Cider Words: Maturation

Maturation: The time needed to make a cider ready to drink.
Maturation: The time needed to make a cider ready to drink.

Maturation is defined as the time it takes cider or wine to become ready to drink. I like to broaden that definition to mean the time a cider is stored without preservatives after primary fermentation finishes. I also often call this aging. You can draw a distinction between maturation and aging with the difference being the point when a cider is ready (maturation) and the additional time a cider is allowed to sit after it becomes ready (aging). For me, it’s simpler to think of them both as the time from when your fermentation completes and you drink it. You can age or mature cider in many containers, including bottles, so the nuance is usually lost on me. No matter how you define it, the maturation or aging process is a key contributor to the aroma and flavor characteristics of a hard cider. There are only two things that stop a cider for aging. One is drinking it. The other is adding sulfites and sorbate. But even these preservatives may slow the aging process or only stop some aspects.

Like wine, the longer you age a cider, the more it evolves the compounds that impact aroma and flavor. B. Jarvis defined a list of common aroma and flavor compounds found in cider(1). It is these compounds that are often impacted by maturation or aging of cider. Some compounds are created and some are lost. Generally, fruity esters are found in cider that is consider young or not aged long (like white wine). The longer a cider is matured, the more those fruity aromas are converted to spicier and phenolic notes. However, its not just about esters. There are lots of compounds that are impacted. That is because time enables reactions like autolysis, Malolactic Fermentation (MLF), and Maillard Reactions to occur. Check out the list of common aroma compounds. The desirable compounds are bolded while the undesirable ones are underlined.

CompoundsKey Aroma Compounds Evolved During Maturation
AlcoholsEthanol; Propan-1-ol; Butanol-1-ol; Hexan-1-ol; 2/3-methylbutan; Iso-pentan-1-ol; Heptan-1-ol; 2-phenylethanol
Acids (Organic)Malic; Lactic; Acetic; Hexanoic; Succinic; Butyric; Nonanoic; Octanoic;
AldehydesAcetaldehyde; Benzaldehyde; Butyaldehyde; Hexanal; Nonanal
CarbonylsPyruvate; Decalactone; Decan-2-one
EstersAmyl, Butly, & Ethyl Acetate; Butly & Ethyl Lactate; Ethyl Guiacol; Diethyl Succinate; Ethyl Benzoate;
Ethyl Hexanoate; Ethyl-2/Ethyl-3-Methylbutyrate; Ethyl Octanoate; Ethyl Octenoate; Ethyl Decanoate; Ethyl Dodecanoate
SulfurMethanediol; Ethanthiol; Ethyl-methyl-disulfide
OtherDiacetyl; 1,4,5,6-tetrahydro-2-acetopyridine
Desirable, Undesirable (Source: B. Jarvis(2))

(1) B. Jarvis, Cider (Cyder; Hard Cider), Encyclopedia of Food Microbiology, Volume 1, 437-443, 2014

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