No Orchard? No Press? No Problem!
Making the best cider you can from the juice you have.
How to make the best cider you can from the juice that you have.
MAKING CIDER AT HOME
is as rewarding as making your own beer or wine, and you’re in luck if you own an orchard or know someone who does. The rest of us, however, have to do the best we can with what’s available, and most of the time that means buying juice. We reached out to cider experts Diane Flynt of Virginia’s Foggy Ridge Cider and Aaron Fodge from Colorado’s Branch Out Cider to learn how home cider makers can get the most from what’s available.
Use the Best Juice Possible
“To make good cider at home you will need to make the effort to obtain juice that has a balance of tannin, acid, and sugar, all of which are essential for a good, or even passable, cider,” advises Diane. “The best option is to visit farmer’s markets or contact orchards that sell freshly pressed juice.”
Home cider makers who live in apple-growing regions can speak directly to farmers in the autumn and obtain freshly pressed juice. Some orchards even freeze juice for sale throughout the year. Pasteurized juices make perfectly good cider, but some enthusiasts maintain that the heat of pasteurization drives off volatile aromatics and results in a less complex finished cider. It’s up to you to weigh this against the very small, but nonzero, risk of E. coli infection.
If you opt for a shelf-stable product, it’s important to seek out juice that is free of preservatives such as sorbate and sulfites, as these inhibit yeast activity and will interfere with fermentation. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is an acceptable additive, but the less processed the better.
You can use off-the-shelf grocery store apple juice as a last resort, but such products aren’t built with cider in mind: They’re meant to be consumed as-is and will be made from a blend of apples of unknown provenance.
Whatever juice you choose, remember Diane’s advice: “You will put a lot of effort into your made-at-home cider, so start with the best ingredients you can find!”