Hard cider: How to make it
Have you ever wondered how hard cider is made? It’s a surprisingly easy process, all things considered. There are generally 7 steps to making cider. First, you need to harvest the apples. Well, someone needs to anyway, you could just go to your local store! All joking aside, the apples are picked and bought by the cideries and transported to a processing plant where they are stored for a week in order to soften. Storing the apples for a week increases the sugar content in their juice, which contributes to the delicious taste. Apples are the traditional fruit of choice, but ciders can also be made from pears and other fruits, and cideries are increasingly experimenting with non-apple sources for ciders. Next, the apples are washed in order to make sure they are thoroughly cleaned. The 3rd step is grinding. This is where the apples are ground up and turned into a pulp using a milling machine. This allows for every drop of juice to be taken from each apple. Whole apples are used, including the skin, because the skin contributes a significant amount of the taste to the cider. The next step is pressing. In this step all the juice is pulled out of the pulp, either by machine or by hand. Pulp from a variety of apples, usually between 3 and 6 different types of apples, are juiced in one container in order to get the exact flavor that is wanted for that specific cider. After pressing comes cooling, where the cider is transferred to a cooling tank. This process also removes all the leftover pulp from the cider. Next is the fermentation process. It takes about a month or for the fermentation to be completed. The 7th and final step is packaging. In this step the cider will filter one more time, and then is packaged and sent out to be consumed by grateful customers.
Cider, where it started, where it is, and where it’s going:
The past decade has generally been good for cider--the industry saw some double digit increases in annual sales, and more cider players enter the U.S. market each year (GrandView). Although cider currently represents only about 1% of overall alcohol sales, its popularity is rising as millennials see it as a healthier alternative to beer. Cider is still considered a specialty market, which caters to a younger, higher income customer base. Industry analysts project continued growth ahead, although they still describe cider as a niche market(Grandview). Despite having been around for a very long time; even dating back to 1300 B.C.E (CiderScene), cider had mostly languished in the US market until recently. This is partly because beer is a cheaper and easier to produce alternative. Historically, cider has had a better run in other markets, such as Europe. Back in the 13th century, cider was actually a go to drink in Europe, because it was seen as a clean beverage option, at a time when these were not always easy to find. Then, in the 15th century, it started being used as a way of payment (CiderScene). Cider making has continued to evolve in Europe, even while it failed to take hold in the US, and the innovations made by European producers have helped enhance the ciders being produced in the US market today (CiderScene).
Interestingly, although the popularity of beer prevented cider from flourishing on American soil in the past, the craft beer movement paved the road for domestic cider. When craft breweries began springing up, they created a market for a higher price point. This allowed cider to follow. The craft beer market created a customer base willing to pay more for unique or specialty alcoholic beverages, which allowed the costlier cider to complete. Cider sales are growing, and the beverage is gaining mainstream popularity among consumers. Each year, more cideries open up, and more craft cideries test novel concoctions to animate our discerning taste buds. Variations of cider sprout from experimentation with different fruits and processes, and it is exciting to see where this will go. From surviving through tough times, to prospering in more recent times, cider has shown it is here to stay.