At its simplest, cider is made by squashing the juice from apples, and leaving it to turn into Cider.  What apple juice wants to be more than anything else is cider.  Unfortunately, what cider wants to be more than anything else is vinegar.  Air turns cider to vinegar.

On a large commercial scale, cider is made generally by the following steps;

Mill Apples -> Press Apples -> Concentrate Juice -> Store -> Add water -> Add Glucose Syrup -> Add Sulphites -> Add Yeast -> Ferment -> Filter/Pasteurise -> Bottle

Several of these steps are necessary.  Some are desirable.  Some are not truly necessary.  Some are plain wrong.

The only steps that are necessary are

Mill Apples -> Press Apples -> Ferment -> Bottle

We believe that ‘Add Sulphites’ and ‘Add Yeast’ are desirable, as sulphites will remove any odd wild yeast that might produce ropiness/mousiness and a known commercial yeast will give a more controlled fermentation.

‘Filter/Pasteurise’ is desirable from a commercial viewpoint as it will make the cider stable.  These processes will stop the fermentation from restarting, and so give the cider a longer shelf life.  However they will also fundamentally change the nature of the cider.  Filtering will remove all residual yeast from the cider.  It will also remove some apple. Pasteurisation will kill the residual yeast.  It will also cook the cider.  We don’t think either of these are desirable from a Craft cider point of view.

‘Add Glucose Syrup’ is not necessary because in most cases the pressed apple juice will have sufficient sugar to yield 6% – 8% ABV, leaving plenty of room for a sweeter cider, or a strong dry cider.

‘Add Water’ is something that should be considered very carefully.  For the purposes of Tax and Labelling requirements, cider must contain at least 35% apple juice. HMRC Notice 162 states

A pre-fermentation juice requirement. At least 35% apple or pear juice must be included in any mixture from which fermentation takes place.

A final product juice requirement. A minimum of 35% apple or pear juice must be included overall in making the final product.

Which is an improvement over how it used to be, but it still means 65% of the cider you drink can be made up of sugar and water.  Cider labelling regulations do not require an ingredient list to be printed.  Nailsea Cider ‘Craft’ is full juice – no added water.

So, our production steps for our ‘Craft’ ciders are

Mill Apples -> Press Apples -> Add Sulphites -> Add Yeast -> Ferment -> Bottle

All you have to do after this is Open and Enjoy.