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Small-Scale Cidermaking 

Cider is an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented juice of apples. At least, it is in England. In the US, 'cider' is rough apple juice, and 'hard cider' is the fermented stuff! In France it's cidre, in Spain it's sidra and in the German-speaking world it's apfelwein. They're all quite different, but they're all based on apples!


My Cider

applesMy cider is fairly straightforward. It's made from 100% juice and from  'vintage' English cider apples. There are many different ways of making cider and I don't think one should be too dogmatic about which is the 'best'. I don't, for instance, agree with the purists that pasteurisation or the use of apple juice concentrate should necessarily be regarded with disfavour - in my view, excellent ciders can still be made that way (although I don't happen to do it myself). On the other hand, I'm not too keen on making high strength 'glucose wine' with added sugars and then diluting it back with water.  But I'm a great believer in the controlled use of sulphur dioxide, although I've now moved away from cultured yeasts in favour of a semi-natural succession of 'wild yeasts'.  What I do suits me, and in any case I'm always experimenting!

If you're really interested in the exact details, you can find (somewhat out of date!) descriptions of my orchard and my current cidermaking techniques on the following links:


Something to read!

applesSome years ago, I wrote a series of articles on small-scale cidermaking for a 'self-sufficiency' magazine called 'Home Farm' (now re-named 'Country Smallholding'). The copyright in the articles is mine and I thought it might be useful to put them here on the Web so that anybody who's interested can read them.

Click on the titles below if you want to read these articles. Remember, they were written in a simple and chatty style for a magazine. I have edited them lightly to bring them up to date a bit, but otherwise they remain as originally published in 1992. I've probably changed my personal approach to cidermaking a little since then, but the basics haven't altered!!


"The Science of Cidermaking" Contents 

In 2008 I considerably updated and expanded the "Science of Cidermaking" and it's now available to purchase as a book called "Craft Cider Making"

Some extra stuff for boffins.......

....... for technologists,

...... and for historians!!


Do you want to know more?

apples

If you want a serious scientific treatment of the subject you should read my chapter on 'Cidermaking' in 'Fermented Beverage Production' (second edition) edited by Andrew Lea and John Piggott.  In that chapter you'll find lots of references to the old Long Ashton work, which was also very ably reviewed in various different articles by my old boss Fred Beech, whose knowledge of cider chemistry and microbiology was encyclopedic and unsurpassed. Sadly, Fred died in autumn 1995, and with him went the end of an era.

You can see an abridged version of this chapter by clicking here,  and an even shorter pictorial version here (beware - it's a 1.3 MB PDF download so only for those on broadband!) but if you want to see the whole thing you'll have to beg or borrow the book !


Some other reasonably priced and practical 'how-to-do-it' books which I recommend are

All these books are currently in print and readily obtainable from Amazon (or from a real bookshop, if you can get to one!)

And a superb orcharding book (2001) by an ex Long Ashton colleague of mine is:


For some excellent  and thoughtful historical background on cidermaking and its current craft revival, plus lyrical essays and photographs of many contemporary craft cidermakers in the UK:

Further book resources are given on my 'Further Resources' page (well, where else?)

Web-based Cider Resources

If you want to look elsewhere on the Web for small-scale cidermaking information you could start with Gillian Grafton's Real Cider and Perry Page.  This was taken over and maintained by Paul Gunningham for several years. After his sad death in 2007 it was merged into Old Scrump's Cider House - which is an amalgamation of Gillian Grafton's Real Cider & Perry website and Paul Gunningham's Scrumpy User Guide website, and is now maintained by Frank Blades.

For e-mail or web-based discussions and news on UK craft cidermaking, sign up to the Cider Workshop mailing list. You can find the joining details on the Cider Workshop website.  If you live in North America or you want to discuss serious technical issues you should also subscribe to the US-based e-mail Cider Digest. Both discussion groups are international in their reach and complement each other, so both are worth reading wherever you live.

Some other interesting links to small-scale commercial or 'craft' cidermakers are

The last four listed are new cider businesses established since the Millenium, typical of the most recent breed of energetic craft cidermakers who have typically downshifted from previous careers in other fields.

The Hereford Cider Museum is well worth a visit too. For supply of wholesale speciality ciders, try Orchard Hive and Vine in Leominster, near Hereford.

Of course there are plenty of mainstream commercial links nowadays too (Weston's, Thatcher's, Bulmer's, Aston Manor etc.) but you can give your brain a workout and find them for yourself through Google or something (or look on the Further Resources page)!  The Three Counties Cider and Perry Association (3CCPA) is a thriving group of small high-quality cider producers in the counties of  Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire, with a smattering of members from adjoining counties eg Dorset, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Warwickshire.  The Marcher Apple Network and the Gloucestershire Orchard Trust have great sites to visit too. The NACM website, set up by the National Association of Cidermakers in the UK, is the place for information about mainstream commercial cidermaking. The AICV website (a trade association for cider and fruit wine manufacturers throughout Europe) is also worth a look.  

If you need your own apples contract pressed by a local team, and you live within striking distance of Ledbury (Herefordshire), check out Deborah and Nigels' charming site for their Little Cider Press Company.  And be sure to watch their video too!  If you live further away without apples of your own, you may be able to buy apples from their contacts and have them pressed too.

And, if you need some serious training or consultancy in cidermaking, check out Peter Mitchell's website at The Cider Academy.  Peter was originally responsible for the development of the Core Food and Drink Centre at Pershore College, near Worcester (now sadly closed),  and for the production of the award winning Hindlip and  Avonbank ciders and perries. He offers courses both in the UK and the USA (East and West Coast)

There are more cider-related websites on the 'Further Resources' page


If you want to search my website for something specific, try this handy search tool here:

 
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If you want to ask a technical question about cidermaking which might be of general interest to others, why not join and post it to the Cider Workshop or the  Cider Digest?. These are friendly communities of people with a good smattering of technical experts, myself included, so somebody there will probably have the answer!

But finally, if you want to e-mail me specifically about cider-making, please contact me at 

general"at"harphill.co.uk

replacing the "at" by the normal @ symbol (anti-spam measure)



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Last Revision October 2013