​Cider Corner: Is Intensive QC Needed?

​Since cider is akin to wine, it’s considered a living thing, says Courthouse Creek Cidery‘s Eric Cioffi.​

“It is a living thing, and should be treated as such,” he pointed out. Because the Maidens, Virginia cidery follows natural winemaking methods, Cioffi said he doesn’t need intense lab work.

“We are not making a commercial, commodity product that demands laboratory exactitude,” he said. “For instance, if a juice does not meet a specific acid level, we are not going to adjust it by adding a bunch of malic acid to make sure the cider has the exact amount of acid as years prior.”

While the cidery does test for baseline information such as Brix and pH, this information is used to inform Cioffi and his team when it comes time to blend ciders from different barrels.

“Because we follow natural methods, having lots of lab equipment is pointless — we are not going to put adjuncts into our juice/cider to alter its natural state,” he said. “We rely upon blending — not additions of acid, tannin, sugar, etc. — to reach what we feel is the right profile for the particular style of cider we are intending to produce.”

Pennings Farm Cidery has a “lab,” per se, said owner and cidermaker Stephen “SJ” Pennings, but it’s pretty basic compared to labs of other breweries and cideries. Pennings said his cidery does basic titrations for pH, TA (total acidity) and YAN (yeast assimilable nitrogen), along with using a hydrometer and a refractometer to get sugar levels.

“We also have to check for free SO2, since in cider we do use sulfites if there is any sort of back sweetening going on, but even in dry ciders it’s good practice to sulfite to lower-end control levels for product quality assurance,” he said.

As a farm product, Pennings echoed Cioffi that year to year, apples will vary a bit in their composition (sugar levels, acidity, YAN).

“That’s the beauty of it all, vintage to vintage we will see a little bit different of a cider,” he said.

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