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Ask Dr. Universe: How do you make cider?

Ripening apples are seen in August at Sunset Orchard in Green Bluff.  (Libby Kamrowski/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Ripening apples are seen in August at Sunset Orchard in Green Bluff. (Libby Kamrowski/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Washington State University

Washington State University

Dr. Universe: How do you make cider? – Julianna, 7

Dear Julianna,

We can make cider with juice from apples. There are many kinds of apples and a few ways to squeeze out the juice.

My friend Bri Ewing Valliere told me all about it. She’s a food scientist at Washington State University who knows a lot about cider.

The first step is to pick out the apples. Honeycrisp apples will make a sweet cider. Granny Smiths are more acidic and will make a tart cider.

“We could make a single batch of one kind, or we could mix different kinds of apples together and see how it turns out,” she said. “No matter what, it’s going to taste good.”

It’s important to wash the apples to remove any dirt or bacteria. Next, it’s time to squeeze out the juice.

“It’s not like oranges or grapes where you can just squeeze them and the juice comes out,” Valliere said. “We need to get the apples into smaller pieces.”

After cutting the apples into quarters, the slices can go into a juice press. One kind of press is a basket press, which is like a small barrel with a device to grind up apples.

There’s also a wooden plate that goes inside the barrel on top of the ground-up apples. As we push down on the wooden plate, the force squeezes out the juice from the fruit.

The juice flows out the bottom of the press, which works a bit like a pasta strainer. It separates the apple solids from the liquids.

As the juice flows from the press, we can catch it in a jug or bucket.

Valliere said another kind of press is called a bladder press, which has a balloon-like device that pushes against the fruit to squeeze out the juice.

While you might not have a basket or bladder press at home, with the help of a grown-up, you can find a recipe online that uses similar steps: Use small pieces of fruit, press the fruit to make some juice, and pasteurize it.

When we pasteurize the juice, it helps kill any harmful bacteria that could possibly make us sick. All we have to do is heat up the juice to at least 160 degrees. Finally, it’s time to enjoy the cider.

While some cider comes from small farms or our kitchens, there also are machines in factories that produce thousands of gallons of juice.

Valliere told me that juice processors sometimes will add something called enzymes to the pressed juice. The enzymes help turn the light brown, cloudy cider-looking juice into the clear, golden liquid we know as apple juice.

A big part of the reason we have apple juice and apple cider also is because of the hardworking farmers and farmworkers who take care of our apple orchards – and we have a lot of orchards here in Washington.

The next time you take a sip of cider, think of all the people who helped make it and all the science in your cup.


Dr. Universe

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