Back Sweeting for a Newbie

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New Member
Jan 13, 2021
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Hey folks!

I recently moved to a property that has apple trees so this year I decided I'd try my hand at making some hard cider!

Prior to harvest, I was using unpasteurized apple juice from the grocery store and found each batch to lean more towards a wine/ champagne taste with a hint of apple flavouring. I tried adding organic honey to one batch and it increased the % but the taste was still very bland. So in my last batch, I added varying teaspoons of simple sugar to each bottle (after adding dextrose and letting it sit for 24 hours prior to bottling for carbonation). I know, a potential bottle explosion waiting to happen but I wasn't able to pasteurize. The results were: the one that had 0 sugar added at the end came out like a prosseco and the one with the most sugar added was fairly sweet more along the lines of a Summersby.

Everything has gone relatively smooth so far but I am wondering if anyone has experience using raisins to back sweeten their cider or has any suggestions for other back sweetening options? Curious because a friend of a friend mentioned that he adds boiled raisins to his cider to give it some body and sweetness.

The ideal finished product is something that isn't overly sweet, like a Summersby, but at least has something more mouthy to offer.

Any and all help is very much appreciated! I've got 4 carboys that have been sitting in secondary since November and would like to start preparing to bottle.

I also have a package of hops that I was given and would love any advice on that.

Thank you in advance!



Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Apr 19, 2017
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Snowy Mountains, Australia
This has been a popular topic over the past 12 months so there are lots of recent posts that address the problem. I guess the issue is that adding any fermentable sugar (including raisins or other fruit) will result in the sugar being converted into CO2 and alcohol. I also "read somewhere" that dried fruit like raisins are sometimes treated with sulphites that can affect the yeast.

Having said that, the simple solution is to stop fermentation at the flavour profile that you like. Andrew Lea (Craft Cider Making) quotes "there is an undeniable demand for ciders that are medium dry (SG about 1.010) or medium sweet (SG about 1.015)". He suggests that commercially this is dealt with by flash pasteurisation or 0.2 micron filtering possibly followed by forced carbonation... a bit of a stretch for the backyard cider maker.

Heat bath pasteurising will achieve the same result. i.e. bottle at the SG that gives you the taste that you want, then pasteurise. Basically this involves putting the sealed bottles in a 65C-70C waterbath for 10 minutes then removing them. This will kill the yeast and stop any further fermentation. If you want to be really clever, then bottle at 0.005 above where you want to finish, use a soda bottle of the cider to give you a guide to when enough carbonation has taken place (firm equals about 2.5 volumes of CO2). This will give you a sweet carbonated cider.

Rather than repeat everything here, I suggest that you do a search of the forum regarding Heat Pasteurising, Carbonation, etc. There are a lot of posts of mine and others. I have attached a somewhat long winded file that covers the topic in detail, but it is also worth searching the forum and reading about the issues that others have raised and their suggested solutions and approaches.

Re the Hops... I have used dry hops to "pimp up" otherwise unremarkable cider. Add the hops to your secondary for about 5 days. Put them in a teabag or something similar (with marbles or stainless steel nuts because dry hops float and disintegrate and make a mess if they aren't contained) and taste, taste, taste during that time, then pull them out as soon as the taste is where you want it. The cider takes on the hops taste quite quickly. I use about 3 grams (1 - 2 teaspoons) per litre.