Sorbitol: The Hidden Sweetener

Sorbitol: The Hidden Sweetener
Sorbitol: The Hidden Sweetener

I don’t have access to perry pears and am generally limited to dessert pears or cooking pears. I have tried a number of varieties including Asian pears. However, one of my favorites to use is Red Bartlett. I can purchase them locally from a large organic orchard. Many of the dessert pears I have tried get soft quickly if you sweat them, which can make juicing them a challenge at best. Red Bartlett pears stay firmer, have decent juice yields (my pears yields always seem lower than apples), and also have a nice colored peel for use in primary fermentation. Additionally, they have a decent level of acid and good sugar. They are very close to an apple in both sugar and pH. If you are looking for a little sweetness, try blending 10-20% pear juice.

Residual sweetness can be a challenge for hard cider makers. I am not trying to make a super sweet cider. My objective for a cider is balance. Balance means I have just enough sweetness to give the cider some mouthfeel and to offset or balance the acids. One of the best ways I have found to accomplish this and still keep my hard ciders natural and alive, is the use of pears. I discuss the various processes for making sweet hard cider in several posts. Pears have sorbitol, which is a naturally occurring alcohol sugar. Apples also have sorbitol but, pear juice can contain between 2-10 times the amount of sorbitol as an apple. Sorbitol is around 65% of the sweetness of sugar. If you get 1.5 grams of sorbitol per 100 grams of fruit(1) and it takes 7,711 grams of fruit to make a gallon (3.8l) of pear juice, your pear juice could have 116 grams of sorbitol or the perception of 75 grams per gallon of sugar. That’s like an ending gravity of 1.075. If you blend in 10-20% of pear juice to your hard cider, it could provide the perception of around 1-2 points of sugar in your final product.

Red Bartlett
Red Bartlett


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Want more details about making and enjoying cider, check out these posts.

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