What makes a Cider Apple?
The British Categorization System
Before we proceed into further detail regarding the categories, its essential to note that when we talk about sugar content in the context of cider and cider-apples, this does not refer to the sweetness of the apple. Instead the sweetness is an indicator that determines the alcohol content (ABV aka how buzzed you can get) of the finished cider.
Four Categories of Cider-Apples
- Bittersweet: Low level of acidity but high level of tannin
- Bittersharp: High levels of both acidity and tannin
- Sharp: High level of acidity but low level of tannin
- Sweet: Low levels of both acidity and tannin - sweet apples do not make good ciders, however they are suitable as part of a blended mix of one of the other 3 cider-apple varieties
What Does this all mean?
- Juice that is too acidic can result in a harsh, sharp and tart cider, tasting more like apple cider vinegar.
- As mentioned earlier regarding the alcoholic prowess of sugars, overly sweet juice can result in a cider with high alcohol level which may tip the balance of what a tasty cider should be.
- Juice with little tannin or acidity can lead to cider that is bland and one-dimensional with little character.
- Juice with too much tannins might create a cider that is too gross for consumption (too much bitterness and astringency).
With all that being said, how in the world can we achieve balance? Experts would typically introduce fermentation into the brewing process, whether via oak-aging or through additives. For us beginners, blending of different apples will just do the trick.