We've got an apple tree that produces more fruit than we know what to do with, so being cider lovers, we decided to get into brewing. Our first batch of cider was very dry so we've been adding sugar after opening which is a pain. We want a slightly sweet cider that is still alcoholic and are looking for ways to either interrupt the ferment early without ruining the sparkle or sweeten the mix prior to bottling that won't cause an explosion.

I'm alergic/paranoid about sulphites and my wife is lactose intolerant. I've read pasteurizing negatively affects flavour. Sulphites and pasturising may also prevent priming...

My cider book makes a vague reference to racking off twice as a way to eliminate yeast and interrupt/slow the fermentation process to produce a sweet cider. Can anyone explain this? Or can anyone offer a better suggestion?

TIA, Luke

9 Answers 9


Make a "graff" which is a malted cider. Get 2lb of dry light malt extract, boil it with an ounce of hops for 30 minutes max in about a gal of water. Pour 3-4 gal of generic apple juice (preservative free ideally) into a carboy, pour the hot wort on top. When it's cooled down a bit, pour in a packet of ale yeast like US-05.

Bottle it after 3-4 weeks on primary, no need for secondary. After aging in the bottles for about 3-4 weeks, you'll have a delicious cider that has a "sweet" taste (the ale yeast won't ferment out all the sugars from the malt extract - mine stopped at 1.010)

I made a batch in January and by St. Patrick's Day it was totally ready and people drank the crap outa it. Good stuff. You don't get a "beer" taste from it at all, it really just makes the cider sweet, not so boozy, and ready to drink MUUUCH quicker than straight appelwine.

  • This is a good solution! I think I'll try this for the harvest season.
    – SimonH
    Commented Jun 13, 2011 at 16:01
  • Nice - I will try this. I'm using S05 now for my current batch but without any yeast nutrient or malt. It's still very sweet after two weeks in the primary and seems to have bottomed out at 1.011 after starting at 1.06. The primary seems to have some residual c02, I'm going to bottle it experimenting with no priming sugar and half a tsp. My hypothesis is the sugared batch won't be any more carbonated just sweeter.
    – Luke Rohde
    Commented Jun 15, 2011 at 4:08
  • Just finished off the last bomber of this stuff. Its maybe 18 months old, and was quite tasty. Nice and tart with a little more backbone than a normal dry cider.
    – GHP
    Commented Jul 7, 2011 at 12:47
  • Graham, Why he hops? Seems like you'd just want the long chain sugars to keep it from drying out too much, and hops might make it beer like.
    – Dale
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 17:57
  • 1
    @Dale, honestly the hops are in there because of the advice of others whom came up with this recipe. I can assure you that the final product that nothing beer-like flavor wise at all. The hops might just be there to ward off a lacto infection. Regarding the usage of juice as normal beer wort, you'd have to deal with the pectins formed by the boiling of the juice, but other than that it should work.
    – GHP
    Commented Jul 2, 2012 at 12:37

The best way to make sweet sparling cider is to force carbonate the cider using a kegging system. You will however need to employ some means of arresting the yeasts activity in order to either stop fermentation early or before you back sweeten.

Instead of sulfites you can use potassium sorbate which will prevent the yeast from multiplying but you need to make sure most of the yeast has dropped out of suspension. You can do this by chilling and racking a few times before sweetening and after adding the sorbate. You will also want to store the cider at cold temperatures to help minimize the chance of refermentation.

There are also more traditional methods used to make sweet sparkling cider such as keeving or defecation but are very involved and do take some time.

  • What about back-sweetening with a non-fermentable?
    – Luke Rohde
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 1:35
  • 1
    You can use an artificial sweetener like saccharin that won't ferment but I would personally use pasteurization before adding that. Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 16:59
  • I use sucralose as it tastes just like sugar at the same use rate and still won't be fermented.
    – drj
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 22:49
  • But those artificial sweetners all have a chemical taste to them. I haven't found one I like yet that doesn't have some negative flavor quality to it.
    – brewchez
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 11:12
  • 1
    @Brew, have you tried Stevia/Truvia? It's made from an extract of the Stevia plant, and I've found to be very good, and my wife doesn't notice any chemical off-flavors (my palate is dead to nutra sweet and saccharin)
    – Pulsehead
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 13:33

Brew the driest cider you can. Then back sweeten with simple syrup at the point of serving. I little squeegy bottle of simple syrup and you can mix it to taste. Your wife might like it sweeter or drier than you and you both have control over the process.

You are kind of out of luck if you don't want to use the methods you described.

However, any flavor issues that may exist with pasteurization are likely over come with recipe changes. I'd research that more carefully. Pasteurization isn't all that bad actually. Many of your favorite foods that currently taste great are pasteurized.


Here's how I do it.

Brew dry still cider, mix it with fresh or frozen apple juice and some sugar so it's just a little sweeter than you'd like, add yeast (baker's will do fine here), mix thoroughly and decant into champagne bottles. Leave them in a warm place to carbonate for a couple of days, refrigerate and drink it as soon as possible. If you leave the cider for too long, it will probably explode.

If you want to store the cider for longer than a week, you'll need to pasteurise it. I've heard this can be done in the bottle by heating it to 70 degrees C in a water bath or in the dishwasher but have yet to try this myself. Pasteurisation in the bottle will maintain the level of carbonation (there's nowhere for the gas to escape) and it's used to treat fruit juice commercially so shouldn't alter the flavour.

If you don't want to pasteurise then the only way is to only bottle as much as you need. The dry cider should keep forever under the right conditions and the same is true for frozen apple juice. Freezing is an excellent way to preserve juice from the previous year and doesn't alter the flavour at all.

I prefer to completely ferment the cider fully in a cold garage over the winter and don't use it until the following spring because i find it tastes better. I use naturally occurring yeasts for the initial fermentation and don't use sulphites and have never had a problem. The baker's yeast is just to carbonate it in the bottle.


You could always try keeving which is a process used by the French (and British) to produce a naturally sweet cider. It works by creating a gel in the must, that traps nutrients and rises to the top, to form what is called the chapeau brun or flying lees. You rack off the clear, nutrient deficient must from under the cap, either add yeast, or let wild yeast in and off you go. It adds a few extra days to the start of the process, but is relatively easy. Once it's finished fermenting, rack it off into a bucket, add priming sugar and bottle.

I did it a couple of years back with the Vigo Keeving Kit. I can't tell you what the resulting cider tastes like, as it's still in kegs in a friends outbuilding.


I usually let the cider dry out to 0.990 and then sweeten it using an unfermentable sugar substitute (I prefer Erythritol). This way, I can also add prime sugar before bottling :)


I had a similar problem and solved it by using sucralose (Splenda) to backsweeten. Yeast doesn't process it and it tastes just like sucrose at the same concentrations (saccharin can be bitter). BTW - the scare tactics used by the sugar lobby against sucralose are nonsense.

As for pasteurizing, never had it effect my ciders (I do apple, pear, raspberry, peach, and cactus pear and the pear and peach are really subtle flavors).

As far as priming goes, I use this calculator (2.0 volumes of carbon dioxide is about the same level as commercial hard cider) with great success (http://www.tastybrew.com/calculators/priming.html).

I do a lot of specialty ciders that require stopping the fermentation in order to prevent the yeast from processing flavor ingredients and use pasteurizing to do so. Kegging is indeed the easiest but unless your REALLY into drinking large volumes in a short amount of time, it can be very expensive when compared to natural bottling by the time you buy a bottling gun and believe me, you'll want one if you have a kegging system. Another way to carbonate is to use dry ice, you have to add it directly to each bottle and that is a pain. There are carbonation drops as well, but I haven't used them and am reluctant to add things to what I drink that I don't know about as a chemist. Hope this is helpful.

  • But you need to be careful with Splenda. Some folks (myself included) have... intestinal difficulties when consuming too much splenda, or sugar alcohols.
    – Pulsehead
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 13:34
  • 1
    You need to be really careful with sucralose, as you can start to taste it if you use too much. I had some really dry and acidic cider and the amount of sucralose required to make it was sweet, just made it taste revolting. Having said that, loads of commercial cider makers use this technique to sweeten theiur cider.
    – fatboab
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 10:36

One option is to get a sterilization filter and filter out the yeast once you reach the desired sweetness.


Ultimately, retaining sweetness means you have to prevent fermentation. If you want a carbonated product via bottle priming this is even harder because you need to stop fermentation at some point after bottling. The natural behaviour of yeast is to continue consuming sugar until either there's none left, or the yeast is poisoned by the alcohol.

You options typically include:

  1. Stabilising your cider and force carbonating is how it's done commercially but this is a bit tricky.
  2. Adding a non-fermentable sweetener... but as pointed out this has issues for some people and also seems a bit "fake"
  3. Pasteurization kills the yeast. Flavour issues aside (no idea) you need to know when to do it. You are bottling a massively over-primed cider and have to stop it fermenting before it explodes, but after some priming has taken place. Plastic bottles allow you to gauge how carbonated it is getting. The pasteurization process is itself quite risky - I have had exploding bottles before.
  4. Cold. If you can chill your cider once it gets to the right point, fermentation will cease. But you have to keep it chilled. Any time it warms up, fermentation is liable to re-start. And even then, it may continue very slowly.

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