DICTIONARY OF CIDER TERMS
Acetification – a fault in cider caused by the airborne acetobacter bacteria if the cider is allowed to be in contact with air. This leads to acetic acid being created in the cider, giving the cider an unmistakable vinegary taste.
Acetobacter – a genus of acetic acid bacteria with the ability to convert ethanol to acetic acid in the presence of oxygen. Also oxidises lactate and acetate into carbon dioxide and water and is frequently used as a fermentation starter culture.
Acidic – ciders need natural acidity to taste fresh and lively, on the other hand too much acidity will result in an acidic, tart and sour cider.
Acidity – fresh, tart and sour attributes of a cider which act to gauge how well this balances out both the sweetness and bitter components such as tannins.
Adjunct – additives used in the fermentation process, such as clearing agents and yeasts.
Aeration – the deliberate addition of oxygen to round out and soften a cider.
Aftertaste – the taste left in the mouth after swallowing (also see ‘Finish).
Ageing – the holding of a cider in barrels, tanks and/or bottles to create a smoother and/or more complex – and desirable – end product.
Aggressive – ciders that with high acidity or harsh tannins, or both.
Alcohol – the result of the fermentation of sugars by yeast which produces ethanol (ethyl alcohol).
Angular – ciders that lack roundness, generosity and depth.
Anosmia – a loss of, or changed, sense of smell.
Apple – different types of apple are used for cidermaking, depending on the type of cider being made. Ciders can be made from a wide range of apples: culinary (cooking) apples, or dessert (eating) apples, or specially grown cider apples. The latter are classified as bittersharp, bittersweet, sharp or sweet, depending on the relative amounts of acid and/or tannin they contain.
Aroma – the smell of a cider in the glass. Aromas can be floral, citrus, fruity, vegetal, earthy or any number of familiar scents depending on the apple variety used, the cidermaking process and the cider’s storage conditions. Aromas are more diverse than flavours because the human tongue is limited to the primary tastes of sourness, bitterness, saltiness, sweetness and savouriness. Other flavours – fruity, earthy, leathery, floral, herbal, mineraly, or woodsy – are actually sensed by the olfactory bulb in the nose. An aroma is different from a bouquet, too, which generally refers to the smells that arise from the chemical reactions of fermentation and ageing.
Astringent – harsh, bitter, and drying sensations in the mouth resulting from high levels of tannin.
Austere – a cider that’s hard and lacks richness and generosity.
Backward – a young, largely un-evolved, closed cider that’s not ready to drink.
Balance – a term used when all the elements of a cider – the acids, sugars, tannins (and alcohol / ‘mouthfeel’) – come together harmoniously to produce a pleasant and satisfying taste.
Barnyard – an unclean, farmyard-like aroma caused by the use of unclean barrels or unsanitary cidermaking facilities.
Barrel – the container, usually made from oak, used for fermenting and ageing cider.
Barrel-aged – although barrels are traditionally made from wood, lighter styles of cider use modern stainless steel to highlight fresher and fruitier flavours.
Barrique – a 225-litre oak barrel used originally for storing and ageing.
Big – a full-bodied cider with an intense and concentrated feel on the palate.
Biodynamic – by one definition of biodynamic farming it’s “a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, gardens, food production and nutrition.” Biodynamic cider is made with a set of farming practices with the orchard and cidery seen as one solid organism. Natural materials, soils, and composts are used to sustain the orchard with chemical fertilizers and pesticides forbidden.
Bitter – taste sensed on the back of the tongue, resulting from a cider’s tannin content.
Blend – any cider made from more than one apple varietal.
Bittersharp – a type of apple with high acidity and tannin so it tastes sharp and astringent (bitter).
Bittersweet – a type of apple which is relatively low in acidity, but high in tannin, which makes it taste bitter, but not too sharp.
Body – describes the weight and fullness – light, medium, full-bodied – of a cider in the mouth.
Bottle conditioning – refers to the practice of dosing a bottle with a small amount of live yeast and some sugar for the yeast to feed on: this produces a cider with a naturally-occurring fizz.
Bottle-fermentation – a method of sparkling cider production where, after a primary yeast fermentation, the cider is then bottled and goes through a secondary fermentation where sugar and additional yeast are added.
Bouquet – a term that refers to the complex aromas in aged ciders that come from the chemical reactions of fermentation and ageing.
Brawny – a muscular cider with plenty of weight and flavour.
Breathing – exposing a cider to oxygen to improve its flavour.
Brettanomyces – a yeast considered by some to produce metallic off-flavours, but to add character by others (a good example that taste is a very personal thing).
Brilliant – ciders that appear sparklingly clear.
Browning – as cider ages, its colour can darken, or brown. It usually means it’s fully mature unlikely to improve.
Brut – a French term that denotes dryness.
Bung / bung hole – a plug used to seal a barrel / an opening in a cask or barrel from which cider can be put in or taken out.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – a gas given off during fermentation. This can be harnessed during a secondary fermentation in bottled cider or perry to produce a naturally sparkling drink. If cidermakers have processed this natural carbonation out it can be artificially added back.
Carbonation – carbon dioxide (CO2) in a cider that produces a sparking drink. There are 3 methods that produce a sparkling cider: méthode traditionnelle, forced carbonation and Charmat, or tank, method (see separate entries).
Chaptalisation – the addition of sugar to a cider before or during fermentation to increase alcohol levels.
Charmat (Tank Method) – a less expensive way of creating effervescence in cider with the cider going through secondary fermentation in a large tank, rather than in individual bottles. During this process the sediment falls to the bottom of the tank so the liquid can then be bottled without the need for riddling and disgorging.
Cheese – parcels of apple or pear pulp built up into a stack called a cheese and then pressed through some sort of barrier, usually cloth, which allows the juice to flow through while preventing any solid matter from being squeezed out under pressure.
Chewy – describes a rather dense, viscous texture from a high glycerol content which imparts a fleshy mouthfeel.
Cider – in the UK, the term ‘cider’ always refers to an alcoholic drink made by fermenting the juice of apples (or pears to make pear cider, more commonly called perry). In the USA, cider means straight (non-alcoholic) apple juice , whist ‘hard cider’ is used to mean alcoholic cider.
Cider apples – cider can be made from any type of apple, with the varieties falling into 4 main categories: those deemed ‘sharp’, with higher acidity and lower tannin content, include Crimson King, Brown’s and Frederick, whilst examples of ‘bittersharp’ varieties, which are higher both in acidity and tannin, include Foxwhelp, Stoke Red and Kingston Black; sweet apples with lower acidity and tannins include Sweet Coppin, Sweet Alford and Morgan Sweet, with’ bittersweet’ varieties with lower acidity and tannins include Somerset Redstreak, Yarlington Mill and Ashton Brown Jersey.
Citric acid – one of three predominant acids in a cider (the others being malic and acetic).
Closed – a term used to describe underdeveloped and young ciders with flavours that are not exhibiting well.
Cloudy – just as the flavour of cider varies, so their appearance ranges from cloudy with sediment to completely clear. Any variations in clarity are mostly due to filtering between pressing and fermentation, although some apple varieties can produce a clear cider without any filtration.
Co-fermentation – the melding of divisions between cider, wine and beer categories to produce hybrids that offer new taste experiences.
Cold storage – the ability to store pressed juice and delay fermentation for extended periods.
Colour – ciders range from almost colourless, to amber, or even brown, mainly due to the amount of filtering between pressing and fermentation.
Complex – a cider exhibiting numerous odours, nuances, and flavours.
Concentrated – whether light, medium, or full-bodied, ciders should have concentrated flavours with a depth and richness that gives it appeal and interest.
Cork taint – undesirable aromas and flavours caused by a chemical compound called TCA (2,4,6 – trichloroanisole). This can occur when natural fungi (of which many can be found in cork) come into contact with certain chlorides found in bleaches and other winery sanitation / sterilisation products.
Corked – a term that denotes a cider that has suffered cork taint.
Crush – the English term for harvest.
Decadent – a cider with rich layers of fruit, a good bouquet, and a plump, opulent texture.
Deep – see Concentrated.
Delicate – light, subtle, understated ciders that are nevertheless prized.
Demi-sec – French term meaning “half-dry” used to describe a sweet sparkling cider.
Diffuse – ciders that smell and taste unstructured and unfocused.
Dry – lack of sweetness in a cider or perry and a lower amount of sweetness compared to medium or sweet. The majority of real ciders are naturally dry, as nearly all the sugar gets fermented out, but may be sweetened to produce medium or sweet ciders.
Dumb – see ‘Closed’, but stronger and more critical.
Earthy – an odour or flavour reminiscent of damp soil.
Effervescent (Pétillant) – a sparkling, or fizzy, cider where the liquid gives off bubbles: see méthode traditionnelle, forced carbonation and Charmat, or tank, method (separate entries).
Estate Blend – cidermakers don’t just blend apple varieties, but a blend of orchard parcels, a blend of orchards, or even vintages that can come from a single orchard or contracted growers: a cidermaker’s signature cider blend.
Extract – everything in a cider besides water, sugar, alcohol, and acidity.
Exuberant – gushing with fruit and vigorous.
Fat – rich and concentrated, with low to average acidity.
Fermentation – the conversion of sugar in apple or pear juice to alcohol, resulting in cider or perry respectively, by the action of yeast. Carbon dioxide is given off during the reaction, allowing sparkling ciders or perries to be made naturally.
Field blend – single-orchard ciders where the apples are grown, harvested and then fermented together. Orchards may contain multiple apple varieties.
Fining – the clarification and stabilisation of ciders whereby insoluble matter in the form of unwanted particles suspended in the cider are removed before bottling. Clarification and stabilisation may involve fining, filtration, centrifugation, flotation, refrigeration, pasteurisation, and/or barrel maturation and racking.
Finish – the impression of textures and flavours that stay on the palate and linger in the mouth after the cider has been swallowed. The length of the finish can be a final indicator of quality.
Flabby – a flaw if a cider is too ‘Fat’.
Flavours – odours perceived in the mouth, although fruity, earthy, leathery, floral, herbal, minerally, or woodsy flavours are actually sensed by the olfactory bulb in the nose.
Fleshy – see ‘Meaty’: a cider that has a lot of body, alcohol, and extract, and usually a high glycerol content.
Floral – ciders that have a flowery aroma and taste.
Foraged – apples don’t always come from a large orchard, but also by foraging them from various trees across local, public land or through neighbourhood donations.
Foxy – a term used to describe a musty odour and / or flavour.
Focused – a cider where the scents, aromas and flavours are precise and clearly delineated.
Fruity – a tasting term for ciders with strong aromas and flavours of fresh fruits.
Forward – a cider that’s delicious, well developed and close to maturity.
Fresh – a cider can be said to be fresh when it’s lively and cleanly made.
Full-bodied – a cider that’s high in alcohol and full of flavour: these ciders can sometimes described as “big”.
Hair or hairs – terms derived from the original practice of using material made from horsehair to wrap the pulp when building a cheese to press the juice out of the fruit.
Hard – a cider with abrasive, astringent tannins. (“Hard Cider” is the American term for what other english-speaking countries simply call “cider”. In America, “cider” simply means unfermented apple juice.)
Harvest-driven – ciders and / or perries made once a year from fruit that’s picked and pressed close to their seasonal peak of ripeness.
Hedonistic – totally gratifying ciders that enthral and are entirely pleasurable.
Herbaceous – a tasting term denoting aromas and flavours of fresh herbs.
High – used to refer to the alcohol level in a drink. Ciders are generally lower in alcohol (as little as 4% ABV).
Hollow – ciders with a diluted taste that lack depth and concentration.
Hopped – just as hops can be added to the beer, so they can with cider after it has finished fermenting so as to add unique flavour and aroma.
Hot – a description for a cider that’s high in alcohol (although ciders are naturally lower in alcohol than wines in general).
Intensity – an especially desirable trait in a high quality cider adding to its character.
Keeve – a traditional cidermaking technique (unique to cidermaking, too) which results in a cider which is naturally sweet.
Lactobacillus collinoides – a rod shaped species of lactic acid bacteria found in fermenting apple juice or cider.
Leafy – similar ‘herbaceous’ other than it refers to the smell of leaves rather than herbs.
Lees – the sediment of dead yeast cells, apple or pear pulp, seed, and other apple (or pear) matter that accumulates during fermentation.
Leesy – a tasting term for the aromas that can result from cider that has rested on its lees.
Length – the amount of time that flavours remain in the mouth after swallowing: the length of this finish can be short, medium or long and can be the final indicator of quality (generally, the longer the higher the quality).
Lively – see ‘Fresh’ and ‘Exuberant’: a cider with good acidity and a thirst-quenching personality.
Long – relates to a cider’s finish and the length of time it stays on the palate after swallowing.
Low – as in a low alcohol content (alcohol by volume or ABV). Ciders are generally lower in alcohol (as little as 4% ABV).
Lush – a velvety and soft cider with concentrated flavours.
Malic acid – one of the three predominant naturally-occurring acids in apples.
Malolactic fermentation – a secondary fermentation which changes the tartness of malic acid into a smooth, lactic (milky) sensation.
Mature – ready to drink.
Meaty – see ‘Chewy’.
Medium – medium sweetness in cider or perry, based on the amount of sugar or other sweetener present in it. Medium cider or perry has a higher amount of sweetness than in a cider described as ‘dry’, and a lower amount than one described as ‘sweet’.
Mill – a device that turns apples (or pears) into pulp – some crush, some chop and some grate – so that it can be pressed to extract the juice (also, see ‘Scratter’ and ‘Stone Mill).
Mock – another term for a cider ‘cheese’ (can also be spelled or pronounced as ‘muck’).
Mouse – a fault caused by the formation of ethanamide by certain types of wild yeast that cause a taint, or off-flavour, in cider.
Mouth feel – how any drink feels on the palate; it can be rough, smooth, velvety, or furry.
Mouth-filling – a cider with big, rich, concentrated flavours: see also ‘Chewy’, ‘Fleshy’ and ‘Fat’.
Must – unfermented apple juice after pressing (can include seeds, skins, and stems).
Musty – a musty and damp aroma and flavour, the result of dirty barrels, unkept cellars or a bad cork.
Natural fermentation – cider fermented from yeasts which are naturally present in the air or on the apple skins.
Nose – a critical part of the tasting process: when tasting, first swirl in the glass to release the aroma vapours; second, place the nose into the glass so the aromas become apparent.
Oak/oaky – denotes the smells and flavours of vanilla and sweet spices caused by barrel-ageing in oak.
Off – a term used if a cider isn’t showing its true character; a cider that’s flawed or spoiled in some way.
Open – a tasting term that signifies a cider is ready to drink.
Orchard – a plantation of cultivated fruit trees: generally for apples or pears (the term can also be used for other fruits).
Organic – food or farming methods produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides or other artificial chemicals; in common usage it’s used to mean “healthful” or “close to nature.”
Oxidation – cider that’s been exposed to air and has undergone a chemical change.
Oxidised – a cider that’s been over-exposed to air during whilst being made or aged so it takes on a stale, old smell and taste.
Pear – the fruit used to make perry. So-called perry pears are used as dessert pears are not good for making perry.
Perfumed – some ciders can have a strong, perfumy (perfumed) smell.
Perry – an alcoholic drink made by fermenting the juice of perry pears. Sometimes called pear cider.
Pétillant Natural (Pet Nat) – a French terms for “naturally sparkling”: fizziness without the concentration of CO2 found in ciders made by the méthode traditionnelle. These ciders are traditionally allowed to ferment in the bottle and are sealed with a crown cap rather than a cork and cage: they also keep the sediment created during the fermentation process and are so are often a bit cloudy.
Phenolic compounds – the natural compounds found in apple skins and seeds.
Pomace – another name for apple (or pear) pulp: the word is sometimes used to refer to the spent pulp after the fruit has been pressed.
Precocious – a cider that matures quickly or tastes as if it’s ageing quickly because of its tastiness.
Press – the mechanical equipment which exerts pressure on fruit pulp to extract the juice: presses can be manually or hydraulically operated.
Pulp – the crushed, chopped or grated fruit from milling (also known as scratting) apples or pears before pressing.
Rich – a cider that’s high in extract, flavour and intensity.
Rope – a fault caused by bacteria which causes cider to become viscous or oily and, in extreme cases, when poured the cider forms ‘strings’ or ‘ropes’.
Rough – the sensation of coarseness experienced when drinking very astringent ciders.
Round – when a cider has lost its youthful, astringent tannins it can be said to be round.
Savoury – denotes a cider that’s round and full of flavour.
Scratter – a type of rotary mill which crushes and shreds or chops the fruit between spiked or toothed rollers.
Screw press – a type of press which exerts pressure on the fruit pulp to extract the juice by tightly screwing down a beam, board or plate.
Scrumpy – 1. an affectionate slang term for cider, usually applied to draught cider; 2. a high quality cider made by traditional methods; 3. (unfortunately) an inferior, or poorly made, cider.
Sec – the French word for “dry”.
Semi-dry – refers to a level of sweetness or residual sugar in a cider: semi-dry has a mild or softly perceptible sweetness.
Semi-sweet – in tasting terms, semi-sweet ciders are typically very balanced and have smooth, well-rounded flavour profiles.
Shallow – a weak-tasting cider that is lacking concentration.
Sharp – a type of apple that’s relatively high in acidity but low in tannin: it will taste sharp (or acidic), but not astringent (or bitter).
Single orchard – can describe a blend of parcels or even vintages from a single orchard: usually seen as a cidermaker’s signature cider.
Silky – see ‘Velvety’ and ‘Lush’.
Single varietal – a cider or perry made with a single variety of apple or pear. Most ciders and perries are actually made from a blend of apples to ensure the right balance of sweetness, astringency and acidity.
Soft – a cider that’s round and fruity, low in acidity and without hard tannins.
Sommelier – a term used to denote a certified drinks professional.
Sparkling – a cider containing significant levels of carbon dioxide, so making it fizzy.
Spiced cider – sometimes also known as mulled or Christmas cider, drunk warm it’s a popular autumn and winter beverage, and is made by adding sugar and cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg, and also usually includes dried fruit, especially apples or orange rind.
Spicy – the odours and flavours in a cider that are reminiscent of spices such as black pepper, bay leaf, baking spices, rosemary, thyme, or paprika.
Spontaneous fermentation – a cider that’s fermented from yeasts which are naturally present in the air or on the apple skins.
Stale – a cider that’s oxidised or lacks a balancing acidity.
Still – a cider that does not contain CO2, so is not bubbly or fizzy.
Stone mill – a type of mill comprising two stones: a lower, circular, horizontal stone, usually with a trough cut into it, and a second circular, vertical stone that would roll around the trough in the lower stone crushing the fruit, with the resulting juice running into an outlet point where the juice is collected.
Structure – a somewhat ambiguous term that implies harmony of fruit, alcohol, acidity and tannins
Supple – a soft, round, tasty and harmonious cider.
Sweet – 1. an indicator of a high level of sweetness, based on the amount of sugar or other sweetener present; 2. a type of apple that’s relatively low in both acidity and tannin, so it will taste sweet with little sharpness or astringency (bitterness).
Tallet – the space within a roof; in cidermaking terms, a loft, typically above a barn, where apples are stored and allowed to mature for a while before being pulped for cider.
Tank method – see Charmat.
Tannin – a substance that’s present in apples and pears which imparts astringency to cider or perry. Note: good ciders and perries need a certain amount of tannin.
Tannic – provide a cider with its firmness together with some roughness when young, but gradually fall away and dissipate.
Tart – a cider that’s sharp, acidic, lean and unripe.
Tartaric acid – one of the principal acids in apples, it promotes flavour and ageing.
Terroir – French term for geographical characteristics unique to a given vineyard or, in the case of cider, the characteristics of locality and the orchard. Look at this post and short video by Meg Maker which wonderfully encapsulates the essence of cider and terroir: Terroir Review
Texture – a term that describes how a cider feels on the palate.
Tightly knit – young, well-made ciders with good acidity and tannin levels that will open up and develop.
Thick – rich, ripe, concentrated ciders with low acidity.
Traditional method – (or méthode traditionnelle) is most usually associated with the production of Champagne and other bottle-fermented sparkling wines, but can also be applied to sparkling ciders which have been bottle fermented.
Transfer method – a technique for making sparkling cider in which, after the second fermentation in the bottle and a short period of sur lie ageing, the cider is transferred together with its with sediment to a pressurised tank after which the cider is then filtered under pressure and bottled.
Tump – a West Country term that refers to a mound of apples left to mature before being pulped.
Turbid – a liquid that’s cloudy, opaque, or thick with suspended matter.
Typicity – an expression as to how well a cider expresses the characteristics inherent to the variety/ies of apple used.
Unctuous – rich and intense cider.
Ullage – the empty space that’s left in bottles and barrels as a cider evaporates.
Unfiltered – a cider that has not been filtered to remove course particles of pulp or sediment: some say that filtering a cider’s soul and it can denote the fact that the cidermaker has confidence in the naked apple and the quality of the cider.
Varieties – all apples are able to make cider but, historically, some varieties of apple were grown specifically for cidermaking ,including the Foxwhelp, Kingston Black, Yarlington Mill and Dabinett. The main difference in a cider apple is the level of tannin they contain. Notwithstanding this, often a wide mix of different apple varieties are used in the cidermaking process so as to achieve the perfect balance of sweet and bitter flavours.
Vegetal – a term that describes the characteristics of fresh or cooked vegetables which are detected on the nose and in the flavours of the cider.
Velvety – lush or silky cider with a rich, smooth taste.
Vintage – the year a cider is bottled, or the cider made from an orchard or cidery during a single season.
Viscous – ciders with a great density of fruit extract and a high alcohol content.
Volatile – a cider that smells of vinegar due to an excessive amount of acetic bacteria.
Weight – a similar meaning to “body”: the sensation when a cider gives the impression of richness on the palate.
Wild apples – apples produced by trees grown from seed rather than a named cultivar grafted onto rootstock. Wild apple trees might produce fruit that is delicious for fresh eating, good for cidermaking, or barely edible at all.
Wild fermentation – cider fermented by using the yeast from the air or present on the skins of the apples. These ciders can represent the true character of the farms they come from, exhibiting unique qualities from the region’s microflora alongside the influence of the farm’s soil and apples.
Woody – an overly oaked cider that masks its fruit qualities.
Yeast – a micro-organism which converts sugars to alcohol during fermentation. Traditional cider and perry makers do not add any yeast as these are naturally present in the air and on the fruit, although using a known yeast gives more consistent results.
Yield – the productivity of an orchard.
Young – an immature cider bottled and sold within a year of its vintage.