Cidre and apples
Cidre and apples

Apple growing and cider making have been well established in Quebec for several decades. As a beer producer, cider production is an interesting related activity, but are you ready for this challenge? Cider making has its own particularities in terms of production and requires regular monitoring in order to guarantee its quality. Working with professionals like oenologists from OENOQUEBEC and a certified laboratory like OENOSCIENCE will help you avoid frequent errors. As a result, you will save on time and money. In this article, we will review important realities in cider making and potential analytical challenges faced in this type of production.

Cider is more fragile than beer

While beer is sensitive to oxidation, cider is even more so.  Excessive air exposure may cause a colour change from yellow to orange or brown as well as dull aromas and an increase in bitterness.  As opposed to beer which is fermented from grain, cider comes from apples which are more susceptible to spoilage induced by microorganisms like molds, indigenous yeasts and bacteria. Juice spoilage may lead to an increase in volatile acidity or acetic acid.  Volatile acidity may also an issue during aging.  The current trend in beverage production is to significantly reduce or completely eliminate sulphiting. However, sugar and L-malic acid are excellent substrates for lactic acid bacteria. Without sulphiting, these bacteria will transform L-malic acid into L-lactic acid (malolactic fermentation) and sugars in acetic acid.  Volatile acidity will increase as a result, to the point that the cider may not be compliant for sales.  It is, however, possible to manage this risk by performing periodic testing of volatile acidity and other acids during ageing and prior bottling.  The laboratory in partnership with your counselor or oenologist can advise you on the required tests for an efficient monitoring.

The apple must is low in nitrogen

Unlike beer wort, apple must is low in nitrogen. Concentrations of alpha-amino nitrogen and ammonia vary according to apple varieties. A nitrogen deficiency will result in slow fermentation with production of undesirable aromas. It is for this reason that many cider makers have the apple must analyzed prior inoculating yeasts. The analysis of sugar, pH, total acidity, total nitrogen and L-malic acid in the must provide a strong basis on which to start the fermentation and make adjustments if necessary. Find out more about must analyzes here.

Volatile acidity can be an issue for compliance

Unlike beer, current legislation imposes a maximum volatile acidity value in ciders and wines. According to this regulation, the maximum value allowed for volatile acidity in a corked cider is 0.8 g equivalents of sulfuric acid/L and 1.64 g equivalents of sulfuric acid/L for other types of ciders. Beyond these values, the cider cannot be sold.

Quebec Liquor Board (RACJ) imposes specific compliance testing

Ciders, like wines and distilled spirits, are subject to mandatory control in order to be marketed, unlike beers.  The minimum parameters to be tested as required by the RACJ are:  % Alcohol, pH, Reducing Sugars, Free sulphite, Total sulphite, Volatile Acidity, Sorbic Acid, Methanol, Copper, Arsenic and Lead.  This test must be performed by a certified laboratory like OENOSCIENCE or by the Société des Alcools du Québec (SAQ).  Cider production is much more regulated than beer production.  For example, addition of water during production is prohibited, except in the case of a cider cocktail.  Dissolved CO2 in volumes for flavored cider, ice cider, strong cider, light cider, liquoreux cider and cider cocktail must be between 1.5 to 2.5 vol or 3.5 to 5.5 vol.  These types of ciders cannot be sold (except for light cider) if values are outside of these brackets.

To finish…

Are you getting into cider production? Avoid mistakes and partner with professionals such as oenologists from OEnoquebec and the OENOSCIENCE certified laboratory. OENOSCIENCE offers cost effective analytical packages for ciders and counseling will help you manage risks and avoid losing a production because of poor or random testing. Call us at 514.564.2050. Check out this excellent reference manual “Du Pommier au Cidre” from M. Claude Jolicoeur (Editions Rouergue). Put the odds on your side for a successful production.

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