Cider Corner: Adjustments and Transparency Keys in Production

Although they don’t have to have a list on their cans for such a process, Eddie Graves is happy to see such things on the cans for Clarksburg Cider.

Using malic acid, for instance, is listed on the ingredients for the cidery’s products. It doesn’t need to be there, but it’s important to Graves and his team as he said that transparency is an important factor in showing consumers they want to go beyond the low bar of acceptable advertising.

Graves’ philosophy when it comes to making ciders is to try to be as unique as possible as well.

“But also, remembering that uniqueness doesn’t make you good or useful,” he said. “A wooden ax is unique, but that doesn’t make it useful. So I like to take a semi/quasi approach to a lot of the ciders, but nothing outside the realm of anything too crazy.”

The Buffalo-area cidery will source juice through the year and adjustments do need to be made considering when the apples were juiced, he noted.

“Consistency is always hard when you’re purchasing juice from a much larger facility,” he said. “The only thing they care about really is pH and sugar levels and [the source does] their best.

“We care about some other things and we make as many adjustments on this end as we can but sometimes at the end of the day you have to pick and choose your battles.”

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Malic acid was an example he used.

“I can buy a 55-pound bag of malic acid and throw it in,” he said. “If you throw in too much malic it gives it kind of a medicinal taste. So you got to pick and choose your battles. Yeah, you gotta make an adjustment to a point, but if the numbers are way off, you know you’ll take this and make a citrus cider out of it. A cider that I’ll add acid back into.”

Graves said they will try planning batches around that. For a product like the company’s Savory Citrus brand, Graves said he knows well after harvest the apples are going to have less malic in them, so it’s good for that type of product.

“Our Dry Cider, I like to make early on in the pressing season,” he said. “Because I know that my malic levels would be great.

“So it’s a tug-and-pull situation. It’s not easy to stay on top of it.”

When Clarksburg orders juice, they get a lab report from the facility.

“I know the pressing season starts September, October, November … depending on the apple,” he said. “Those are really great, [we get] perfect news. It’s more May, June, and July where I already know that the juice is going to come to me with a pH of 3.89 and malic levels that are dismal. Without any coordination, I already know and there’s nothing they can do about it, and there’s nothing I can do about it either. I’ll make a malic adjustment and we’re very transparent on our label about that. We don’t have to put our ingredients on there. It’s not required, we just do it for full transparency.”

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