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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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