Book Review: WSU Publication PNW621 on Cidermaking

January 7, 2011

A few months ago, Washington State University released publication PNW 621 titled Hard Cider Production & Orchard Management in the Pacific Northwest. They printed off a limited number of copies, which are available for $8.00 each.

It was written by G.A. Moulton, Carol Miles, and J. King, all of Washington State University Mount Vernon, and A. Zimmerman of Tulip Valley Vineyard and Orchard next door. I had actually taken classes from Moulton and Zimmerman as part of my cidermaking class last summer with Peter Mitchell. In fact, there is a large acknowledgment to Mitchell in this publication, and even a few of the graphs he provided us students in our textbooks. Therefore, I was quite excited to see the research and write up on local production of cider.

The 48 page publication starts out with an introduction, including defining what cider is, the history of cider, defining your business and style, and safety measures. The last two are sort of new to me in a publication. Talking about business, it just touches upon ideas about what consumers expect, a developing a product line, determining who your customers are, and developing a marking plan. This is just enough to get one thinking about important information without actually guiding a person. The safety section suggests setting up a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP).

From there, the publication moves into basic cider making, which you can find in just about any cider making book. However, it contains nearly six pages of their research on cider apples, including tannin amounts, sugar quantities, pH, and malic acid or other research on taste analysis of cider from a type of apple. From there, it briefly talks about sources of apples, and then transitions into processing fruit. It talks about apple mills, presses, and containers, giving pros and cons to different types. After obtaining juice, it must be analyzed, which is information you can gain in any cider making book, but this one does walk you through the step by step laboratory procedures to determine free sulfites, total sulfites, and titratable acidity, and talks about the formula to convert SG to potential alcohol and chaptilization. Moving on, it talks briefly about yeast, maturation, and malolatic fermentation. From there, cider is then ready for blending, barrel aging, carbonating, sweetening, filtering, bottling, and pasteurizing.

The real gem in this publication, though, is the last section, which is really the first part of making cider: orchard management. While other books might talk about site selection and rootstock, this publication talks about all that and in addition it talks about required mineral content in soil. The best part is that it has a chart on tree growth habit and another on blooming dates, which is kind of rare information. It does talk about planting, pruning, irrigating, thinning, pest management, when and how to harvest, and storage of the apples.

Overall, I’m excited because this book has lots of information about taking care of cider apple trees that is kind of rare for the United States, and the information provided in the entire book is kind of ideas to think about if one decided to open a cidery. That tone set it apart from other cidermaking books on the market.

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