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Does Hard Cider Contain Methanol? (How Much and Why?)

As a long-time brewer and cider enthusiast, I’ve often been asked a question that seems to concern many people: Does hard cider contain methanol?

The quick answer is yes, but in very small amounts that are generally not harmful to us. It is formed naturally in the apple juice and is present at about 25 ppm, which is only 2.5% of the total methanol found in the pomace.

However, there’s a lot more to this story – a fascinating journey through the world of brewing and chemistry that I’d love to share with you.

Understanding Methanol

Before we dive deeper into the world of hard cider, let’s first understand what methanol is. Methanol, also known as wood alcohol, is a colorless, volatile liquid that often finds use in industrial and automotive applications.

However, it’s also naturally produced during the fermentation process of various alcoholic beverages, including hard cider.

Methanol is toxic to humans, and consumption in large quantities can lead to serious health issues like blindness or even death. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that the amount of methanol present in commercially produced hard cider is typically negligible and not harmful.

How Does Methanol Get into Cider?

Methanol is produced when pectin, a naturally occurring substance in apples and many other fruits, is broken down during fermentation. Pectin is more abundant in windfall and overripe apples, which means that ciders made from these types of apples tend to have higher methanol levels.

The enzyme PME (Pectin methylesterase) is naturally found in apple cells and some yeasts and bacteria present in cider.

However, it’s crucial to note that the levels of methanol in hard cider are typically much lower than those found in spirits such as fruit brandies or homemade distillates, which can contain dangerous amounts of methanol if not properly produced.

Crucially, the methanol content of hard cider has little to do with the fermentation itself (although yeast can contribute some) and everything to do with the apple juice.

Yes, you read it right – the main source of methanol in hard cider is the apple juice itself. Its already there!

Natural Methanol Content in Apples and other Fruit Juices

Methanol, a simple alcohol, is a naturally occurring compound found in fruits and vegetables. It is typically bonded to pectins, which are components of plant cell walls and the middle lamella. During the processing of fruits and vegetables to create products like fruit juice, puree, or wine, methanol can be released from these pectin bonds.

In a study on methanol content in apples, various types of fruit juices, including apple juice, were examined for their methanol content. Apples, being a common fruit, were specifically studied to determine the methanol content in both the whole fruit and its corresponding juice. The distribution of methanol between different components of the fruit, such as the mash, pomace, and juice, was also investigated.

The research revealed that the majority of potentially available methanol, more than 90%, remains in the pomace, which is the leftover pulp after juicing.

Only about 2.5% of the methanol present is transferred to the aqueous phase of the apple juice.

This means that the methanol content in fruit juice is significantly lower compared to the original fruit. As a result, consuming fruit juice is considered to be safe in terms of methanol exposure.

It’s important to note that the concentration of methanol in various fruit juices and smoothies can vary widely depending on factors such as the fruit type, processing methods, and the presence of pectin.

Table showing that methanol remains in the pulp. The percentage is the starting (total) methanol of which roughly 2.5% is left in the juice. Source: Possner et al. 2014.

In conclusion, while methanol is naturally present in fruits and vegetables, its levels in commercially available fruit juices are relatively low and are unlikely to pose significant health risks.

The research findings emphasize that the consumption of fruit juices is generally safe, as the methanol content is significantly lower than that of the whole fruit.

The Fermentation Process

Fermentation is a naturally occurring process where yeast breaks down sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.

This is the fundamental process that fuels the production of our beloved hard cider.

During fermentation, a variety of alcohols are produced, the most abundant being ethanol (the alcohol we enjoy in our drinks) and minor quantities of methanol, mostly from pectin breakdown.

The Distillation Process Makes Methanol Dangerous

In the distillation process, methanol is usually the first compound to be boiled off due to its low boiling point.

This is why homemade distillates can be risky; if the methanol is not properly discarded, it can lead to high concentrations in the final product.

Commercial distilleries have strict controls in place to prevent this, but the same cannot be said for homemade spirits.

Commercial Hard Cider: Safety Measures in Place

Commercial cider producers follow stringent safety guidelines to ensure their products are safe to consume. They use specific yeast strains and fermentation conditions to minimize methanol production. Furthermore, the methanol content in the final product is regularly tested to ensure it adheres to safety standards.

Homemade Hard Cider: Precautions to Take

If you’re brewing hard cider at home, it’s important to use quality ingredients and proper fermentation techniques to minimize methanol production. Using fresh, ripe apples and a reputable yeast strain will go a long way toward ensuring a safe and tasty hard cider.


In conclusion, yes, hard cider does contain methanol, but in amounts so small that they are generally harmless to humans. The key is to consume commercially produced cider or homebrews made with high-quality ingredients and correct techniques.

Here are 10 facts to remember about methanol in hard cider:

1. Methanol is naturally created upon grinding and juicing apples.
2. Methanol is toxic in large amounts, but the quantities found in hard cider are typically not harmful.
3. Methanol in hard cider originates from the breakdown of pectin in apples.
4. Windfall and overripe apples can lead to higher methanol levels in cider.
5. Methanol levels in hard cider are lower than those in spirits like fruit brandies or homemade distillates.
6. Distillation can concentrate methanol if not done correctly.
7. Commercial cider producers adhere to strict controls to limit methanol content.
8. Commercial hard cider is regularly tested for methanol and other contaminants.
9. For homebrewing, use fresh, ripe apples and reputable yeast strains to minimize methanol.
10. The key to safe cider consumption is quality ingredients and correct brewing techniques.

So, next time you’re enjoying a refreshing glass of hard cider, you can do so with the knowledge that you’re not risking your health due to methanol. Cheers!


What is hard cider made of?

Hard cider is made from fermented apple juice. The process involves crushing apples to extract the juice, which is then fermented using yeast. The yeast consumes the natural sugars in the juice and converts them into alcohol, resulting in hard cider. Some cider makers may also add additional ingredients such as yeast nutrients or other fruits to enhance the flavor profile.

Is hard cider beer or liquor?

Hard cider is neither beer nor liquor. It is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from apples or apple juice. While it shares some similarities with beer in terms of fermentation process, it is distinct in its own category. Hard cider typically has an alcohol content similar to beer, but it is not brewed like beer nor does it contain grains like beer. It is also not classified as a liquor, which generally refers to distilled spirits with higher alcohol content.

Is hard cider a liquor?

No, hard cider is not considered a liquor. It is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from apples or apple juice. Liquor typically refers to distilled spirits, which are produced through a process of distillation.

What are the main ingredients in cider?

The main ingredients in cider are apples and yeast. Apples are crushed to extract the juice, which is then fermented using yeast to convert the sugars into alcohol. Some cider varieties may also include additional ingredients like sugar, spices, or other fruits to enhance the flavor.

What are the ingredients in hard cider?

Hard cider typically contains apples, yeast, and sometimes additional sugars or sweeteners. The apples provide the base for the cider, while yeast ferments the sugars in the apples to convert them into alcohol. Some cider makers may also add sugar or sweeteners to adjust the sweetness level of the final product.

What foods have methanol?

Methanol can be found in small amounts in various foods and beverages. Fruits such as tomatoes, oranges, apples, and bananas naturally contain methanol. Additionally, certain fermented foods and drinks, like wine, beer, and spirits, may also contain trace amounts of methanol. It’s important to note that the levels of methanol in these foods are generally safe for consumption.

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