Washington State University Extension

Western Washington Tree Fruit & Alternative Fruits

Annual Report 2004

Evaluation of Apple Cultivars for Hard Cider Production

G.A. Moulton, G.H. Spitler, J. King, L.J. Price, and D. Zimmerman







A small variety trial of cider apples conducted at Mount Vernon from 1979-1994 provided preliminary observations on the potential of cider apple production. In recent years, with the encouragement of local hard cider makers, WSU’s Northwest Washington Research & Extension Center at Mount Vernon (NWREC) has expanded research on apple varieties specifically bred for the characteristics needed in producing market quality hard cider. These varieties are distinct from “dessert” apples in having levels of tannins that make them less usable for other purposes, but enhance cider quality when fermented. Furthermore, growing these “bittersweet” and “bittersharp” varieties requires a close interaction between growers and cider producers in determining the desired variety mix in the final product.

In 2002 the first cider was pressed at Mount Vernon, under the direction of cider cooperator Drew Zimmerman, including 8 varietal and 4 blended ciders. In the summer of 2003 these ciders were evaluated and ranked by a diverse panel of tasters, and particular characteristics of each were noted. (See Evaluations below.)

In November 2003 the Northwest Cider Society sponsored an international cider competition that drew entrants from the U.S. and Canada, and was judged by a panel of experts, including Peter Mitchell, a cider consultant from Worcestershire, England. One of the Mount Vernon entries, “2002 WSU Mount Vernon Brown Snout Varietal,” earned a certificate of commendation. In November 2003, May 2004 and November 2004 a series of Cider School classes, taught by Peter Mitchell, were conducted at NWREC. Emphasis was on hands-on experience of cider production, laboratory techniques, and post production quality analysis. Participants from the Pacific Northwest (eastern and western Washington, Oregon, Idaho and B.C., Canada) as well as from states as distant as Indiana, Michigan, Montana and Colorado attended the courses. Interest in these classes is still evident, therefore another Cider School session is scheduled for the week of April 25, 2005.

In 2004 the fruit harvest and pressing of cider was again supervised by Drew Zimmerman, drawing on the experience of previous seasons to improve techniques of production and handling. New cultivars planted in 2001-02 produced some fruit this year and harvest from these trees will increase in 2005. A row of single-tree specimens, including some early American hard cider varieties, was planted in 2003 for evaluation and possible inclusion in future trials. Some first sample fruit may be seen from these trees in 2005.


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The cider apple trial plot consists of five single-tree replications of each cultivar to provide for sufficient fruit to make single-varietal cider as well as for blending. All trees are free-standing, with row spacing 18′ between rows, 12′ between trees. Trees planted in 1994 were grafted on MM 106 rootstock, with additions in 1999. Acquisitions in 2001-02 are grafted on MM 106 and M26 rootstock. Specific cultivars being evaluated are listed below. (See Appendix, Table 1.) A pretest varietal collection of 40 single trees was planted in 2003 for preliminary evaluation, from which replications can be made and added to the main trial if they show promise. Some new acquisitions are also in the nursery and will be planted out in spring 2005. (See Appendix, Tables 2 and 3.) This past year a collection of perry pears was also added. (See Appendix, Table 4.)

The new acquisitions include cultivars that have been selected for cider production in France and England not yet tested here that may be well adapted to our climate conditions. In addition, specimen trees of old American varieties used for farm cider in the 1800s and earlier are included, to rediscover and evaluate their unique cider heritage in this country.

In 2003–04 new trees were established and grafted on strongly dwarfing rootstocks M27 and M9, grafted to the cultivars Foxwhelp, Muscadet de Dieppe and Yarlington Mill (M27), Vilberie (M9) and Brown Snout (M27 and M9.) Planted at close spacing, the trees will be used in a cultural trial of hedgerow pruning for possible mechanized harvest methods, conditional on the amount of grant funding available.

Data collected includes bloom and harvest dates, productivity (yield), harvest fruit analysis (Brix and titratable acid), and observations relative to ease of culture such as disease susceptibility, vigor and growth habit.


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In 2004 the mature trees produced a full crop of fruit. Sufficient fruit for single varietal cider was not available from all cultivars of the younger trees but juice pressed from the fruit was included in the production of some blended ciders. Juice from dessert apple cultivars with characteristics adapted to hard cider fermentation was also used in blending of some ciders.

Fruit from the cider test plot was harvested, placed in storage, and then pressed for juice. Detailed notes were kept on the characteristics of the juice, the blends produced, and the fermentation methods used.

Table 2. Cider cultivars pressed at Mount Vernon in 2004 (* indicates dessert apple cultivar). Press date for all was October 28, 2004.

# Cultivar(s) brix specific


pH TA% malic tannin %
Muscadet de Dieppe












13.0 1.055 4.27 0.35 0.08
Ashmead’s Kernel
10.0 1.040 3.41 0.63 0.06
Gala, Brookfield*
11.8 1.045 3.85 0.34 0.03

Muscadet de Dieppe (equal blend)











Orchard Blend (see Note, below)
11.8 1.050 3.15
Muscadet de Dieppe
13.8 1.055 4.27 0.35 0.08
Blend (malolactic acid)
10.8 1.044 3.27 0.58 0.04
Harry Masters’ Jersey
1.024 3.40 0.63 0.20
Kingston Black
13.9 1.060 3.38 0.63 0.07
Yarlington Mill
10.7 1.040 4.00 0.46 0.10










Russet Blend (Golden, Roxbury, Princess)
15.0 1.065 3.45 0.62 0.05
14.0 1.061 4.06 0.43 0.15
Brown Snout

Chisel Jersey

(equal blend of both)



1.045 3.80



0.54 0.03
Belmac*/Yarlington Mill
13.3 1.053 3.44 0.47 0.05
11.0 1.045 3.27 0.50 0.06
12.0 1.050 3.40 0.82 0.06
Sonata* (= Pinova, Corail)
13.1 1.055 3.36 0.91 0.05

NOTE: Orchard blend includes the following, bold indicates main juice components: Cap O’Liberty, Bramley’s Seedling, Tom Putt, Somerset Redstreak, Bulmer’s Norman, Akane*, Medaille D’OR, Mikki Life*.

Evaluation Of 2003 Ciders

The evaluation of ciders produced in 2003 was done by a panel primarily made up of graduates of a class in Sensory Evaluation of ciders taught by Peter Mitchell, cider expert and trainer, in May 2004. A summary of their evaluation and comments on each is shown below.

Ratings for acidity, bitterness, sweetness, astringency and body were on a scale of low (L) – medium (M) – high (H)

Vilberie Comments: Very bitter with high astringency. Bitterness harsh – best used in blending. If one likes a very stout cider, this is the one.

Color Aroma Acidity Bitterness Sweetness Astringency Body Flavor
amber apple, spicy, floral M H L H M bitterness dominated, estery, metal taste, tea bags, aftertaste
copper penny, woody bark

Harry Masters’ Jersey Comments: Good body and balance,
good stand-alone varietal, fruity aroma

Color Aroma Acidity Bitterness Sweetness Astringency Body Flavor
amber woody, apple, winelike, resinous, floral, pineapple, perfume M M L M M Melon, berries, butterscotch, pine needles, tart, nutty

Chisel Jersey Comments: Good balance, a little
bland, would benefit from blending, nice nose

Color Aroma Acidity Bitterness Sweetness Astringency Body Flavor
Amber citrus, banana, butter, rummy M M L M M Citrus, apple, fresh cut grass, butterscotch, honey

Dabinett Comments: This cider has body and astringency, tannins are harsh and tend to dominate the flavor. Good alone for those whou would like a stout cider, otherwise blend to soften tannin; good nose. Mixed with NY 456 made a fruitier cider with body.

Color Aroma Acidity Bitterness Sweetness Astringency Body Flavor
amber apple, banana M M to H L H M to H Apple, raisins

Muscadet de Dieppe Comments: A lot of body, good balance. Very good single-varietal cider, even when fermented to dryness still gives a slightly sweet taste, mix of fruit & grass flavors.

Color Aroma Acidity Bitterness Sweetness Astringency Body Flavor
dark amber apple, banana nutty, tropical grassy M M L to M M H Fruity, apple, spice, nutty, honey, syrup, fresh cut grass

WSU AxP Crab Comments: This is a great blender, provides a lot of mouth feel because of its astringency. Some like it as a single-varietal cider but probably best for blending.

Color Aroma Acidity Bitterness Sweetness Astringency Body Flavor
straw apple, spicy, nutty, tropical, floral H M to H L H M Fruity, winelike, fresh cut grass, citrus, vanilla

Michelin Comments: This cider can stand alone but would benefit from blending. Good strong apple/berry aroma, tastes like cooked apple, bland.

Color Aroma Acidity Bitterness Sweetness Astringency< Body Flavor
amber golden apple, banana, nutty, berry, gooseberry, floral
esters, caramelized apple
M M L M M Fruity, apple, estery, berry, baked apple

Foxwhelp Comments: No outstanding character, will add some body and lots of acid to blends. Best use as blender to give more acidity & body to a cider; earthy tones.

Color Aroma Acidity Bitterness Sweetness Astringency Body Flavor
amber slightly spicy, banana, nutty H L to M L L to M M Apple, pear, sharp apple taste, butterscotch

Kingston Black Comments: Stand alone single-varietal cider, tannins are soft, good balance, wonderful flavor jumps all over the mouth.

Color Aroma Acidity Bitterness Sweetness Astringency Body Flavor
golden to amber apple, spicy, nutty M M L M M Citrus, apple, butterscotch

Brown Snout Comments: Good stand alone single-varietal cider, good body, balance & mouth feel.

Color Aroma Acidity Bitterness Sweetness Astringency Body Flavor
amber apple, nutty, banana, maple, caramel, resinous M M L M H Apple, slight banana, nutty, butterscotch, winelike

Jonagold Comments: Jonagold adds fruit both in aroma and flavor – best if used to bring fruitiness to a cider apple with tannins & body.

Color Aroma Acidity Bitterness Sweetness Astringency Body Flavor
straw winelike, apple, tropical, berry, floral M to H L L L L Winelike, apple, fruity, toast

McIntosh Comments: Brings aroma to a cider – great for blending to enhance the bouquet, but not good as a single-varietal cider, lacks body & tannin.

Color Aroma Acidity Bitterness Sweetness Astringency Body Flavor
straw winelike, apple, tropical, berry, floral M to H L L L L Winelike, apple, fruity, toast

Tsugaru, Homei Comments: This cider has little aroma, bland taste. It is a low acid apple, suggested use in blending to reduce acids. Thin on everything.

Color Aroma Acidity Bitterness Sweetness Astringency Body Flavor
straw winelike, resinous, asparagus L L L L L Fresh cut grass, raspberries, winelike

NY 486 Comments: Clear attractive light cider with little body. Has spicy aroma and apple flavor – best as a blender, acid too high.

Color Aroma Acidity Bitterness Sweetness Astringency Body Flavor
straw tropical, spicy, licorice M L L L L Winelike, apple

Raven Comments: Not much aroma or flavor, bland, too acidic

Color Aroma Acidity Bitterness Sweetness Astringency Body Flavor
golden beach at low tide, resinous M L L L L Underripe apples

Yarlington Mill/Ashmead’s Kernel Comments: Blend of 50% each. Good balanced blend, nice nose, good body

Color Aroma Acidity Bitterness Sweetness Astringency Body Flavor
golden winelike, apple, perfume, alcohol, caramelized apple M M M L to M M Apple, melon, banana, butterscotch

Muscadet de Dieppe/Foxwhelp Comments: Blend of 50% each. Muscadet de Dieppe greatly enhances Foxwhelp. Foxwhelp is bland but adds sharpness, lightens the color. Complex blend good paired with cheese. Foxwhelp actually seems to blow out the floral character of Muscadet de Dieppe with earth tones – not a good match.

Color Aroma Acidity Bitterness Sweetness Astringency Body Flavor
amber apple, nutty, resinous M M L M M to H Apple, nutty, butterscotch, citrus

Jonagold/Brown Snout Comments: This blend gives fruitiness and body, good balanced blend except may need acids lowered just a little.

Color Aroma
Acidity Bitterness Sweetness Astringency Body Flavor
amber apple, nutty M M L M M Fruity, apple, fresh cut grass

Orchard Blend Comments: This cider has body – Vilberie’s harsher tannins are evident, which brings stoutness to the blend

Color Aroma Acidity Bitterness Sweetness Astringency Body Flavor
amber apple M H L H H Apple, nutty, fresh cut grass


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Preliminary results at this point would suggest use of the cultivars Brown Snout (which won an award at the 2003 North American Cider Competition), Yarlington Mill, Vilberie, Muscadet de Dieppe, Foxwhelp and Dabinett, all of which have shown themselves to be promising in terms of productivity and/or cider making quality. Recommended best uses for different varieties are shown in Table 2, below.

Good Stand Alone Single-Varietal Single-Varietal Stout Good Varieties for Blending
Brown Snout

Harry Masters’ Jersey

Muscadet de Dieppe

Kingston Black

Yarlington Mill


Jonagold (back sweetened)

Vilberie (very bitter)

Dabinett (bitter)

Vilberie (adds stout-type character)


Chisel Jersey

WSU AxP Crab (very good blender)



Ashmead’s Kernel

McIntosh (adds aroma)


Tsugaru Homei

NY 486

Stand alone single-varietal ciders include those recommended for high quality ciders without the need for blending. Note that most ciders can be handled as stand alone single varietals if innovative techniques of cider making are employed, such as sweetening back with fresh juice and adjusting pH to a target level of 3.5 to 3.7. The category of “Stouts” consists of varieties that have strong bitter components so their use as single varietals would be as ciders of the heavier type. Blending varieties include those which are best used in combination to produce a complex high quality cider. All varieties can be enhanced by careful blending, including blends of cider cultivars with existing dessert cultivars such as Jonagold, McIntosh and others. Future products in addition to hard (fermented) cider may include blends with other fruit juices (blueberry, strawberry etc.) and carbonated sweet ciders, either single-varietal or blended.


Support for this project in 2004 was provided by the Washington State Wine
Advisory Board and the Northwest Cider Society in cooperation with the Western
Washington Fruit Research Foundation. The help and participation of our cooperators
and volunteers in harvesting, cider pressing and evaluation of finished ciders
is gratefully acknowledged.


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Table 1. Cider apple cultivar trial


Brown Snout

Chisel Jersey


Harry Masters’ Jersey

Muscadet de Dieppe



Yarlington Mill

Bulmer’s Norman

Medaille D’Or


Reine des Hatives

Reine des Pommes

Tremlett’s Bitter


Brown’s Apple


Kingston Black

Breakwell’s Seedling


Frequin Rouge


Bramley’s Seedling

Tom Putt




Golden Russet

Table 2. New acquisitions 2003 (single trees)

Amere de Berthcourt

American Forestier

Blanc Mollet

Brown Thorn



Cap O’Liberty


Coat Jersey

Court Pendu Plat

Court Pendu Rose

Crow Egg

Ellis Bitter

Frequin Audievre

Frequin Tardif




Harrison SS

Harrison #2


Lambrook Pippin



Muscadet de Dieppe

Muscat de Bernay


Peau de Vache

Porter’s Perfection

Red Jersey

Royal Jersey

Roxbury Russet

Smith’s Cider

Soulard Crab

Sweet Alford

Sweet Coppin

Taliaferro (Colaw)



Zabergau Reinette

Table 3. New acquisitions 2004 (to be planted spring 2005)

Bedan de Parts


Claygate Pearmain

Doux Normandie


Grimes Golden


Nelson County Crab


Ross Nonpareil

Stembridge Jersey

Stoke Red

Vagner Ascher

Table 4. Perry pears (single trees, planted fall 2004,
source NCGR Corvallis OR



Blakeney Red




Huffcap, Hendre

Huffcap, Yellow

Normannischen Ciderbirne

Romania Perry Pear

Schweizer Wasserbirne

Taynton Squash



Winnals Longdon

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