The science of cider making

Cider still has an unworthy reputation in the UK, mainly because of the insipid mass-produced drinks masquerading under the name. Traditional farmhouse cider is quite a different drink and there has been a recent resurgence in production of farmhouse cider by a dedicated band of artisan producers.  James Crowden’s book, Ciderland gives an excellent account of the present state ( 

Down in Devon, where I live, cider is the drink associated with the county.  There are several artisan producers and there is even one surviving all-cider bar in Newton Abbot, Ye Olde Cider Bar. 

There are also some lovely songs celebrating Devon’s enthusiasm for cider.  One such song, “Devonshire Cream and Cider” by Theodore Curzon and Wilfrid Sanderson contains a chorus with the following words:

Oi be nigh on ninety seven

Born and bred in dear old Dev’n

And folks may be as old as Oi in other parts of England

But when its time to rest, why lay me down beside her

And let me sleep in the dear loved land of Devonshire Cream and Cider


If you want to listen to the whole song, here is a link:

Here is another song extolling the virtues and the longevity-promoting properties of cider drinking:

I were brought up on cider

And I be a hundred and two

But still that be ‘nuthin when you come to think

Me father and mother be still in the pink

And they were brought up on cider

Of the rare old Tavistock brew

And me Granfer drinks quarts

For he’s one of the sports

That were brought up on cider too

Cider making is superficially simple.  All you need is good juice from cider apples which you leave to ferment under suitable conditions and six months later you have cider.  But actually it’s a bit more complex; there may be two separate fermentations going on and an understanding of the science behind the processes helps in producing a good uniform product.

I was interested in understanding the science of cider making so, about 10 months ago, we visited one of the local artisan cider makers at Heron Valley near Kingsbridge (   It was a lovely visit; we were warmly welcomed by the Heron Valley boss, Natasha Bradley and came away more knowledgeable and with a few bottles of cider too! 

The visit is described in an article in the October edition of Devon Life Magazine ( and there is a rather different description on the LabLit web site (

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