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I have some hard cider nearly ready to be bottled, and I am wondering if using pasteurized sweet cider as a primer would be a reasonable option. That is, I would mix in an appropriate volume of sweet cider to my fermented cider, bottle it all, and the fermentation of the added sweet cider would be sufficient to carbonate the bottles. I see the following potential benefits/drawbacks:

Pros

  • More bottles of cider from a single fermented batch
  • Can tweak the final flavor based on the sweet cider I use to prime

Cons

  • Greater risk of contamination & better environment for contaminates to grow
  • Less accuracy in obtaining desired carbonation
  • Slightly reduced ABV verses adding sugar.

Has someone tried this, or something similar?

  • Besides the accurate answer by @Tobias, in case you thought you could sweeten the tart cider by using apple juice as priming sugar, that will not work. The yeast will ferment all of the available sugars. If you want to sweeten, then you need to add artificial sweetener to taste before bottling. – Chino Brews Sep 4 '14 at 16:34
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I don't really agree with your pro and con list. Assuming you're able to calculate the right amount of sweet apple cider to add for priming, and this should be fairly simple arithmetic based on brix and volume, there's no real difference compared to adding table sugar or dextrose.

I'd suggest you keep things simple and use sugar for priming. If you're looking to get a bit more apple flavour and sweetness in the final product, put an ounce of apple juice concentrate in the glass before pouring a bottle of carbonated hard cider.

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    I agree with Tobias. Priming with anything other than simple sugar seems to add a lot of uncertainty and little-to-no extra flavor. – Graham Sep 4 '14 at 13:07
  • I always prime my cider with apple juice concentrate and have never had any adverse effects. Admittedly, I've never tried sugar, so I don't know that it's really making a difference. – user505255 Sep 27 '14 at 7:01
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I ended up priming most of the batch with sugar as Tobias recommended, but set aside a small number of experimental bottles that I primed with sweet pear cider. I didn't notice any difference between the batches when drinking them, although I didn't do a side-by-side comparison, just alternated which batch I grabbed a bottle from. I added about 1oz of sweet cider per bottle, so the yield was improve by 9%, or about 1 extra bottle per gallon.

I will probably continue priming with sweet cider in the future when it is convenient to do so due to the increased yield, but the benefits are pretty small.

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I make apple cider from scratch from my tart mcIntosh apples. I crush the apples with the blender, I don't add a lot of sugar (4-5 cups),in a 5 gallon bucket and let it sit for 2-3weeks. I strain it and put it in a carboy and top it up with, your choice, either unpasteurized organic apple juice(this will make it sweeter) or fresh spring water(NOT tap). I don't add yeast as I only rinse my apples and use the natural yeast that's on the fruit. I syphon the cider a couple of times from one carboy to another until it's fairly clear. If it's too cloudy for you, mix some regular gelatin with water and add it in the cider. Within 24-48 hours it will start to clear up, change carboy and if you want you can do it again. My cider is tart and crisp, not for the faint of heart if you like sweet. As for carbonation, first off, I use flip top heavy brown glass bottles(well worth the investment). When I'm ready to bottle I add a teaspoon of sugar to each bottle(500ml or pint) , fill to 1.5-2 inches from top, close and wait. If you want it sweet, add unfermentable sugars but still add 1 tsp of sugar for bubbles. It pours with froth and foam like a beer. What a pleasure. Pour in your glass from high for a full effect. That's how they do it in Spain. I don't use anything to stop fermentation but then again I don't add yeast.

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