Although any variety of apple can be used to produce cider, in most cases it’s actually a cider apple that’s grown specifically for the beverage. Traditionally, the apples would be pressed using a horse-drawn cider press, but for most ciders produced today, it’s done by machine.
Once the best apples are hand-picked from the orchards, they are ground into pomace. This pulp from the apple is then sent to a cider press and formed into layers that the producers refer to as “cheeses into a block”. The entire process is done quickly to eliminate oxidation of the pomace, the press pushing down on the layers to extract all of the must (juice). Once all the juice is strained off, it’s transferred to either closed casks or open vats to ferment. Unlike other spirits, cider is fermented at a very low temperature of just 40–60 °F. This slows down the process but keeps the most delicate aromas from the apples that would otherwise be lost. Before all of the sugar is consumed, the must is racked and placed in new vats leaving the dead yeast cells at the bottom of the old one. The new vats are filled to the brim to eliminate any air which prevents acetic bacteria from forming and this second fermentation is what produces the small amount of carbonation we enjoy from the bottle. While most ciders are quite natural, some producers do add extra sugar at this point, and it’s not uncommon for the cider to be racked again into a new vat if it’s too cloudy.
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