Using Fuji juice to make sweet carbonated Cider

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Apr 19, 2017
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Snowy Mountains, Australia
Back in February I put forward the idea that including Fuji apples in cider because of their relatively high level of sorbitol (a natural sweetener) might be a way to end up with a sweet, carbonated cider without the need for pasteurising or artificial sweeteners. This is the outline of a trial that was undertaken to see if there was any potential in the idea.

The result of the trial is a carbonated cider with sweetness a bit less than ½ teaspoon of sugar in a cup of coffee.

The idea generated some robust debate and resulted in 39 assorted posts and around two thousand views. Thank you to all those who became interested.

For those who didn't follow the original post, the background is that I became aware that Fuji apples have a relatively high level of sorbitol compared with other apples. This first became evident then looking at nutritional analysis of some Fuji juice from a local orchard. Subsequent to this, a research paper published in Nature magazine confirmed that this was generally the case with Fuji having around 10g/Kg of sorbitol compared with 4g/Kg for most other apples. (see “Sweet taste in apple: the role of sorbitol, individual sugars, organic acids and volatile compounds”, Eugenio Aprea and others).

So, to put th
e idea to the test, a blend of Pink Lady, Royal Gala and Fuji was fully fermented with S04 then split into two batches. The OG was 1.050 and the FG 1.000. Malic Acid was added to raise the relatively low TA to 5g/L (pH 3.6) and ¼ teaspoon of exogenous tannin powder per 5 litres was also added when the cider was racked to secondary at SG1.030.

Once fermented, one batch was primed with sugar to SG1.006 and bottled. The other batch was primed with Fuji apple juice concentrate to SG 1.008. The difference in priming levels was to allow for the effect of sorbitol in the Fuji AJC on the primed SG. The Fuji AJC was cryo-extracted from SG1.050 Fuji AJ with the AJC having a SG of 1.095 which meant approximately twice the amount of sugar and sorbitol per litre compared with juice alone.

Of course, it didn’t all go perfectly to plan (does it ever with Cider?). The non-Fuji batch was expected to carbonate to about 2.5 volumes and finish dry at SG1.000. For some reason the carbonation rate has slowed at 0.8 bar or about 1.5 volumes of C02 and 7g/L of residual sugar (I have had this issue before with S04 due to nutrient depletion so I will re-prime and try to fully ferment it “dry” in order to compare with the “sweet” version).

The "sweet" Fuji + AJC did what was expected, finishing at SG 1.000 with 2.5+ volumes of C02. A bottle was opened when carbonation reached a pressure of 2.5 bar just to see if it needed to go on “bottle bomb watch” (it is still creeping up a bit but seems to have settled pretty much as predicted just above 2.5 bar (37psi) or almost 3 volumes @ 20C).

Fortunately, the non-Fuji cider failure to fully carbonate was a blessing in disguise. At 7 g/l residual sugar it was a good like-for-like comparison with the sorbitol sweetened Fuji + AJC cider. An interesting side effect is that the Fuji+AJC cider pours with a head, not unlike beer. It may simply be due to the higher than expected carbonation or something like the exogenous tannin causing it to foam up a bit.

My observations are that the sweetness is what was expected but "different" to sugar sweetness. Although the intensity is the same, the Fuji (or sorbitol) sweetness is somehow dryer with less “mouthfeel”… not wrong, just different. Of course adding sorbitol powder could achieve the same result, but it wouldn't be as much fun!

The sorbitol sweetness doesn’t seem to offset acidity the way that sugar sweetness does. Having said that, it is a very nice cider. It is interesting that sorbitol being less sweet than sugar is believed to have more effect on perception of sweetness than sugar.

So, the idea worked!

Nevertheless, the next step is to try a Fuji and Pink Lady cider (high sorbitol/low acid with low sorbitol/ high acid AJ) to see if the above can be replicated just using juice.

A bit of an update...

The Fuji AJC primed cider was bottled and finally stopped fermenting at 3 bar or 3.75 volumes of CO2. It "tastes like" about SG1.003 or so, even though the hydrometer says 1.000, and is a bit more "fizzy" than my usual ciders, but still quite a good quaffer with a touch of sweetness. So, the high level of Fuji (and associated sorbitol) has resulted in a "sweeter than dry" cider without the need to stop fermentation by pasteurisation to retain sugar.

The "control" cider with 25% Fuji but no Fuji AJC in the blend was bottled and has finished at around SG 1.003 and 2 volumes of CO2. I still don't have any idea why it didn't finish at 1.000. Nevertheless it is also a nice, slightly sweet lightly carbonated cider. I read somewhere recently that non-fermentable sugars don't affect SG. Does anyone have any insight into this?

We are now well into Autumn (Fall) down here. My source of Fuji (Bellview Orchards in Victoria... "Summer Snow" juice) tells me that they will be pressing Fuji about the middle of May, so the plan is to try something like a 75% Fuji/25% Pink Lady blend to see if this is an easy way to make a "slightly sweet" quaffer.

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