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I've brewed some cider from cooking apple juice. The apples were unusually sweet for cookers so there was enough sugar and I added teabags to add tannin. This gave me cider at ~6.3% which tastes OK except it is very tart, like someone poured lemon juice into it.

I gather this may reduce slightly as the cider matures but I doubt it will enough.

What is commonly added to this type of drink to make it less acidic? Wine-makers tend to deal with acidity so are there tricks I can borrow from those guys? Maybe there are typical household ingredients even?

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Adding baking soda - sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3)is a quick and cheap method to reduce acidity in foodstuffs- but beware of the sudden release of gas (CO2) and foaming.

Strictly speaking any alkaline substance can be added to reduce acidity in solution. The trick is keep the taste at least "pleasant", if not "authentic", without rendering the drink dangerous. Sodium bicarbonate (sodium hydrogen carbonate) usually makes reasonable tasting organic acid salts that don't greatly detract from the flavour. Some of these organic acid salts are actually used as food flavourings in their own right. Which in itself can present the same problem in a different form. The adjusted brew itself might not be excessively acidic but one can still taste vinegar, lemon juice or sour apples.

Some prefer adding magnesium carbonate, calcium carbonate or potassium carbonate as they say these ions can produce a preferable taste but IMHO they sometimes can also produce a "haziness" in the brew. Calcium carbonate (chalk) is often locally obtainable and magnesium carbonate is a known food additive (E504). Both are of "reduced solubility" in water.

Finding out how much to add is an important step and the only real way is to take a small but measured quantity of the cider and add a SMALL measured amount of (say) bicarbionate to it and stir. The cider should foam if it truly is acidic. Leave it to stand for a minute and then taste it. If still too tart/acidic then add another small but measured(weighed?) amount and repeat. If too much was added initially then start again with fresh cider and much less bicarbionate. As a guide try starting with 150ml (a cup full) of cider and something like "half a pea's worth" of bicarbonate as a tiny amount on the tip of a teaspoon. If you can find an accurate measure or have some accurate scales then use that. When a suitable amount to add has been determined - "do the math" to scale up the amount needed for the entire batch. However start off by adding half of the calculated bicarbonate to the cider, stirring and waiting. Test the taste, if still very tart/acidic then add half of what remains - and so on. IT IS A GOOD IDEA TO LEAVE THE CIDER A SOMEWHAT MORE TART TASTING THAN BLAND TASTING, as acidity usually decreases with standing and bottle conditioning. IMHO cider needs a long time (eg one year) to condition well.

I don't recommend this method generally - only in cases where the brew is so acidic that it is unpleasant to drink. Even then it is preferable to let the cider condition correctly to reduce the acidity. A lot of biological processes go on on the bottle/barrel during conditioning - especially with the tart tasting malic acid.

But sometimes this method produces a useful drink when all other methods have failed - and it has saved several demi-johns of West Country farm cider from being poured away.

  • Very helpful, thanks. Regarding the additions leading to their own flavours I was wondering if compound formed stay dissolved, or will drop out of solution as sediment – Mr. Boy Jan 9 '17 at 16:10
  • As a general rule sodium and potassium salts of organic acids are more soluble than the corresponding calcium and magnesium salts. Over time some could crystallise out of solution but I suspect very little will do so as it would not be a very concentrated solution. Adding calcium and magnesium salts can also cause flocculation of protein and other suspended insoluble (organic) compounds in the solution. This would also precipitate out of solution and might help clear the cider. – barking.pete Jan 9 '17 at 17:54
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Two methods to lower acidity (raise pH) would be to use carbonate salt (potassium or calcium). In a pinch I guess you could try sodium carbonate (baking soda), but I'd recommend trying it on a smaller batch first to be sure it tasted OK. I guess it depends on how much acid you need to off-set.

The second method would be to employ a malolactic fermentation step on the finished cider. Malolactic fermentation attempts to transform malic acid into lactic acid. Again it depends on how much acid and the type that's present for how well it will work.

I hope you have a pH meter to help gauge your approach. Otherwise, it might be better to plan on using this cider as a blending tool with cider that need an acidic punch up.

Check out this link for more detailed info.

  • Initiating a Malolactic fermentation is an interesting idea and if successful it should bring about the required change. How might one go about doing that for cider? Could one safely suppose there was already some suitable bacteria present (in which case suitably long conditioning should work as required) or should one try to inoculate with some particular strain (eg pediococcus). What conditions might be optimal for such a process?. – barking.pete Jan 10 '17 at 18:44
  • You need malolactic bacteria specifically. White Labs WLP675 is one such commercially available strain. Check out this link for more info from White Labs. whitelabs.com/wine/malolactic-bacteria – brewchez Jan 11 '17 at 12:11
  • Sodium bicarbonate is baking soda. Sodium carbonate is washing soda. It is considerably more basic (10.5 pH) than sodium bicarbonate (8.7 pH) – Χpẘ Jul 17 '17 at 23:05

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