Cider Class: Finalizing Cider and Sensory Evaluation
July 9, 2010
All the talk about apple selection, proper levels of acid, pH, and sulfites, and a healthy fermentation was leading up to making a good base cider and the final steps of blending to make a good final product that consumers will buy. Since the cider is fermented dry, many will add some sugar in some form, especially apple juice, to bring some balance to the sharp acids. Some companies, because they added sugar at the beginning to achieve a higher alcohol, will add water at this point to dilute it back down.
My class was broken into teams and handed some base cider and told to reduce the alcohol content slightly and blend it as we saw fit. We had access to a few apple juices, and cut the cider down with that to reduce the alcohol, but felt it wasn’t quite sweet enough, so we added some glucose. At the blind taste test, our cider took second. I felt it was a pretty balanced cider that was slightly sweet, but I felt it was a little watery, but that could not be helped due to the assignment.
What makes a good cider? There is no answer really to that as everybody has different tastes, so a good cider is made by tasting. The process to do a sensory evaluation (tasting) is pretty similar to tasting wine with a few exceptions. This is what our instructor Peter Mitchell had us do:
- Appearance: observe color, thick or thin, ability to create “legs” on the glass, sparkling or still, if there is some foam or “mousse” on top, clear or cloudy, and how “bright” it is.
- Odor: smell the cider much like you would wine and think of words to describe it.
- Taste: When tasting the cider, think of it only in these four words: sweet, sour, bitter, or salty. Technically, this is all we can detect, and taste is a combination of those four. If no one word or group of words jumps out at you, then the cider is “balanced.” Swallow the cider when you are through.
- Aroma: with the cider in your mouth, do you smell anything you didn’t before?
- Mouth feel: how does the cider feel in your mouth? Is it silky, thick or thin, like velvet, course, tingly, etc? After you swallow, do you have the feeling of dry mouth?
- After-taste: After you swallow, how long can you continue to taste the cider, and which of the four descriptions do you detect?