Ripeness is usually associated with sweetness so confirming that apple cultivars have higher sugars and lower malic acid as they ripen(1), makes sense. It’s always good when what we think it logical is confirmed by science. However, I found it interesting that when O. Laaksonen and associates assessed four Estonia apple cultivars, Melba, Kulikovskoye, Antei, and Orlovski Sinap, at different ripeness, they found that the unripe fruit had the highest levels of polyphenol compounds(2). What was equally surprising was that the ripe and overripe fruit were not significantly different in polyphenols. If you would have asked me, I would have thought that the level of tannins increased with ripeness, just like the sugar levels. This makes me think we should be picking, pressing, and fermenting some apples early to improve our blends by increasing tannins compounds.
Assessing those same apple varieties, J. Rosend and associates explored the impact that ripeness has on volatile composition (aroma) of juice and cider(1). They also explored the impact of yeast on these compounds. They confirmed and assessed 37 volatile compounds, consisting mostly of various esters and fusel alcohols. The findings indicate that ripeness and yeast didn’t have a significant impact on the volatile composition. The greatest influence is from the apple cultivar. Ripeness and yeast can impact the volatile composition of a hard cider. However, it varies by the cultivar. In some apples varieties, like the Melba, ripeness and yeast appear to have little or no impact on volatile composition. Other varieties, like the Antei, are impacted by the ripeness of the apple. This demonstrates the importance of understanding and documenting your apples to help you make better hard cider.
(1) J. Rosend et al./ Heliyon 5 (2019) e01953
(2) O. Laaksonen et al. / Food Chemistry 233 (2017) 29–37
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