Hard Cider Tip #1: To Press or Not To Press

You’ve got your equipment and you’ve picked a hard cider recipe to follow. You’re ready to make some craft hard cider. Should you press your own apples or just use juice?

As with many of life’s questions, the answer is that it depends. Ask yourself the following questions. The more you answer “yes”, the more you should consider pressing apples for your hard cider.

  1. Can you get apples with tannins, like heirloom or cider apples?
    • Most juice comes from dessert apples. If all you are doing is pressing Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious, buying unfiltered organic juice will give you the same results.
  2. Do you plan to do a Traditional style hard cider (apples and pears only, no adjuncts)?
    • If you are planning to add adjuncts (anything that imparts flavor and color like berries, fruit, hops, and such), an acid-forward base is usually what you want. Organic juice made from acid-forward dessert apples would be ideal. The biggest exception is when using wood [think barrel-aging] as an adjunct. In that situation, cider apples with tannins would be ideal because they pair well with the tannins from the wood.
  3. Do you have a masticating juicer?
    • If you don’t have a juicer or grinder/press, it’s difficult to juice apples. However, if you don’t have a wide-mouth masticating juicer, converting apples into juice might results in more oxidation of the juice. Centrifugal juicers add a lot of oxygen when processing apples and will often oxidize the juice in the process: making it darker in color. Masticating juicers won’t oxidize your juice and wide-mouth models can eliminate the need to chop up the apples.
  4. Do you have access to reasonably priced apples and pears?
    • Even if the glass carboy isn’t useful to you, $8-10 per gallon of organic juice means you are only paying around $0.55-0.65 per pound for organic apples. That’s pretty cheap compared to $2-$3 per pound you might pay for those apples at the grocery. If you aren’t getting heirloom or cider apples, juice might be a better option.
  5. Do you like cooking and making things?
    • Juicing take times. You have to clean, sanitize, process, and clean again. It can get messy. If you don’t enjoy the process of converting something into something else, like cooking or making things, you probably would be better buying your juice versus pressing it.
  6. Do you get excited about the details?
    • If you like recording the apple variety, sugar, acid, pH, and other details about the juice you are using, you will enjoy pressing. If the details are a nuisance, you will prefer buying organic juice.

As you might imagine, I’m a detailed person who enjoys making things. I’m always trying different apples to see how they might work in a hard cider recipe. For me, it’s a passion that borders a little bit on crazy. The main thing to remember is that you can make great hard cider from juice or from pressing your own apples.

Personally, I enjoy traveling to the orchard, picking apples, and seeing how they change year-over-year. But I have also made a lot of great hard ciders from a gallon of unfiltered organic apple juice. You can always swap juice for apples in your hard cider recipe. Just remember that you aren’t likely to get tannins with a juice.

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If you have questions about making hard cider or pressing apples? Leave a comment or contact me through the contact page. I’d love to hear from you.

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