North America is in the midst of a cider revolution, this venerable beverage is the fastest growing segment of the alcoholic beverage industry. However our new found love of cider has caused a few problems for our honored ciderests. For one we don’t have enough true cider apples. If you want more information on why you can read about the history of cider on our Cider History page. Needless to say it is causing a little bit of an issue industry wide you and can read more about it in this great article “Forbidden fruits: U.S. shortage of ‘spitter’ apples threatens boom in hard cider” produced by the NY Daily News. Orchardists are reacting and are trying to develop more trees but it takes time.
So what does this all mean to us the cider hobbyist? It leaves us without a goos supply of the all important tannic apple. As discussed in the Blending and Testing Your Juice section tannins (from tannic apples) are very important for the flavor profile of Hard Cider.
So if we don’t have access to tannic apples how do we compensate for that? You could find a source of cider apple juice pressed from some of the traditional apples, try and find a source for cider apples to press yourself, or try some additives. Most of us are going to use additives our first few batches, and some of us will just stick with them for the long term. So what are some additives?
First and foremost you can buy tannin. Tannic acid is readily available, you can purchase it at Amazon or head on down to your local brew shop. These tannins generally come from grape seeds or wood bark extract. The problem with using these types of tannins for additions to ciders is that they are not the tannins found in apples. I think experimenting with these alternative tannins is a good idea, just remember that very good ciders can be made without tannic additions.
Other options that are less traditional (or maybe more traditional depending on how you look at i)t are, black teas, raisins (added benefit of raising your SG a bit), or adding oak (chips, staves, spirals, or aging in an oak barrel) to your cider. All of these methods will change the flavor profile of your cider, so if you are wanting a pure cider flavor then I would suggest making a cider using what you have, tannins or no tannins.
By the way, I would love to hear about your cider experiences and what types of methods you used or did not use to add some tannin into your cider and what the end product was like. Did you run any comparison studies? If you want to share with the rest of us, let us know how you handled tannins in your last batch of damn fine cider.
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