Types of Cider Apples
January 8, 2010
What kinds of apples make good cider? On one level the answer is simple: the kinds you have available. Most amateur cidermakers, and even many professionals, use any varieties that re in season and readily available in sufficient quantities to press into juice. Almost any sound apple, from mouth-puckering wild crab to the most refined dessert variety, is worth adding to your cider blend, at least in small amounts.
“However, as with most simple things, there is an underlying art and subtlety involved in mixing and matching varieties to create the best ciders, both sweet and hard.” – Ben Watson, Cider: Hard & Sweet.
Not all apples are considered good for making pies out of, but they are tasty when eaten raw. Apples are that are soft make for good apple sauce, but maybe they are mild tasting.
For cider, a vast majority of cider makers who use real apples use a variety of apples to create a blend. However, the most popular apples used for making cider are not considered edible, unless they are heirloom apples (old breeds). Cider apples taste bitter when eaten. These include varieties like Dabinett, Kingston Black, Yarlington Mill, and Tremlett’s Bitter, varieties you just can’t buy at the grocery store.
If a cider maker does use a common eating apple or heirloom apples in their blend, such as Golden Delicious, Jonagold, or Granny Smith, they actually let it stay on the tree much longer than what fresh eating apples are. Also, cidermakers love using crab apples, which are extremely acidic and high in tannins.
Apples varieties have been tested for their acidic and tannin components. Therefore, cider apples are classified by how much acid and tannin one has:
- High tannin, low acid – bittersweet
- Low tannin, low acid – sweet
- High tannin, high acid – bittersharp
- Low tannin, high acid – sharp
These descriptors do not indicate how much sugar is in the apple. In fact, most grocery store apples are low in tannin and high in acid, making them sharp, not sweet, apples.
Classifications helps cidermakers create a blend to create a well balanced cider before fermentation. Some apples can be used by themselves to make a cider, but they will lack in some areas and be overpowering in others. This would include color, aroma, astringency, sugar, acidity, and other desirable traits.
Funny thing is, after the officials tell you what apples make good cider, they will also tell you to go ahead and try using other apples. There are new varieties coming out, and they are untested for cider, so they might be good.
If you would like to see some lists of cider apples, take a look at these websites: