Apple Phenolics: Red Delicious

Phenolic compounds found in Red Delicious apples.
Phenolic compounds found in Red Delicious apples.

In this Apple Phenolics we look at the ubiquitous commercial apple that seems to get little love: Red Delicious. When it was discovered and propagated, I’m sure it was a winner. It’s a lovely red color with a fine shape. It a low acid apple that makes it taste sweet. When picked at the right time, it can have a nice texture. It seems to be found in every corner of the world. However, that lack of acid can also make it taste flat and if it gets overripe, it can quickly become mealy. However, does that mean you should avoid it for hard cider? Believe or not, it might be just what you need if you don’t have many cider apples available. That low acid means it can provide the bulk of your juice without the risk of being tongue curling tart. Also, while the flesh doesn’t contain the levels of phenolics a Harrison apple has, the 84.7 ug/g is reasonable when compared to the 122.4 ug/g of the Harrison(1). But, look at the phenolics in the peel! Let’s explore how much peel you’d need to add to obtain that level of phenolics in your cider. Assuming a 50% yield on the flesh to juice weight, the Harrison would have 61.2 micrograms of phenolics per gram of juice. That is 0.0612 grams of phenolics per liter of juice.

Red Delicious juice will give us 0.0424 g/l from the flesh using the above logic. That means we an additional 0.0189 g/l of phenolic compounds. The peels of the Red Delicious contain 453.4 micrograms of phenolics per gram of peel(1) and I am assuming we extract 100% of these. Therefore, each gram of peel will add 0.0004534 grams of phenolics. That means I only need 41.7 grams of Red Delicious peels per liter of juice (0.0189/ 0.0004534) to give the cider the same amount of phenolic compounds as a single variety Harrison cider. That would mean we would need 156 grams of peels per gallon.

I usually add 75-125 grams per gallon so the 156 is pretty close and I have made some cider with more than 156 grams per gallon that turned out quite nice. As always, it may not be the total phenolics that matter as much as specific types. Like Arkansas Black, Red Delicious are high in phloretin derivatives and have good levels of Procyanidins and Flavan-3-ols, which are common in Harrison apples. The numbers sure look interesting and I would encourage you to not so readily ignore the apple most of us think looks pretty but doesn’t taste it. As part of a blend with some added peels, there is a good chance, you have a winner. Let me know what you find works best.


(1) K.A. Thompson-Witrick and associates, Characterization of the Polyphenol Composition of 20 Cultivars of Cider, Processing, and Dessert Apples Grown in Virginia, J. Agric. Food Chem. 62, 2014


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2 thoughts on “Apple Phenolics: Red Delicious

  1. I really like this Apple Phenolics topic. The theory and logic makes sense. If you could add more tasting experience, that would be perfect and more helpful. Thank you. By the way, I have your book. It is well-written. The topics are closely relevant to modern-day homebrewers.

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    1. First, thank you for purchasing my book and I am glad you are finding it helpful. I will work on creating some more Apple Phenolics articles. I will have to work on the tasting/aroma aspect. The entire phenolic space is very complex and I keep trying to learn more. Esterification is definitely an area I will look to explore. I also need help. The more people try different peels and share the impact, the more we will all learn. I have just started to try to capture some of the characteristics from the peels. Yeast also play a very big role in the aromas and taste but I will say that I definitely get fresh apple aroma from Arkansas Black peels. Many of my ciders where I use it, give me the same aroma of eating a fresh Arkansas Black apple. Another interesting finding was the use of Akane apples. I need to test them again but this early apple with the peel included provided a distinctive (and very enjoyable) phenolic aroma and character to the cider. It reminds me of many English ciders made from classic cider apples. I just got feedback from someone using Ambrosia peels that it created a floral and even bubble gum aspect to it. I will work on summarizing the results and including those in future articles. Thanks for reading and sharing!

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