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Old 09-18-2013, 03:18 PM   #1
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Lets talk blends:

What do you folks think are good blends of Apple varieties to make hard cider.

Which English cider apples, which French cider apples and/or which Dessert apples and the % of each type.

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Old 09-18-2013, 11:25 PM   #2
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I am not really an "advanced" cider make, but I have talked to them. Kingston Black is considered one of the top cider varietals. Farnum Hill in NH uses this apple in their premium ciders. May be hard to source this juice. Last year I made my cider with equal parts Reine des Reinnetes, Roxbury Russet, and D'arcy Spice. Made for a full-bodied, but tart cider. It's been slowly mellowing and I like it, but I would like to get a little less acid next round. I plan to try 71B 1122 yeast this year rather than the Champagne yeast, which may help. Also hope to get my cider provider to get me either straight Kingston Black or Roxbury Russet. Let me know what you try and how it works and I will do the same.

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Old 09-19-2013, 01:12 AM   #3
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Dabinett and Yarlington mill are regarded as two top bittersweet varieties. They are late harvest and the late apples get longer to ripen and develop flavor. Somerset redstreak and Tremlett's bitter are well regarded early varieties. The bittersweets need to be blended with something high acid like brown's apple to give a bit of balance, or a cooking apple of some sort. The problem with late varieties is that pests, bad weather and diseases make them more risky. I have bird problems and if I rely on late varieties, sometimes I wouldn't get any apples at all. The best apples are the ones you can get hold of, but if you can plant an orchard and wait for it to fruit then you can get some really good fruit.
Most people agree that a blend will give a better flavor, the french use a lot of different varieties in their cider.

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Old 09-19-2013, 12:03 PM   #4
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Soapbox/

Here's my philosophy.

There is no such thing as a 'good' or 'bad' cider apple, only 'good' or 'bad' cider makers. It's all about the ability to understand the relationships between aroma, acid, sugar, how the fermentation process impacts these qualities, and how the human palate perceives them.

Certainly, there are some apples that are easier to work with since they are more balanced from the start (Kingston Black, Dabinette etc.), while some are more challenging since they may be lacking one or more crucial qualities, and blending becomes necessary (Golden Delicious, Silkin, wild crabs etc). Then there is your local cider style and terroir to consider. Around here, Northern Spy is a commonly used cider apple which is shaping the local cider profile and influencing the area's cider style.

If you used the exact same blend of apples as a well regarded French cider the final product would be wildly different since the bay area climate is different from Normandy, and American production techniques are different from the French. Find what apple varieties grow well in your area and learn their strengths and weaknesses and adapt to work with them. Develop your own regions unique cider!

/Soapbox

A great resource is Andrew Lea's book - http://www.amazon.com/Craft-Cider-Making-Andrew-Lea/dp/1904871984
ditto for the newly released - http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/the_new_cider_makers_handbook/
and Anne Proulx - http://www.amazon.com/Cider-Making-Using-Enjoying-Edition/dp/1580175201

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Old 09-19-2013, 12:20 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LeBreton View Post
There is no such thing as a 'good' or 'bad' cider apple, only 'good' or 'bad' cider makers. It's all about the ability to understand the relationships between aroma, acid, sugar, how the fermentation process impacts these qualities, and how the human palate perceives them.
LeBreton pretty much nails it. Cidermaking is a lot more technique than fruit although understanding fruit is crucial.

As far as some benchmarks beginner rules, some people say 50% dessert fruit, 25% sharps and 25% bittersharps. Others say a third of each. In general, I try to aim for around 3.5 pH and try an get at least some good tannins in there. Of course, a lot of what we drink on the American cider landscape right now has no tannins at all.
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Old 09-19-2013, 08:21 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bittersharp View Post
LeBreton pretty much nails it. Cidermaking is a lot more technique than fruit although understanding fruit is crucial.
I don't agree, I think it's all about the fruit. You can make a good cider from just about any well ripened apples, but if you want to improve your cider you need to improve your fruit. No amount of blending will turn ordinary dessert fruit into a good English style cider, things like yeast and fermentation temperature will make some difference but not as much as fruit. You might not have much choice of fruit but it is important to make sure it is as ripe as possible, from healthy trees.
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Old 09-20-2013, 03:12 AM   #7
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The last 2 years I have made 2 apple ciders which I have named 'Road Cider', basically because I have collected all the apples from roadside trees. Not far from where I live apple orchards dominated the landscape around the late 1800's and early 1900's, and many are still in operation but its hardly what it used to be. The remnants of those days are everywhere, I can literally drive along stopping to pick all manner of apples from wild roadside trees, totally neglected but still surviving. Some trees bearing a few small and rough looking fruits and other trees standing tall with hundreds of big healthy apples.
Both those ciders have turned out to be absolutely wonderful, despite the nature of the fruits, im not too fussy I take anything whether or not it looks nice or is full of grubs.
In comparison I have made a couple of single apple ciders, and I like thier own unique flavours, but in general the mixed apples makes for a better finish and flavour. My 'Road Ciders' are now a new tradition to me, I cant wait for next year to do it again.

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Old 09-21-2013, 05:21 AM   #8
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Ratters... I like your style! Wish I could try one of your "Road Ciders"! I understand the need for, and the use of "advanced cider making" but some of the best I have tasted and made were made on a wing and a prayer. I try to have at least one unconventional gal. going at all times. Sometime failure, sometimes sweet surprise.
Sorry Badger I wasn't meaning to make light of your question. Just a Friday night of drinking.

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Old 09-21-2013, 04:45 PM   #9
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Have to disagree with LeBreton, I think there are apples that do not make useful contributions to cider and can therefore be called "bad" cider apples. I'd put many of the commonest dessert fruits in this category. But then, I say that many of the widely-sold ciders in America are bad ciders, so maybe I'm not a reliable witness.

Having said that, to answer the OP, I grow and ferment a fairly large number of cider cultivars, and have been experimenting with blends for several years now. My #1 recommendation is actually an old American apple, King David, which (at least in my climate/soil) develops enough tannin to be considered a bittersweet, and its fruit character persists through fermentation better than any other variety I've tried. It actually is too fruity for a single-varietal, IMO, but 30% to 60% of it blended with almost anything else will make a pretty good cider. With Muscat deBernay it can make a GREAT cider.

Some of my best blends have been:
60% King David, 40% Muscat deBernay
40% Muscat deBernay, 30% King David, 30% King of Tompkins
40% Taylor's, 40% Ashmead's Kernel, 20% Cox's Orange Pippin
60% Golden Russet, 40% Yarlington Mill
30% Sweet Coppin, 30% Tale Sweet, 20% Porter's Perfection, 20% Cox's

I'm in a cool-summer climate with lean sandy soil, and those conditions seem to favor tannin development over sugar. If you are in a hot-summer climate you might need less of the sweets (Golden Russet, King of Tompkins, Cox's, Ashmead's, Tale Sweet, Sweet Coppin) and more of the bittersweets (King David, Muscat deBernay, Taylor's, Yarlington Mill). You might also notice I have few sharps, because I don't like acidic ciders and get plenty of acid from the other fruit - again, probably my climate. YMMV.

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Old 09-21-2013, 09:14 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bittersharp View Post
some people say 50% dessert fruit, 25% sharps and 25% bittersharps. Others say a third of each.
Given that dessert fruit is quite acidic - otherwise it is cloyingly sweet - this ends up being way too sharp, IMO, once the sugars are fermented out. The traditional advice is 50% sweets, which are not the same thing as dessert fruit; sweets are high-sugar, low-acid cider apples, and are not particularly good to eat.

Most North American apples have plenty of acidity, so I have never found any need for sharps in my blends at all. I do grow and use Porter's Perfection, which is listed as a bittersharp, and blend it with my low-acid fruit (and then often ferment it with 71B to reduce acidity!).
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