PART TWO OF MY BLOG ON CIDER
As winemakers say, “you can’t make a great wine without starting with great grapes.” The same philosophy holds true for ciders…it’s all about the apples! While we think about making cider from grocery store apples, these dessert or eating apples are not the variety that makes good cider. What actually determines an appropriate cider apple is the amount of tannin, acid, and sugar associated with the apple variety. Here are the 4 major types and a quickie overview of their characteristics:
Sweets – low in tannin, low in acid and high in sugar
Bitter Sweets – high in tannin
Sharpes – high in acid
Bitter Sharpes – mix of tannin and acid
Years ago, dessert apples were primarily limited to a certain geographic region or area, but sophisticated transportation methods and longer shelf life offered wider availability to people. Cider apples were not ever shipped widely and were mostly connected to geographic regions. Then with Prohibition, the cider apples disappeared mainly because of their unpalatable eating flavor. Now though, with the expanding cider industry we are back to seeing a more localized growing and production operation for cider apples.
As I mentioned in Part One, Colorado Cider Company gets the majority of its apples from Colorado, but depending on the harvest may also need to source from Washington, Oregon, Utah and/or Idaho. As with grapes, the two largest areas for apple orchards in Colorado are the Grand Valley and the West Elks area (Hotchkiss, Paonia, and Cedaredge). An interesting fact I learned from Brad is that it takes about ~11 pounds of apples to make 1 gallon of juice, and with Colorado Cider producing the equivalent of 30,000 cases….that is a lot of apples!
In my book, Exploring Colorado Wineries, I discuss how a grape becomes a wine, so here is a brief overview of how Colorado Cider Company turns an apple into cider.
#1. Like grapes, apples are picked or harvested in the fall. BTW – almost all cider is a blend of apples.
#2. The apples are then crushed and pressed, like grapes.
#3. The apples are now in juice form, without the skins.
#4. Fermentation takes place, usually in stainless steel tanks, with yeast being added. The most common yeast used is a white wine yeast that acts as a “workhorse” but imparts no flavor. The juice is fermented completely dry.
#5. The juice goes through a racking and fining process that removes most of the sediments and yeasts.
#6. The juice is then filtered.
#7. A little sugar (usually apple juice) is added back in. This determines whether the cider will be dry, off-dry or sweet.
#8. The cider is bottled and capped with a crown cap (like a beer bottle).
#9. The bottled cider is pasteurized in a water bath, which varies depending on the time in the bath versus the temperature of the water.
#10. The company labels are placed on the bottle.
#11 is the best part….drinking the cider! Ciders are processed to be consumed immediately but have ~1 year shelf life. This is a lower shelf life due to less alcohol, than like wine.
Hopefully I have spiked your interest about ciders and you will venture out to explore and enjoy Colorado Cider Company and other cideries around our state!!Read more →