What is Hard Cider?

Jessica Ellis

A hard cider is an alcoholic beverage made from apples, pears and occasionally quinces. It is extremely popular throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland, and has gained many fans in the United States and Europe as well. Hard cider, called simply cider in Europe, is not to be confused with the non-alcoholic juice drinks made in America that are sold as apple or pear cider.

Hard cider is popular throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Hard cider is popular throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Certain varieties of apples are used almost exclusively for cider, as they contain the necessary elements to make a good fermented drink. Cider apples are usually divided into four categories: sweet, sharp, bittersweet, and bittersharp. Most cider contains a blend of several different apples, to get a good balance between sugar content to promote fermentation, acid to give the brew bite and contrast, and tannins to create a slight bitterness. Many cultivars of apples are used in hard cider brewing, but some of the most popular are golden russet, Stoke red, Kingston black, and Yarlington Mill.

Hard cider can be made from pears.
Hard cider can be made from pears.

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After picking, cider apples are pulped and squeezed to remove all possible flavors and juice. The juice will have rising ingredients, such as yeast, added to begin the fermentation. The process is conducted at a low temperature, in order to ensure that the flavor profile remains intact. After a certain point in fermentation, the cider is placed in new containers to discard dead yeast and to encourage the creation of fermentation. The resulting brew will be slightly fizzy with a definite alcoholic content. As with most liquor, the alcohol level of the drink will depend on the amount of sugar in the ingredients, so sweeter ciders are usually more intoxicating.

Hard cider is typically made from apples.
Hard cider is typically made from apples.

It is relatively easy to make hard cider at home, given a little patience. If you do not have apple trees of your own, buy or order cold-pasteurized cider without any preservatives from a local juice mill. Simmer the cider for about one hour, adding sugar or honey if you prefer, but do not allow it to come to a boil Add yeast and place the mixture in a sanitized fermentation bucket for about two or three weeks. At this point the mixture can be bottled or combined with additional boiled sugar and water to create carbonation, then left to age for as long as you wish.

Hard cider is occasionally made from quinces.
Hard cider is occasionally made from quinces.

Hard cider is popular in many places throughout the world, though it is indisputable one of the most popular drinks in the United Kingdom. In Argentina, hard cider is associated with Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The Channel Islands off the coast of France have a long history with cider, until the mid-19th century it was the largest export of the area. The United Kingdom still contains many small, cider-making farms throughout Wales and the West County. Commercially, large-scale cider makers such as Harp’s and Strongbow consistently post strong profits throughout their markets.

Until the prevalence of beer in the 19th century, hard cider was one of the most popular and widely produced beverages in Europe. Thanks to an expansion in tastes, the apple beverage has made a comeback. Not only in its home regions but throughout the world, hard cider is once again a popular and easily-found drink.

Hard cider is known simply as cider in Europe.
Hard cider is known simply as cider in Europe.

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Discussion Comments


I'm really glad that cider has come back into fashion, particularly pear cider which I absolutely adore. It used to be almost impossible to find and there were only a couple of places I knew about that served it, and one of those was made on the site.

Now it seems like everyone drinks the stuff. And, while I do feel like they've all jumped on the bandwagon a bit, I'm just grateful it's so easy to get now.


@Mor - If you're careful and do your research then home made hard cider doesn't have to be difficult to make and it's perfect for anyone who has a couple of apple trees in the back yard.

My uncles make some every year and give it out to the family and we also have it at Christmas time as a kind of family tradition.

The only time it goes wrong is when they start experimenting with other kinds of fruit. Sometimes it ends up being quite delicious and sometimes it ends up being a bit of a mess. But they use recycled plastic bottles and they sterilize everything, so it's really not that dangerous.


If you decide to make cider at home, make sure you are careful with it. The fermentation process is not a joke and it can easily go wrong. You could end up with exploding bottles (which is extremely dangerous, particularly if you use glass bottles) or with contaminated cider.

I would start out by researching hard cider kits and using one of those and if you manage to get it right you can branch out into developing your own cider.

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