharp cider apple:  High acid and low tannin apples.

Single varietal:  Cider made from only one type of apple (in contrast to most cider which are blends).

Sugars:  Yeast ferments sugars to alcohol.  Sugar may be added to aid the fermentation process.

Sweet cider apple:  Low acid and low tannin apples.

Sweetness:  Taste associated with sugars in cider, including vanilla, honey, or syrup notes.  The percentage of residual sweetness makes a cider sweet, semi-sweet, semi-dry, or dry.  There can often be a difference between measured and perceived sweetness though, and acidity plays a big roll.

Tannins:  Contribute to bitterness and astringency.  Can cause a mouth-puckering taste and in excess can dry the mouth.

Drinking Cider, Cider Glossary
Cider Monger, Cider Glossary
Candle Wine Project, Cider Tasting Vocabulary
United States of Cider, Terminology Category


I’m no expert, so I think often the experts can explain things better than I can,  Here are some great bonus links:

Previously posted links to a great video series from Schilling on Cider Tasting

Previously posted cider tasting guide

Article on cider apple varieties.

Cider style guidelines from Beer Judge Certification program