Cider is a natural, liquid beverage that is obtained from the pressing of a finely ground fruit such as apples. Under the proper conditions, it undergoes a natural fermentation process, which yields an alcoholic juice. Cider has been made for thousands of years, however it has only recently seen a significant rise in popularity.


Cider is the sweet juice of apples that can be consumed as a beverage or used as a raw material in vinegar making. It is typically a clear, golden drink, which can range in color from a pale yellow to a dark amber rose. It has a fruity flavor and a varying degree of taste from very sweet to tart. Sweet cider is the non-alcoholic versions of cider and it can be made into apple juice by pasteurizing it and adding preservatives to stop the natural fermentation process. Hard cider is the product that results when the juice is allowed to undergo fermentation. This cider contains alcohol. Additionally, it is often effervescent due to the activity of the natural yeasts present.

People have known how to make cider for thousands of years. Archaeological evidence shows that ancient European and Asian cultures used apples to make a crude version of cider as early as 6500 B.C. The art of cider making improved over the years as people developed a better understanding of the factors that impact cider flavor. During the sixth century, a profession of skillful brewers was established in Europe. These people made beer-like beverages and also cider.

By the sixteenth century, Normandy became one of the largest cider-making areas in the world. Experimentation with different types of apples ensued, which resulted in better tasting ciders. England and colonial America also produced cider during this time and it became an important part of each culture. The ciders of this time period were inconsistent however, as small farmers each had their own methods of manufacture. The technology of cider production made significant improvements over time as people developed a better understanding of each step in the cider making process. Today, it is a highly controllable operation, which results in a dependable, good-tasting product.

Raw Materials

Apples are the primary raw material used in cider making. Suitable apples vary in size with diameters from about eight inches wide to less than two inches. Nearly all of the characteristics of the final cider product depend on the quality of the apples from which it is made. To produce the best cider, these apples must be juicy, sweet, well ripened and have adequate levels of natural acids and tannins. The skin of the apples contains many of the compounds that contribute to the taste of the cider so apples are not peeled before being used for cider manufacturing. The seeds are not removed either however, in typical milling machines, they are not broken open, and do not significantly contribute to taste. It should be noted that pears and sweet cherries are also occasionally used to make cider.

A full-bodied cider requires the use of several different types of apples to give it a balanced flavor. This is because certain varieties of apples have flavor characteristics that work well together. There are four different

Once the apples are harvested and washed, the fruit is crushed and pressed. The remaining juice is fermented, creating cider.
Once the apples are harvested and washed, the fruit is crushed and pressed. The remaining juice is fermented, creating cider.
types of apple juices including aromatic, astringent, acid-tart, and neutral tasting. Generally, sweet and tart apples are blended together to create a balanced cider. A typical blend might include 50% neutral base, 20% tart, 20% aromatic, and 10% astringent. In this cider, the flavor is a balance between tartness and sweetness. Beyond apple blending, some cider producers may also improve flavor by adding tannic, malic, and other natural acids. Tannins add a slight bitter taste and astringency to cider. Malic, citric, and tartaric acid give a zesty tingle. They also help to inhibit microbial contamination.

Producing a gallon of cider requires 11-14 lb (5-6.4 kg)of apples depending on the juiciness of the fruit. Fresh cider will remain in its full-bodied state for several weeks if it is refrigerated. After this time natural fermentation process begins. If a non-alcoholic cider is desired, the juice may be pasteurized or preserved by the addition of potassium sorbate. This material effectively kills undesirable organisms. For some cider manufacturers, the alcoholic cider is preferred. Alcoholic cider is made by either letting the inherent fermentation process continue without the addition of any other ingredients, or by adding a variety of ingredients, which give more controllable results.

Fermentation of apple cider is the process by which yeast converts the apple sugars into ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide. It occurs in two steps. First, yeast converts the sugar to alcohol and then lactic acid bacteria convert the natural malic acid into carbon dioxide. This hard cider contains 2-3% solids and 2-8% alcohol. Fermentation aids include components such as sulfur dioxide, yeast, sugar, and natural acids. Sulfur dioxide is typically added to the freshly pressed juice before fermentation is allowed to begin. It has the effect of killing most of the bacteria and yeasts present in the freshly squeezed juice, or must. Enough of the desirable yeast survives the sulfur dioxide treatment and these organisms will go on to ferment the sweet juice.

Natural yeasts are present in apples, but sometimes cider manufacturers add their own yeast to ensure that a consistent fermentation will be achieved. Some of these strains have been around for generations and they are repeatedly used to produce a distinctive tasting cider. To help yeasts grow and speed up fermentation, yeast nutrients such as ammonium sulfate and thiamine may also be added. For similar reasons extra sugar, honey or other sweeteners may also be added to the unfermented juice. This will improve fermentation and increase the alcohol content of the final product.

The Manufacturing

The cider making process typically involves three stages including crushing the fruit, pressing out the juice, and allowing it to ferment. To begin however, the fruit must be harvested, sorted, and washed.





Cooling and Filling

Fermen tation

Filling and packaging

Quality Control

There are standard quality control measures, which are performed at various points in the manufacturing process. At the beginning, the apples are checked by line inspectors. This ensures that rotten fruit, twigs, and leaves do not make it into the grinding mill. The pomace may also be inspected before being pressed. This is particularly important when using pomace that has been frozen for many months. For fermented cider, the level of sugar is determined. Since the amount of sugar is directly proportional to the amount of alcohol, this allows the manufacturer to correctly label the product for alcoholic content. Acid testing equipment is also used at this stage to ensure the juice has not been contaminated with acetic acid producing bacteria. After the final packaging, the alcohol level of the cider is determined. The taste, appearance, and other physical and chemical characteristics are verified by trained quality control tasters.

The Future

Current data suggest that cider production will show significant growth in the near future. This will be a result of the expected continuing movement toward more natural products. Refinements in the manufacturing process should also be expected. This would include more efficient methods for harvesting and sorting apples and improved presses, which will squeeze even more juice out of the pomace. Manufacturers will also develop more useful yeast cultures, which will produce better tasting cider with increased alcohol content.

Where to Learn More


Macrae, R. et al., editors. Encyclopedia of Food Science, Food Technology and Nutrition. San Diego: Academic Press, 1993.

Proulx, Annie and Lew Nichols. Sweet & Hard Cider. Charlotte, SC: Garden Way, Inc. 1980.

Valentas, Kenneth. Food Processing Operations and Scale-up. New York: Marcel Dekker, 1991.


Curtis, Lauren. "Pop Art: Designing Soft Drinks." Food Product Design (January 1998): 41 - 66.

Perry Romanowski

Also read article about Cider from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

atiba rique
Report this comment as inappropriate
Apr 14, 2009 @ 2:14 pm
I would like to know a bit more about yeast strain and yeast storage conditions. I would also like to get an idea of fermentation equipment and temperatures.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 13, 2009 @ 9:09 am
I would like to know lots more details of manufactory cider. currentlly think to set up a cider factory? can you help please?
Report this comment as inappropriate
Apr 21, 2017 @ 2:14 pm
I live in the UK. Traditional cider (scrumpy) is made from rotten or mouldy apples with the yeast provide by the skin. It has a distinctive back taste and is usually work the range of 6-9% alcohol by volume. I've made it for many decades. Commercial, sometimes fizzy, ciders 'can' be very good but can also be anaemic. THE traditional county for cider is Somerset. Normandy ciders tend to be rather sweet and unchallenging.

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: