Vernon L.S Charley

(from the Long Ashton Annual Report for 1939)

In recent years the Cider Section at the Long Ashton Research Station has received a considerable number of enquiries from farm cider-makers in which information of a specific nature has been requested on a wide variety of questions dealing with normal processes concerned with the making of cider under farm conditions. Non-technical literature is not easily obtainable by farmers and, although the Research Station has from time to time issued leaflets on points of special interest, no complete presentation of the details of the various processes is readily available. It is hoped that this deficiency will be remedied in the near future, but the following notes have been compiled at this present time in view of the increased importance of achieving maximum efficiency in the farm cider-making industry under war-time conditions.

The notes are arranged in the form of a calendar which commences, for purposes of convenience of presentation, with the month of August. It must be emphasized that the various processes mentioned in a certain month may, and almost certainly will, extend into adjacent months, either before or after that mentioned in the calendar, and many points, such as "topping up", are of importance to a greater or lesser degree according to climatic conditions throughout the year.

No attempt has been made to give full processing details in the following notes. It is chiefly desired to draw the attention of farmers to certain important duties that must be carried out throughout the year in order to attain a satisfactory standard of quality and production.


Examine all cider-making plant and arrange for necessary repairs and the sharpening of knives in grater type mills; remove rust from metallic surfaces which will contact fruit or juices and cover with vaseline or grease, or paint with special protective lacquers. Avoid use of solder in repairing pipes, interiors of filters, bottling machines, etc., and the use of lead in repairing cracks in stone mills. Examine filters with respect to the tinning, and arrange for re-tinning if necessary. Consider the question of retaining natural sugar in cider and the possibility of procuring a suitable centrifuge to remove the yeast material. (See article on The Retention of Sweetness in Cider).


Prepare all cider-making plant for the season's work. Soak up trolleys and wooden racks; cooper casks and prepare sufficient number for early-made juice. Ensure efficiency of press and pumps by preliminary run. Make up early fruit and windfalls. Do not allow this fruit to lie on the ground until mid-season fruit is mature.

Calculate the proportion of the season's cider that can be allowed to ferment to dryness and what amount will need to be treated for retention of sweetness. This proportion should continually be born in mind when bulks of cider reach a specific gravity of 1.030-1.025.


Consider the possibility of washing either all the fruit or only such bulks as show considerable admixture with dirt, leaves or grass. (A large tub filled with water in which the apples can be immersed and agitated can easily be adapted to afford an effective swilling of the fruit). Mill and press the fruit when it reaches maturity. If possible, make a determined effort to keep apples which are of the same degree of maturity in the same heaps. (This does not imply that single varieties should all be kept separate, but early fruit should be harvested and kept separate from mid-season or late maturing sorts). Do not pick up windfalls into sacks or even heaps and then add the mature fruit at a later date.

If casks have been stored since last season with a quantity of chemical preservative (calcium bisulphite), remove the liquor and rinse out casks with clean water before filling with fresh juice. Always smell every cask to test for moulds or "vinegary" taints before filling with juice. If persistent taint remains, attempt to remove it with steam, or by using a solution of 2 lbs. washing soda in 10 gallons of hot water. Thoroughly rinse casks before use.

Take specific gravity of fresh juice by hydrometer, and mark the gravity on each cask. Identify each cask of juice with the source of the fruit to enable the quality of the finished cider to be related to the district or orchard from which the fruit was obtained. Follow the fall in specific gravity at intervals, and mark on casks. By this means the rate of fermentation can be assessed and preparations made in advance for dealing with ciders which show very rapid fermentation.

As fermentation proceeds, wipe off residue from the white and brown "heads" and fit fermentation locks into the bungholes. In mild weather keep constant watch on specific gravities and treat medium sweet ciders by racking, centrifuging, filtering or any of these procedures in combination with SO2. (See article on retention of sweetness in cider). Set aside special cask, preferably placed on its end, to receive lees from casks emptied by racking, etc. Allow mixed lees to settle and rack off top layer of cider.

Check excessively fermenting ciders by preliminary racking or centrifuging after about 10° - 12° drop in gravity.

Bung down casks of racked, centrifuged or filtered ciders that have ceased active fermentation.


As for October.

Continue with making operations and racking or other treatments for retention of sugar. For production of high-class ciders from mid-season fruit, attempt to obtain a rate of fermentation such that the specific gravity falls by approximately 1° each day.

Follow the procedure suggested for October by racking or centrifuging soon after the first fermentation has ceased.


As for October and November.

Regulate milling and pressing operations to allow sufficient attention to be paid to the stabilising of earlier bulks of cider. Examine the first casks of cider to be made, especially those made from windfalls, and consider the necessity of further treatment to cheek secondary fermentation.

Wash and beat filter pulp immediately after removing it from filter. Do not allow pulp to dry out. Set aside a special vessel, such as a de-headed cask, and always keep pulp clean and free from contamination.


Complete milling and pressing operations. Clean all machinery and apparatus. Pay special attention to the more inaccessible parts of the mill and press. Remove fruit residues, hose down apparatus and grease metal surfaces. Clean press cloths and wash. Cotton cloths may be washed in boiling water, but woollen cloths must not be put into water above 160° F. A quart of calcium bisulphite added to the water helps to maintain cleanliness and sterility.

Continue processing to maintain sweetness in those bulks of cider needed for medium sweet trade.

Attempt to prevent rest of cider from fermenting completely to dryness. It is better to maintain a very slight fermentation over a long period to keep cider charged with gas rather than allow it to ferment down to a gravity of 1.000 and become "dead". A racking or centrifuging at a gravity of about 1.008 will usually achieve this object on ciders that would otherwise quickly become completely dry.


Examine complete stock of cider. If possible, estimate acidity in the various blends. Attempt some form of blending with a view to adjusting the acidities of those ciders which show very low figures for acid content. Ciders with acidities below 0.4% should be blended with sharper ciders in this month, before any danger from ropiness or cider sickness is likely to arise. If suitable sharp cider is not available fruit acids, such as tartaric or citric acids, may be added to raise the acidity. A usual dose is 1 lb. per 100 gallons of cider (1 lb. of either of these acids added to 100 gallons of cider raises the acidity by 0.1%).

Completely fill up all casks of blended ciders and examine at intervals, increasing in frequency as the hot weather approaches.

Choose special blends for bottling purposes. If SO2 has been used ensure that the quantity present is within the limits of the Food and Drugs Act.

Rack dry ciders from their lees. Collect lees and separate juice as for October.

Take stock of corks, wires, capsules, labels, bottles and stoppers, and order supplies for season.

Wash bottles. Insist on workmen " sighting " each bottle before stacking. If bottles have been rinsed regularly as they return from customers, this February washing process is made much easier and more effective. The temperature of the washing water is of the utmost importance and should never be lower than 140° F. At this temperature immersion for at least 20 minutes is needed for sterilization. Higher temperatures are advisable, and the use of a detergent aids removal of yeast deposits or acetic films. Washing soda can be used for this purpose.

Have press cloths repaired.


Examine casks and fill up where necessary with cider.

Towards the end of the month bottle up ciders which have fermented steadily but slowly under normal conditions of temperature during the main fermenting period.

To discover whether a cider is fit for bottling, it is advisable to test it beforehand by filling two bottles three-quarters full, corking them and putting them in a warm place, at 65°-75°F for about a fortnight. If, after this test, only a small deposit is formed and the cider is sparkling when poured out it is an indication that the whole of the cider under examination may be bottled. On the other hand if a heavy deposit and an excess of gas are formed this indicates that it is too early to bottle, and a later test must be made until the result gives a reasonable condition with respect of deposit and gas.

Casks which are emptied in the normal process of trade should be thoroughly washed out and steamed if facilities are available. Empty casks should be treated with a small quantity of calcium bisulphite at the rate of 1 pint of bisulphite + 3 gallons water for a pipe (100-120 gallons), and the casks stored on end in some sheltered space. In very hot weather the heads should be covered with water which must be continually renewed.


This is the chief month for bottling. Ciders that fermented at a quick rate should be bottled towards the end of the month and vice-versa.

At the end of the bottling season the filter pulp should be subjected to a thorough beating and washing, preferably in the simple mechanical machine specially made for the purpose, and stored in a cask or other vessel in the presence of sulphur dioxide. The usual quantity of calcium bisulphite used is a 50: 50 mixture with water which is poured over the washed and drained pulp in sufficient quantity to saturate it.

No appreciable stock of sweet or medium sweet cider should be allowed to remain unblended or unacidified beyond this month if the acidity is less than 0.40%. The figure that is considered safe as precaution against ropiness, sickness and to some extent blackening, is 0.5%, and low acid cider should have its acidity increased either by blending with sharp cider or by adding citric or tartaric acids.


Maintain constant watch on ullage formation in casks and fill up where necessary.

Ciders which have been bottled and have shown signs of developing excessive condition and deposit can be pasteurized during this month. The bottles should be doubly wired, and laid horizontally on a false bottom in some vessel and covered with cold water. The temperature of the water should be raised to 150° F in ½-hour and maintained at that temperature for 20 minutes when the bottles can be removed and allowed to cool. For safety during pasteurization, in filling the bottles a space of at least 1 inch must be left between the cider and the bottom of the cork.

June and July.

Watch specific gravities and be prepared for downward tendency in gravities of sweet ciders if weather is hot. Filtration is a useful method of stabilising ciders at this period of the year when renewed fermentation is most likely to recur.

Clean empty casks and store away in the presence of calcium bisulphite as for March. Prevent drying out of the heads in hot weather by keeping moist with water.

Back to the History Room