Ever walk into a cider festival or cider pub and feel like everyone around you is speaking a foreign language? Ever have the notion of getting into cidermaking or simply enjoying the science behind the process and looking dumbfound at the cider expert explaining it? Well I’ve thought long and hard and have come up with the ultimate cidermaking terms and terminology...
ABV - Alcohol by volume, for example “this cider is 7% ABV”
Acetification – a fault in cider caused by the airborne acetobacter bacteria, which generates acetic acid in the cider. This happens when the cider is allowed to be in contact with air, and is the same fault that can occur in wine and beer. The unmistakable taste of vinegar is the result. Your best bet is to use it as cider vinegar in the kitchen.
Apple – the fruit used to make cider! But not just any old apple – different types of apple are used, depending on the type of cider being made. In some parts of the UK (notably Eastern parts) culinary (cooking) or dessert (eating) apples are used; whereas in other parts, especially in the western areas, specially grown cider apples are used. Cider apples are classified as Bittersharp, Bittersweet, Sharp or Sweet, depending on the relative amounts of acid and/or tannin present in the apples – see the individual definitions of these terms for more explanation. There is a large number of different varieties of cider apple – some well-known ones are Kingston Black, Foxwhelp, Dabinett, Chisel Jersey and Tremlett’s Bitter.
Apple Brandy - Distilled apple cider, the french Calvados being the best known example.
Back Sweetened - after the yeast is killed off some producers will add unfermented apple juice back into the cider in order to reduce the ABV and tartness.
Bittersharp – a type of apple relatively high in both acidity and tannin – will taste sharp and astringent (bitter)
Bittersweet – a type of apple relatively low in acidity but high in tannin – will taste astringent (bitter) but not too sharp
Brix – You will see this from time to time on the back of cider cans. This is the residual sugar left over in the cider that correlates to sweetness.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – gas given off during fermentation. This may be harnessed by means of a secondary fermentation in bottled cider or perry to produce a naturally sparkling drink. Makers of keg ciders will have processed this natural carbonation out and will have to artificially add it back to give a simulated “life” to the cider.
Cheese – parcels of fruit pulp to be pressed are built up into a stack called a cheese. The parcels were traditionally wrapped in long straw or horsehair, but nowadays usually in some sort of polyester cloth which will allow the juice to flow through while preventing the solid matter from being squeezed out under pressure.
Cider – In the UK, the term cider always refers to an alcoholic drink made by fermenting the juice of apples. In the USA, sweet cider (or simply cider) means apple juice (unfermented); and hard cider is used to mean alcoholic cider.
Cidre doux - A sweet French cider with plenty of residual, unfermented natural sugar, between 1.5% and 3% abv.
Cidre demi-sec - A medium-dry French cider, ranging from 3% to 3.5% abv.
Cidre sec or cidre brut - A dry and fully attenuated French cider, from 5% abv upwards.
Cidre bouché - A term that can be applied to any of the above French terms, meaning that the cider is naturally sparkling from a secondary fermentation in the bottle.
Disgorgment - the process of taking dead yeast (lees) or sediment out of the bottle, so that it is crystal clear.
Dry – lack of sweetness in cider or perry, based on the amount of sugar or other sweetener present in it. Dry cider or perry has a low amount of sweetness compared to medium or sweet. The majority of real ciders are naturally dry, as nearly all the sugar gets fermented out. They are then sweetened to produce medium or sweet ciders.
Fermentation – This is a process that coverts sugars to acids, gases and of course our favorite part alcohol. Carbon dioxide is given off during the reaction, allowing sparkling ciders or perries to be made naturally. The sweet sugars in the apple are eaten by the yeasts (either naturally occurring or introduced into the process) to create cider or perry.
Hair or hairs – a term sometimes used for the cloths normally used to wrap the pulp when building a cheese. This is derived from the old practice of using horsehair for this purpose
Hectolitre - One hundred litres.
Hydrometer – This is a tool that measures specific gravity of liquids, which in cidermaking is how we can tell the alcohol content of the cider.
Keeving – this is a long-tail style, 3-6 months, of fermentation that produces a naturally sparkling, tannic cider.
Inoculate – To introduce cell or an organism into a medium. In cider this could mean introducing particular bacteria to get a desired result like the above MLF process where you would introduce ML cultures.
Medium – medium sweetness in cider or perry, based on the amount of sugar or other sweetener present in it. Medium cider or perry has a higher amount of sweetness than dry, and a lower amount than sweet.
Mead – An alcoholic beverage made from fermented honey and water. Some would say a close cousin to cider, I’m personally not an advocate a shout I find it too sweet.
Lees – This is the left over dead yeast or residual yeast after fermentation that are at the bottom of your fermentation vessel. This is the stuff that we want left behind after the cidermaking process.
MLF – This fermentation is a biochemical process performed by lactic acid bacteria like Oenococcus oeni which convert malic acid to lactic acid. (Malolactic fermentation)
Mill – a device used to turn the fruit into pulp so that it can be pressed to extract the juice. There are several types of mill – some will crush the fruit whereas others will chop or grate it into small pieces. See also stone mill and scratter. The term cider mill is sometimes used to refer to the whole cider farm or cider works, factory, etc.
Mock – another term for a cheese – sometimes spelt or pronounced muck.
Mouse – a fault in cider affecting the taste. Cider can develop a taint caused by the formation of ethanamide by certain types of wild yeast – the taste is known as mouse. It’s difficult to describe the taste, but presumably if you’ve ever tasted a small rodent it tastes similar! There are various treatments but no real cure once the mouse taint has developed. If it’s not too far gone then it’s best to use up the cider before it gets worse!
Must - (n) another name for pulp
Orchard – a plantation of cultivated fruit trees – apples or pears for cider or perry. The term is also used for other fruits.
Pear – the fruit used to make perry. Special types of pear (called perry pears) are used, as dessert pears are not good for making perry. Some well-known varieties of perry pear are Gin, Rock, Hendre Huffcap and Blakeney Red.
Perry – an alcoholic drink made by fermenting the juice of perry pears. The term pear cider is often used incorrectly for perry.
Pomace – the solid remains fruit after pressing for juice or oil. It contains the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems of the fruit.
Press – mechanical equipment designed to exert pressure on fruit pulp to extract the juice. Traditional presses are normally operated manually, but in larger cider works today many presses are hydraulically operated.
Pulp – the crushed, chopped or grated fruit from milling apples or pears, prior to pressing.
Rope - a fault in cider caused by bacterial activity, resulting in the cider becoming viscous or oily. In extreme cases, the cider when poured forms ‘strings’ or ‘ropes’, hence the name. Usually the ropiness manifests itself in the early stages by small clumps of viscous matter floating in the cider – if you’ve ever seen ‘mother of vinegar’ in a vinegar bottle then it looks a little like that (but it’s not the same thing). This can be removed and the cider’s taste is unaffected and it can normally be drunk without any ill effects on the drinker. The ropiness will only get worse with long term storage, as there is no proper remedy. Your best bet is to drink it before it gets any worse!
Racking – This is another term for siphoning off the cider when it is ready to be separated from the lees. Typically you will rack for after your primary fermentation into another vessel for secondary fermentation.
Scratter – a type of rotary mill operated by hand or by motor power, which crushes and shreds or chops the fruit between spiked or toothed rollers. (From the verb scrat meaning ‘to scratch’ – the verb ‘to scrat’ meaning ‘to mill’ is not often used these days).
Screw Press – a type of press which works by screwing down a beam, board or plate tightly on top of the fruit pulp to exert pressure on it and extract the juice. Some presses have a single central screw and others may have two or more screws.
Scrumpy – Unfortunately means different things to different people! The usual meanings are 1. simply, an affectionate slang term for cider, usually applied to draught cider. 2. implies an inferior or poorly made cider 3. high quality real cider made from traditional methods.
Sharp – a type of apple relatively high in acidity but low in tannin – will taste sharp (acidic) but not astringent (bitter). Many cooking apples fit this profile.
Single varietal – a cider or perry made with a single variety of apple or pear, respectively. One of the best known single variety ciders is Kingston Black, made entirely from that apple variety. Most ciders and perries are made from a blend of apples to get the right balance of sweetness, astringency and acidity, but some varieties can be used alone to make a very good cider or perry.
Stone Mill – a type of mill consisting of a circular horizontal stone, usually with a circular trough cut around it near the outer edge; and a second circular stone which was vertical and would roll around the trough in the lower stone. The vertical stone would be supported by a wooden beam and pivot around the centre of the horizontal one, and would be pushed around manually or by horsepower. The fruit would be pushed into the trough to be crushed by the rolling stone. There would usually be an outlet for the juice at one point where the juice was collected in between revolutions. Such mills were still used by some cidermakers well past the mid-20th century but there are probably none still in use today. The mills can still occasionally be seen at cider farms or in museums.
Sweet 1. indicates a high level of sweetness in cider or perry, based on the amount of sugar or other sweetener present in it. Sweet cider or perry has a high amount of sweetness compared to medium or dry. Many sweet ciders are produced by adding artificial sweetener to dry ciders (see dry). 2. a type of apple relatively low in both acidity and tannin – will taste sweet with little sharpness or astrigency (bitterness). Many eating apples fit this profile.
Tallet – a loft, typically above a barn, where apples are stored and allowed to mature for a while before being pulped for cider. Some cidermakers believe this improves the quality of the juice and softens the apples, making them easier to pulp and improving the amount of juice extracted. See also tump.
Tannin – a substance present in apples and pears to a greater or lesser degree, which imparts astringency to the resulting cider or perry. Good ciders and perries need a certain amount of tannin in the fruit mix. See bittersweet and bittersharp.
Tump – West Country word meaning a hill or heap. In cidermaking, it is used to refer to a mound of apples left to mature before being pulped, sometimes in a barn or even in the open air. See also tallet.
Yeast – a micro-organism which will convert sugars to alcohol during the process of fermentation. All alcoholic drinks are made using some form of yeast. In the case of cider and perry, traditionally there was no need to add any yeast, as the yeasts naturally present in the fruit does the job. Many traditional ciders and perries are still made this way, but some cider and perry makers use a known yeast to give more consistent results.