How we make Cider
We do not have cider made for us, we are cider makers (1st generation) who actually make the cider ourselves. It involves lots of hard work, lots of fun, and not enough happy hours sitting in the garden with friends gently sipping something that we made!






Harvesting

This is the ‘it’s fun when it is nice weather’ bit. 

Cider apples have a long season and depending on the variety will be ripe and ready to use from the end of August (e.g. Morgan Sweet) until late November (the latest we have collected has actually been the 8th December with Chisel Jersey). This long season is really helpful – fortunately the apple varieties are not all ready at once which means we can spread out the pressing season.

Until recently we collected the apples by hand, we now have an ancient apple collecting machine which on its first outing at the end of 2020 went so fast we could not empty the baskets quickly enough; it saved many hours of kneeling picking up apples!





Washing & Squashing

This is the wet bit. 

A thorough clean by spraying then dunking in a container of water ensures all those nasty bits get washed off. We remove all twigs, leaves, grass and the occasional hungry slug and this process reduces the risk of bacterial infection which can mess up fermentation and create nasty off flavours. We also remove any mouldy or rotten apples to leave us with clean healthy fruit full of sugar and flavour. The slugs get rehomed on the left-over apple pulp so they end up happy too.

Apples are quite hard and before pressing must be milled. For this we use my favourite toy, an electric Speidel mill, this happily chews up 1 tonne of apples per hour. 














Pressing

This is the lots of lifting bit..

We use a 170 litre hydropress when we press the apples. It is amazing how much apple pulp it takes to fill it. It produces clean, clear juice that is full of sugar, malic acid and the tannins that gives it the astringency so characteristic of Somerset cider. 

The juice is then checked for sugar content by measuring the specific gravity and we aim for about 1.055, water being 1.000. The higher the density, the more sugar so the higher potential alcohol obtainable.




Fermentation

This is the slow bit.. 

We add yeast to the juice because so much time and effort has gone into it that we do not want to risk it spoiling if the natural yeasts were too slow to start their job. Imagine all that work, then getting mould rather than a frothy container of millions of happy yeast cells turning our lovely juice into lovely cider. The process can take from between a couple of weeks and a couple of months, it depends on the apples used and how cold it is.

There are many stories of traditional cider makers in days of old putting a rat or joint of meat in the barrel at this stage. They were added as they slowly break down and supply nutrients to the yeast and help clarify the cider as fermentation ends. You will be pleased to know that we do not do this!













Maturing

This is the must be patient bit….

Once fermentation has ended the cider is racked off the sediment and left to mature. In early spring, when the temperature gets to about 14°C, a secondary fermentation takes place. This malo-lactic fermentation converts some of the sharp-tasting malic acid to the less acidic lactic acid so the cider loses its sharpness and becomes more balanced. Having tasted it before and after this happens the change is amazing. From a sharp and tooth enamel stripping liquid to a smooth, drinkable and pleasant product.




Blending & Sweetening

This is the fun bit – 

After the fermentation has finished all the original fruit sugar has been turned into alcohol. This is when we can blend the cider to get the taste profile we want. The base cider can be very dry and for most tastes sweetening is needed to make it palatable and drinkable. We do not use artificial sweeteners; there is no saccharin, aspartame or sucralose added as these can leave a strange after-taste. We only use sugar. 

Getting the balance right takes time, and quite a few combinations to try. It is our favourite part of the whole process although after a time the taste buds become numb, and a strange warm feeling takes over when the danger point of ‘I am sure it is fine now’ is reached. Not sure why that happens but you must be strong and persevere with more samples (and more of a warm feeling) until it is perfect.













Packaging

This is the satisfying bit! 

We do not send our cider off to a factory to be packed, we do it ourselves. We do it all, every bottle, pouch and bag-in-box is lovingly (!) packed by us. This means lots of lifting and the occasionally slightly wonky label – yep, all put on by hand too….




How we make our apple juices

We use the same steps for our cider up to the pressing of the apples. We bottle the juice as quickly as we can, if left too long natural yeasts on the apples can start fermentation, and in our experience (a small scale trial to see how the taste actually changed) the juice suddenly goes from being clean and crisp to having a strange not quite right nearly cider taste. Even with only a trace of alcohol the flavour profile altered significantly and was just not nice enough. If I won’t drink it, I do not expect anyone else to either.











Contact

We can be contacted by email or by phone. Please leave a message if it is not answered, we may be out of range, out of power, or out in the garden with some cider…..

07796 987 281
enquires@southdowncider.com


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