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A Full Guide To Acids And Acidity In Cider Brewing

Welcome to our complete guide on acids and acidity in cider brewing. Whether you’re a seasoned home brewer or just starting your cidery journey, understanding the role of different acids in creating the perfect hard cider is essential.

Knowing the types of acids and acidity (pH) when brewing cider is essential because it directly affects the taste, flavor, and safety of the finished product. Acidity helps to balance the sweetness and bitterness in cider, and it also plays a critical role in inhibiting the growth of harmful microorganisms.

Therefore, monitoring and adjusting the acidity and pH levels during the brewing process is crucial to ensuring a high-quality, safe, and delicious cider.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into various types of acids, how they impact your cider’s taste and texture, as well as ways to measure and adjust acidity during the brewing process.

Is hard cider acidic?

Yes! Cider is always acidic and this is mostly due to a few dominating acids like malic acid, but also others. The balance of these acids give the unique taste of the apple “cultivar” and the final brewed hard cider.

In the cider brewing process, different types of acids play crucial roles in determining the flavor profile and overall quality of the final product.

The five major acids found in (finished) ciders are:

1. Malic Acid: This is the primary acid found in apples and contributes to the tartness and sharpness of cider.

Apples for cider red

Malic acid does not only affect taste but also helps preserve cider by acting as an antimicrobial agent. During malolactic fermentation, malic acid can be converted to lactic acid, reducing acidity and giving a smoother mouthfeel to the cider.

2. Citric Acid: Although present in smaller amounts compared to malic acid, citric acid plays a role in enhancing fruitiness and brightness in cider. Found mainly in citrus fruits, it can be added during the brewing process if desired.

3. Tartaric Acid: Commonly found in grapes, tartaric acid is less abundant in apples but may still have an impact on cider’s flavor profile. In some cases, winemakers use tartaric acid to adjust acidity levels during blending or aging.

4. Acetic Acid: Produced by acetic bacteria during fermentation or spoilage processes, acetic acid can contribute to undesirable sour or vinegary flavors if present at high concentrations. Maintaining proper sanitation and monitoring fermentation conditions help prevent excessive acetic acid formation.

5. Lactic Acid: Lactic acid has a milder and rounder taste compared to the other acids listed, which is why many cider brewers encourage lactic acid bacteria to convert malic acid into lactic acid – the so called malolactic fermentation.

Malolactic fermentation leads to the conversion of malic acid into the more mellow lactic acid found in yoghurts and cheese!

Understanding these different types of acids allows brewers to better control their cider’s acidity levels while creating unique flavor profiles that cater to individual preferences.

Importance Of Acidity In Cider Brewing

Acidity is an integral part of cider brewing, playing a crucial role in creating the perfect balance of flavors. It enhances the crispness and tanginess that are characteristic of great cider while also serving as a natural preservative.

Acids contribute to complexity, aroma, and flavor depth in ciders, adding interest beyond just sweetness or bitterness. The proper level of acidity ensures your cider not only tastes good but also has a stable shelf life.

Too much acidity can result in an unpleasant tart taste, but too little can make the drink bland and flat.

Measuring Acidity (pH And Titratable Acidity)

Acidity is a crucial component in cider brewing, and it’s important to measure the levels of acidity accurately. There are two methods typically used to measure acidity: pH and titratable acidity (TA).

Knowing the pH of your cider is absolutely crucial when treating with sulfites or planning your fermentation strategy.

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The pH scale ranges from 0-14, with lower numbers indicating greater acidity.

Most ciders will be in the range of pH 3 to 4 where a pH below 3 will be uncomfortably sour and one above 4 will encourage growth of wild bacteria that may spoil your brew.

For this reason, apple juice with higher pH levels should be treated more aggressively with sulfites (Campden) than those with a lower pH.

Both methods are commonly used by home winemakers as well as commercial producers to determine the precise levels of acids present in their ciders.

It’s essential to remember that factors such as apple varieties, soil conditions, fermentation process and aging will all impact cider’s overall level of acidity.

Factors Affecting Acidity In Cider Brewing

Several factors affect the acidity of cider, including apple varieties and maturity, climate and soil conditions, fermentation, and aging/maturation.

Apple Varieties And Maturity

The type and maturity of apples used in cider brewing are crucial factors that affect acidity. Some apple varieties naturally have higher levels of malic acid, while others have lower levels.

For example, the tart Granny Smith apple is high in acid, making it a great choice for adding acidity to a cider blend.

When choosing apples for cider brewing, it’s essential to consider both the variety and maturity. The level of acidity increases as apples mature, so you’ll want to use a mix of ripe and unripe fruit to achieve the desired balance of sweetness and tartness.

Experimenting with different combinations of apple varieties at various stages in their growth cycle can create unique flavor profiles that reflect your preferences or local terroir – ensuring your hard cider has distinct character from batch-to-batch!

Climate And Soil Conditions

Cider brewing is heavily influenced by climate and soil conditions. The right temperature and amount of rainfall can make all the difference in producing a high-quality cider.

For example, apples grown in cooler climates tend to have more acidity, while those grown in warmer regions may be sweeter due to their increased sugar content. Soil also plays a crucial role as it affects the nutrients available for apple trees, which then influence the flavor profile of the resulting cider.

Some popular apple varieties such as Granny Smiths thrive well in acidic soils with a pH range of 6 to 6.5, while Red Delicious prefers slightly alkaline conditions with a pH range of 7 to 8.


During fermentation, yeast consumes the sugars in the apple juice and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide.

The process typically takes 1-2 weeks, with temperature control being a crucial factor in ensuring optimal conditions for yeast growth.

It’s important to note that the acidity of the cider can affect fermentation as well. Too little acidity can lead to slower or incomplete fermentation, while too much acidity can inhibit yeast growth altogether.

Monitoring pH and TA levels throughout this process is key to producing a successful batch of hard cider.

Aging And Maturation

Aging and maturation are crucial steps in the cider brewing process. After fermentation, the cider is usually aged for several months to allow flavors to develop fully.

During maturation, microorganisms continue to work on the cider, breaking down sugars and producing complex flavor compounds. This process can take anywhere from several weeks to many years depending on personal preference and desired style.

The aging process is critical when striving for unique flavor profiles as it allows ciders with high acidity levels like those made with granny smith apples enough time they need to harmonize into delicious apple beverages with an excellent balance between sweetness and tartness.

Why does my cider taste too sour?

The main reason why your cider tastes sour is because of the natural content of malic acid in the apples used to make the apple juice.

Other acids such as pyruvic acid, Succinic acid, acetic acid, citric acid, or carbonic acid are also produced during fermentation and these will also contribute to the acidity of fermented ciders.

Graph showing the formation of different acids during cider fermentation. Adapted from Zhang H et al.

Some types of apples, especially those meant for hard cider production, may contain more malic acid than those used for unfermented sweet cider.

Your cider will taste more sour if you make it using unripe apples or you use apple cultivars like Brown’s, Backwell Red, Crimsom King, Fair Maid or Devon apples.

The classical cultivars used in Spanish cidre natural like Raxao, Regona or Collaos will also make your cider more tart and sour tasting compared to those cultivars made for eating.

Many people do, however, appreciate this sharp sour taste in ciders, but others prefer a more balanced, more rounded acid such as that of the lactic acid performed through malolactic fermentation.

And whereas malic acid content goes down during fermentation, especially pyruvic acid, succinic acid and citric acids go up as a result of yeast metabolism.

How do you balance the acidity in cider?

As with any beverage, the key to balancing cider is to adjust the ingredients to taste. More acidity can be added with the juice of acidic apples or lemons and acid can be counteracted by adding sweeteners or neutralizing the acid with a base.

If the cider is too sweet, more acidity will help to balance it out. Conversely, if the cider is too tart, the sweetness can be added back in with honey, sugar, or fruit juices.

Malic and other organic acids can also be added back into the cider by adding fresh juice or an acid supplement if it has been fermented for a long time and has become too mellow.

Using Malolactic Fermentation

One way to balance the acidity in cider is by performing malolactic fermentation. This process involves converting harsher, malic acid into softer lactic acid, resulting in a smoother and creamier mouthfeel.

To achieve this, it’s important to choose the right strain of bacteria, such as Oenococcus oeni or Leuconostoc mesenteroides, and monitor conditions like pH and temperature throughout the process.

Malolactic fermentation can also add complexity to the flavor profile of your cider by producing diacetyl and other buttery flavors.

However, it’s worth noting that this method can be more challenging than simply adding an acid blend, so it’s important to do your research before attempting it on your own homemade batch.

You can also add sweetness to the cider to offset the acidity, either by adding sugar during fermentation or by adding sweeter apple juice after fermentation.

If your cider is too tart, you can also try adding some calcium- or sodium carbonate to it to neutralize the acids or you can simply age it for a longer period of time to allow some of the acids to break down.

Adding Acid Blends (adding acidity)

Adding acid blends is a common method of adjusting acidity levels in cider. Acid blends are typically made up of a combination of malic, citric, and tartaric acids. Here are the steps for adding acid blends to your cider:

1. Measure the acidity level of your cider using a pH meter or titratable acidity test kit.

2. Determine how much acid blend you need to add to achieve your desired acidity level.

3. Mix the acid blend with water according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

4. Add the diluted acid blend slowly to your cider while stirring constantly.

5. Test the acidity level again after adding the acid blend and adjust if necessary.

It’s important to be careful when adding acid blends as it can easily over-acidify your cider if too much is added.

A good rule of thumb is to add small amounts at a time and test frequently until you reach your desired acidity level. Keep in mind that some apple varieties naturally have higher or lower acidity levels, so adjustments may vary based on the specific apples used in your cider.

Blending With Other Ciders Or Juices

Blending is a great way to balance the acidity in your cider while creating unique flavor profiles. You can blend different apple varieties or mix in other fruit juices such as pear, peach, or strawberry.

For example, if you have a too acidic cider that needs balancing out, try blending it with a sweeter cider or adding some peach juice for a mellow flavor.

Experimenting with blends will help you discover new flavors and make adjustments based on personal preferences.

Blending allows for endless possibilities when creating delicious hard ciders.

Benefits Of Acid Adjustments

Adjusting the acidity of cider has a variety of benefits for both novice and experienced cider makers. By adding acid blends, using malolactic fermentation, or blending with other ciders or juices, you can enhance the flavor profile of your brew and create unique taste combinations.

Acid adjustments can also help you achieve a balance between sweetness and acidity in your cider, which is crucial for creating a well-rounded drink that pairs perfectly with food.

Additionally, properly adjusting acidity levels can prevent spoilage and preserve the quality of your product during storage and aging.

Why Balance Acidity In Cider Brewing?

Achieving a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity is crucial for creating unique and delicious cider flavor profiles, which can be achieved through blending different ciders or juicing, adjusting acid levels with malolactic fermentation or adding acid blends.

Improving the taste

Balancing the sweetness and acidity of cider is key to creating a well-rounded flavor profile. Too much acidity can make the cider taste sour, while too much sweetness can create an overly cloying taste.

Malic acid provides a tart or sour note to hard cider, while citric acid gives it a sharp or tangy taste. Tartaric acid creates a crisp finish with noticeable tannins, and acetic acid contributes to vinegar-like flavors that add complexity to the brew.

By experimenting with these acids and adjusting their levels accordingly through blending or malolactic fermentation, you can find just the right balance for your cider that matches your personal preference.

Creating Unique Flavor Profiles

One of the most exciting aspects of cider brewing is experimenting with different flavors to create a unique taste profile. Adjusting acidity levels can play a crucial role in achieving this goal.

For instance, blending high-acid and low-acid ciders can lead to an overall balance that hits just the right notes on the palate. Additionally, adding complementary ingredients like herbs, spices, or fruits can enhance certain flavor components and make your cider stand out from others.

Pairing Acidity With Food

Acidity in cider is not just important for taste, but also for pairing with food. The acidity can cut through fatty or rich foods and provide a refreshing contrast to spicy dishes.

For example, a high-acidic cider pairs well with cheese plates or sausage platters. A dry and acidic cider goes great with grilled chicken or seafood dishes due to its ability to cut through the richness of these meals.

In addition, sweeter ciders pair well with desserts such as apple pie or cheesecake.

Preventing microbial contamination

Adjusting the pH of your cider to a lower level will also help you avoid contamination with most harmful bacteria and yeasts that may spoil your cider.

Because a more acidic cider is also more resistant to infection, you can get away with using less sulfites (campden tablets) in a more acidic apple juice.

For low pH levels (less than 3.5), 1-2 campden tablets per 5 liters will do the trick – this corresponds to 0.44-0.88 grams of metabisulfite per liter of liquid. If your liquid has a higher pH (>3.5), you’ll need more – up to 3-4 campden tablets or 1.32-1.76 grams per liter should do the job in this case too!

pHGrams KMS/SMSNo. of campden tablets
(5 liters)
3 or lower0-0.20-0.5
>4Adjust pH!Adjust pH!
An overview of the typical amount of campden used for cider and (fruit) wines.

If you pH is lower than 3, chances are that you will not need to add campden at all as the acid is enough to keep microorganisms at bay.

It’s important not to add too much potassium metabisulfite, however, as it can lead to off flavors in your beverage if overdone!

Dealing With Common Acid Issues In Cider Brewing

Learn how to effectively deal with common acid issues in cider brewing, such as overly acidic or low acidic cider, by adding acid blends safely and monitoring acidity levels during fermentation.

Overly Acidic Or Low Acidic Cider

One common issue that cider brewers encounter is an overly acidic or low acidic brew. Overly acidic ciders can have a sour or harsh taste, while low acidity can result in a flat and unbalanced flavor profile.

To address these issues, acid blends are often used to adjust the pH and TA levels of the cider.

However, it’s essential to add acid blends gradually and with caution to avoid overcorrection or imbalances in flavor.

Conducting regular pH and TA testing throughout the brewing process can also help keep acids in check as you work towards achieving a well-balanced brew.

Adding Acid Blends Safely And Effectively

When adjusting acidity levels in cider brewing, it is important to add acid blends safely and effectively. Here are some tips to follow:

1. Determine the amount of acid blend needed: Use a cider pH meter or titration test to determine the current acidity level of your cider. Then calculate the amount of acid blend required to reach your desired TA level.

2. Add acids slowly: When adding an acid blend, add it gradually and stir well between additions. This helps to distribute the acids evenly throughout the cider and prevent overly acidic or unbalanced flavors.

3. Monitor pH level: Keep an eye on the pH level as you add acids, since this can help avoid over-acidifying your cider. A good target range for pH in cider is between 3.2 and 3.8.

4. Adjusting with home-made blends: If you prefer not to use commercial acid blends, you can make a blend from malic, tartaric or citric acid by following recipes widely available online.

5. Always follow safety protocols: When handling acids, always wear protective gear such as goggles and gloves, work in a well-ventilated area, and keep acids out of reach of children.

By following these guidelines for adding acid blends safely and effectively in cider brewing, you can create perfectly balanced ciders that are both flavorful and safe for consumption.

Monitoring Acidity During Fermentation

It is crucial to monitor the acidity of your cider during fermentation. As the yeast consumes the sugar in the juice, it releases acid and alcohol into the mix. By measuring the titratable acidity (TA) regularly throughout this process, you can ensure that your cider has reached its desired level of tartness or sourness before moving on to aging and carbonation.

This will help you achieve a balanced flavor profile without any unpleasant surprises down the road. You can use simple testing kits or pH meters to check TA levels and adjust as necessary by adding malic acid or other additives per recommended guidelines based on TA readings.

Final Tips For Cider Brewing Success

To ensure success in cider brewing, it is important to pay attention to the details. First and foremost, selecting the right apple varieties is key as different apples have varying levels of acidity and sweetness.

It is also crucial to monitor fermentation temperatures, as too high or too low of a temperature can negatively impact your cider. Additionally, taking steps to minimize oxygen exposure during fermentation will help prevent off flavors from developing.

Don’t forget that adding acid blends or conducting malolactic fermentation may require some experimentation before achieving the desired results. Keep track of every adjustment made so you can refer back to them later on should you need to troubleshoot any issues with future batches.


1. What role do acids play in cider brewing, and how do they affect the flavor profile?

Acids are essential components of cider, as they contribute to its unique taste and mouthfeel. Depending on the type and concentration of acids present in a particular batch, cider can have varying levels of tartness or sourness.

2. How can I measure the acidity of my cider during production to ensure optimal results?

Measuring pH is an effective way to monitor acidity during the brewing process. A pH meter can be used to obtain accurate readings, which can then be adjusted through various methods such as adding malic acid or calcium carbonate.

3. Can I adjust the acidity of my finished cider if it doesn’t meet my desired taste profile?

Cidermakers have several options for adjusting acidity after fermentation is complete. For example, malolactic fermentation can be used to reduce tartness by converting harsher malic acid into milder lactic acid.

4. What are some common mistakes that lead to overly acidic or unbalanced ciders?

Two common mistakes are using apples with excessively high total acidity (TA) levels or over-fermenting the juice until it becomes too tart. Other factors that may impact balance include variations in harvest conditions (such as weather patterns), yeast strain selection, and temperature control throughout fermentation.


In summary, acidity plays a crucial role in the flavor and balance of cider brewing. By understanding the various acids involved and how to measure and adjust them, you can create a unique and delicious hard cider that perfectly suits your taste buds.

Remember to experiment with different apple varieties, fermentation techniques, and acid adjustments to find the perfect combination for your palate. With this full guide to acids and acidity in cider brewing, you’ll be able to create your own custom blend of sweet and sour goodness that will impress even the most discerning cider connoisseur.

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