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So I'm going to start making wine from grapes this year. To that end, I just picked up a grape crusher and a press. With those toys, I can also make cider. There's an orchard near me that grows dozens of varieties of apples. Which ones make the best cider? I know, "best" is subjective but I'm sure there are some types of apples better than others. Should I go "straight varietal" or should i use a blend of apples?

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A little more detail: I plan to make a sparkling beer-style cider in beer bottles as apposed to still apple wine. My plan is to ferment it dry and bottle condition with priming sugar. –  JackSmith Aug 22 '10 at 19:45
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I made a cider last year using 3 gallons of pasteurized cider right from the local orchard. The apples were a blend of nothing special, some mac, fujis and whatever. Very non descript. To that 3 gallons of cider I added 2 pounds of DME and one more gallon of water. I boiled the DME component for 15 minutes. Then dumped the cider in to repasteurize it in a sense. Turned out great and I called it malted cider. I only post that to address your "Beer_Style" comment. –  brewchez Aug 23 '10 at 12:41
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That's an interesting recipe. I called it "beer-style" to differentiate it from apple wine. I mean, fermented fruit juice is wine. Fermented apple juice is usually called cider. When it's carbonated and served from beer bottles, people tend to think of it as a sort-of beer. When it's left still and stored in wine bottles, people want to call it apple wine. Also, if I choose to use an ale yeast, that would make it more "beer-style" than if I went with a champagne yeast. –  JackSmith Aug 23 '10 at 12:54
    
I guess apple wine would have a higher alcohol content, too. I haven't looked into it, but I'm guessing that apple wine makers will chaptalize to get to the brix levels they need to hit 12% alcohol or so. I don't want to go that route. –  JackSmith Aug 23 '10 at 12:56
    
BTW, I used the Fermentis S-04 English Ale yeast in my cider. –  brewchez Aug 23 '10 at 13:53

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

My recommendation is to blend at least three of your favorite eating apples together. Find one that is known for producing a lot of juice. Then chose two others that have interesting flavors. A buddy of mine pressed about 15 pounds of apples last year and got only got maybe a couple gallons of juice.

From what I have read and gleaned from talking with better cider makers than I; the english heirloom varieties are really the best apples for making hard cider from supposedly. You can find some orchards here in the states with these types of apples. There are apples that are grown more for eating out-of-hand, and then there are varieties that were actually bred for making cider from.

Lastly, if you look at cider recipes from winning ciders at the NHC. Many of them are blended apple varieties.

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