Cider tartness - how do you adjust it?

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Well-Known Member
May 14, 2021
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Hello friends,
I've been making a few different ciders lately, like apple pear, apple cherry, apple strawberry and apple raspberry. The ones with berries tend to have enough (or sometimes too much!) tartness, so I don't feel like they need any modification, however, the standard apple and apple-pear ciders need on occasion a little more acidity. Changing the specific fruit to juice is at the moment not really an option, otherwise I'd just go for that instead of fixing stuff afterward.

What method do you guys use? Straight up lemon juice, acid blends, other? I'd love to hear about it.


Well-Known Member
Sep 18, 2011
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Tannins also affect the sensation of acidity. So, if your cider seems insipid or "flabby", experimenting with increasing the tannin content may help. Be careful with tannins though ... and read-up here on HBT about adding tannin to ciders/wines.

For acidity, ideally you need to *measure* titratable acidity (TA) using a test kit. Most cider should be around 0.5 to 0.7% TA. For an initial target number, shoot for 0.6% (though depending on ABV, sweetness and tannin).

A very rough estimate for citric/ tartaric/malic acid blend (typically, equal amounts) is that it will raise the TA of your cider by .15% when used at the rate of 1 tsp acid per gallon of base cider (see the label though of your acid product).

With the test kit, take an initial reading on your base cider ... target a change (a % number), and proceed carefully with the additions.

I'd say use the blend ... or use malic.
Tartaric ("grape acid") alone can be very aggressive and result in roughness if you're not careful.
Fwiw ... often, citric is used alone to brighten wine; that is another reasonable possibility.

Doing a comparison with a blend verses citric (or malic) alone would also be a further idea. Any of these may provide satisfactory results.

Buying a kit to measure TA is a very good thing to have ... critical in my estimation. (though for some it may be more than they want to deal with. )

Get a kit from somewhere that moves through its inventory so that the chemicals are fresh (ie. don't buy a TA kit on clearance).

That having been said, on the other hand IF you are going to do this by *taste* ...

Pour multiple samples (around 4 ounces each) of your untreated base cider into multiple glasses (6 or 8 of them), and *label* the glasses with numbers. (Write down the numbers on your notepad). Make sure to keep one glass with untreated cider (say, 10oz or so) for a baseline taste comparison as you go.

I'd recommend going by the directions that came with your acid (or, if your using a TA test kit, you can use my TA addition suggestion above).
Dissolve a recommended full dose of the acid powder/crystals which is sufficient for either a gallon, or your full batch (depending on your TA tests or general calculations) into, say, 10 ounces of cider. This makes it easy to get distributed into your samples. You'll be using doses (by teaspoon) in amounts that are based on what the full standard recommended dose would be (usually per gallon), for the 4 oz base cider sample you are using in your tests.

Like I say, you'll add varying amounts of the dissolved acid solution to each glass ... and taste to determine the desired effect.
Start with an addition to one of your sample glasses that would be a full dose ... the next a 3/4 dose ... and so forth.
You may find that you need to effectively use a "full dose" (per either my suggestion in the 2nd paragraph, above ... or the manufacturers instructions) to get the desired taste. Or you may find that you prefer 1/2 or 1/4 of the dose ... or 1.5 x the full dose.

Make sure to keep careful notes.
Math, sharp pencils, notepad.
So, this is the basic method.

Like I say, I would absolutely evaluate your cider for tannin first.
The astringency and bitterness from the tannin really does affect the sensation of acidity in your end product (as does ABV and sweetening).
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Supporting Member
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Apr 19, 2017
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Snowy Mountains, Australia
Yep, that says it all. You might also look up Graham's English Cider in the recipes section (or Fitzblade 6 Nov 2009), where limes are used for acidity and strong black tea for tannin. It makes quite a quaffable cider from otherwise "ordinary" juice.


Brewing for sport
Apr 10, 2016
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South Eastern Michigan
I'm lazy, I use Malic for tartness, it is the primary acid of apples. Citric gives a freshness, but if it is too much or out of place at all, it tastes fake. I try it with a glass to see if that is what I want, adding a few grains at a time.

1/4 teaspoon in 5 gallons is a BIG step, so be careful. And you may want to bring it up a bit then test the next day. I find time increases the bite and it is a bit nippier the next day. Also careful on the tasting, the alcohol will dull your senses quicker than you realize.

If you are carbonating, leave room for the carbonic bite. It is all about balance and you have to manage the alcohol, acid and sweetness all together.