The making of Pips Cider

Cider often conjures one of two memories for most people.  Sweet and fizzy or dry and flat.  However, traditional craft cider can be quite different to most people’s previous experience of the product.  So how do you know which cider to purchase?  Well, one way is to find out how much apple juice it contains.  Pips Cider, like many other true craft ciders, contains 100% apple juice, although the generally accepted definition of Craft cider is that it should contain at least 85% apple juice, and be free from artificial colourings and flavourings.

We at Pips Cider believe that the correct manufacturing process starts with a good selection of cider apples, and we make our cider from a unique blend of seven different types of bittersweet and bittersharp apples which are harvested by hand from our own orchard from October to December.

orchard_view-1Our apples are hand picked so as not to be damaged by machinery. This is a long slow activity. Luckily we have a great orchard team who enjoy the task and use the time together to discuss many topical subjects.

 The actual process of craft cider making is very similar to that of wine.  The picked apples are stored for a short period of time to make sure that we are able to extract as much juice as possible, and  when the time is right they are washed to remove dirt and leaves etc., and passed through the scratter mill.  The scratter mill grinds the apples in order to produce a pulp, similar in texture to apple sauce.   We made our first scratter mill from wood and stainless steel.  Although we use a different process today, the old scratter mill which we designed and built is still capable of grinding about 200kg of apples per hour.

Immediately after the grinding process we move on to the pressing.  As with the scratter mill, we made our first press out of wood, but by today’s standards it is far too slow for productive use.  As the apples are pressed the juice begins to flow and is collected into the fermentation vessels.  At this stage the juice is a dark brown colour.  It doesn’t look so appetising – but tastes great – much sweeter than you would expect.

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Our fermentation vessels are food grade HDPE (high density polyethylene) tanks each with a capacity of more than 1000 litres.  The cider now enters it fermentation stage.  Yeasts in the juice begin to feast on the sugar and produce alcohol.  The speed at which this happens depends on many factors, but is influenced by nutrients and the ambient temperature.  During a cold winter the temperature may go below zero outside and the fermentation process slows down or even stops.  This is always a nervous time for the cider maker, but usually once the temperature rises again the fermentation process recommences.

Fermentation vessels are fitted with airlocks to allow the produced gas to escape but prevent air getting in.

fermentation graph 2009-10-thThe chart to the left is an example of our quality control system to measure the change in sugar content at regular intervals.  This allows us to carefully monitor the fermentation process and we record all the results in our computerised quality system.  This level of record keeping is necessary because of the long fermentation time.  Fermentation and maturation can take more than six months, so our records allow us to understand the fermentation process in detail at every stage, then we can judge the best time to transfer (rack) the cider ready for the maturing stage.

During maturation the cider is completely sealed from air and this is where the cider develops its unique final taste, and colour.  This process takes many months to complete.

As soon as the maturation process is complete the cider is ready for packaging.  This is a very exciting time as it is the culmination of all our hard work over the previous months.  The taste of a new cider is always a interesting experience as we are working together with nature, and not always in harmony! Then we hand the final process over to you, and you complete the natural cycle.  We hope you enjoy every minute of it.

We currently offer our cider in three styles (Dry, Medium, and Sweet) in 750ml bottles.  The alcohol by volume (ABV) is approximately 7.5%.  Pips cider is the perfect companion to a meal – especially with Pork, cheese and sauce based foods such as curries and roast meals.  It also fun to experience as a social drink with friends.

We believe in and promote drinking alcohol in moderation, see www.drinkaware.co.uk. Craft cider also has a number of health benefits which are briefly explained on our health benefits page.