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