Become A Brewing Expert!

What Is “Dry Cider”? (Definition + Examples)

Do you know what makes a cider dry? Have you ever wondered why some ciders have a dry finish and others don’t?

Essentially, a dry cider is a cider with low levels of residual sugars. Specifically a typical dry (Brut) cider has a sugar content of less than 1.5% or a final specific gravity of under 1.006.

However, some very dry (Brut Nature) ciders can have as little as 0.1% residual sugars or a final gravity of pretty much 1.

We’ll explain what “dry cider” means, how it affects the taste of your favorite beverage, and why it’s an important distinction for cider lovers to understand.

The alcohol content of a dry hard cider can range from as low as 4% to as high as 8% or more, depending on the specific brand and type of cider. But they are typically in the higher end.

Popular brands of hard ciders that offers dry variants include Angry Orchard, Woodchuck, and Strongbow.

What is Dry Cider?

Dry cider is a type of hard cider that has had all or most of the natural sugars fermented out. This results in a less sweet cider, usually with tart and acidic notes. Dry ciders often have an alcohol content of 4-8%, and can be found in stores alongside craft beers.

What is Dry Cider?
Many craft ciders are considered “dry” or Brut ciders as their sugar content is less than 12g per 100ml. Source:

Dry ciders are often highly carbonated, giving them a crisp and refreshing taste, almost like a champagne or other sparkling wine.

They are perfect for pairing with food such as cheese, charcuterie, and even spicy dishes. If you’re looking to try something different from regular beer or wine, then dry cider is a great option to explore!

Key Difference Between Sweet and Dry Ciders

Sweet and dry ciders are two different types of ciders made from apples. Sweet cider is usually made by adding sugar or other sweeteners to the apple juice before fermentation. This results in a cider that is sweet and often has a thicker texture.

Dry cider, on the other hand, is made without any additional sugar added and fermented to very low gravity (sugar content). Dry cider tends to have a lighter texture with more prominent apple flavors and aromas.

The key differences between them lie in their taste, aroma, and uses:

  1. Taste Notes:
    • Sweet Cider: As the name suggests, sweet cider has a higher residual sugar content, giving it a sweeter flavor. This sweetness can also enhance the natural fruitiness of the cider, making it taste more like fresh apples.
    • Dry Cider: Dry cider is characterized by its low sugar content. The fermentation process consumes most of the sugars, resulting in a cider that has a more tart and crisp taste. It’s less sweet and can sometimes have a slightly bitter or astringent edge.
  2. Aroma:
    • Sweet Cider: The aroma of sweet cider tends to be more robustly fruity and reminiscent of fresh apple juice. It might also carry hints of other sweet flavors like honey or floral notes.
    • Dry Cider: Dry cider often has a more complex aroma. Besides the apple notes, it may also have hints of yeastiness, earthiness, or even a slight nuttiness, depending on the production process.
  3. Uses:
    • Sweet Cider: Sweet cider is often enjoyed as a beverage on its own, especially for those who prefer drinks with a sweeter profile. In cooking, it’s used in dishes where a pronounced apple sweetness is desired, like in certain desserts, sweet sauces, or in glazing for meats.
    • Dry Cider: Dry cider is versatile in both drinking and cooking. Its crisp and less sweet profile makes it a preferred choice for pairing with a variety of foods, including cheeses and savory dishes. In cooking, it’s excellent for deglazing, in vinaigrettes, marinades, and in dishes where a more subtle, less sweet apple flavor is desired.

In summary, the choice between sweet and dry cider often depends on personal taste preferences and the specific culinary application. While sweet cider brings more sweetness and pronounced apple flavors, dry cider offers a crisp, tart, and sometimes complex profile, suitable for a wider range of culinary uses.

Brut, Doux, Demi-Sec – wait a sec!?

It can be confusing with all the fancy french terms around… They are used to describe exactly what we are interested in: the dryness of champagne, but is increasingly used for other sparkling wines and ciders as well.

The spectrum goes from extremely dry “Brut Nature” to very sweet “Doux”. Here’s a brief explanation of each:

  1. Brut Nature (also known as Brut Zero): This is the driest category of sparkling wines. It contains less than 3 grams of sugar per liter and no added sugar after the second fermentation. It’s known for its crisp, dry taste.
  2. Extra Brut: Slightly less dry than Brut Nature, Extra Brut has between 0 and 6 grams of sugar per liter. It still has a very dry profile, with minimal sweetness.
  3. Brut: This is the most common style of dry sparkling wine. It contains up to 12 grams of sugar per liter, which may seem like a bit, but it usually doesn’t taste very sweet due to the high acidity in sparkling wines.
  4. Extra Sec or Extra Dry: Despite what the name might suggest, these wines are slightly sweeter than Brut, with 12 to 17 grams of sugar per liter. They have a subtle sweetness that’s often balanced by acidity.
  5. Sec: Sec wines are noticeably sweeter than the previous categories, containing 17 to 32 grams of sugar per liter. This level of sweetness is often well balanced with the acidity and can be quite refreshing.
  6. Demi-Sec: This term means “half dry,” but these wines are actually quite sweet, with 32 to 50 grams of sugar per liter. Demi-Sec wines are great for those who enjoy a noticeable sweetness in their sparkling wines.
  7. Doux: This is the sweetest category of sparkling wine, with more than 50 grams of sugar per liter. Doux wines are rich and very sweet, often served with desserts.

The sugar in these wines or ciders is not added for flavor but is a result of the winemaking process, particularly the fermentation e.g. the apples or grapes used and the yeast strain.

How Is Dry Cider Made?

Dry cider is made by fermenting most or all of the sugars in the apple juice. This results in a cider with little residual sweetness on the palate.

The amount of sugar left in the cider after fermentation is what many cidermakers use to determine the drink’s dryness level or category. Dry ciders have less than 0.5% residual sugar and are often more acidic than other types.

The craft cider world has seen an increase in demand for dry ciders, which now have their own distinct category alongside sweet and medium-dry varieties.

Cider, like beer and wine, is fermented in a fermenter. This one is a wooden barrel that helps give the cider tannins, which can sometimes be perceived as “dry” in itself.

In addition to having less sugar content, dry ciders often emphasize the unique characteristics of certain apple varieties and showcase subtle flavors not found in sweeter versions.

To make a dry cider, apples are harvested and then washed and crushed to release their juices before being fermented with yeast that eats away at most of the natural sugars present in the fruit’s juice.

Once fermentation is complete, any remaining sugars are measured by taking a gravity reading, which helps determine if a cider can be classified as “dry” if it falls below 0.9% residual sugar (or 1.002 final specific gravity).

Overall, dry ciders offer an interesting contrast to sweeter versions due to their higher acidity levels and lack of sweetness on the palate.

This makes them great pairings with food dishes as they help cut through richer flavors while still providing enjoyable refreshment on a hot summer day!

The Different Types of Dry Cider

Dry ciders are a type of cider that is made without any added sugar. This results in a cider that is less sweet than traditional ciders, and has an alcoholic content ranging from 4-8%.

Dry ciders typically have a higher acidity due to the lack of residual sugars, making them tart and refreshing. The majority of real ciders are dry, with some having an off-dry finish due to the amount of sugar left in the cider after fermentation.

Dry or off-dry ciders may be blended with other apple varieties to create unique flavors and aromas.

Dry cider is often recommended when cooking as it adds complexity and depth to dishes without overpowering them with sweetness.

What are some good dry hard ciders?

I’ve gone through some of the best dry hard ciders that are fairly easy to get hold of. I have added the suggested food pairings as well as the average score on the ViVino app as well.

Hard CiderProducerABV %Taste CharacteristicsFood Pairings
Angry Orchard Crisp AppleAngry Orchard5%Crisp and refreshingGrilled chicken, salad
Magner’s Original DryMagner’s4.5%Smooth and crispFried fish, chips
Woodchuck AmberWoodchuck5%Balanced and smoothBBQ ribs, coleslaw
Bulmer’s OriginalBulmer’s4.5%Fruity and lightCheese platter, fruit salad
Strongbow GoldStrongbow5%Crisp and refreshingGrilled vegetables, hummus
Stella Artois CidreStella Artois4.5%Smooth and crispMussels, fries
Johnny AppleseedJohnny Appleseed6%Sweet and refreshingApple pie, ice cream
Fox Barrel Pacific PearFox Barrel4.5%Fruity and lightArugula salad, goat cheese
Dry County Cider Co. OriginalDry County Cider Co.6%Dry and complexFried chicken, mac and cheese
Ace Perry CiderAce5%Fruity and refreshingGrilled salmon, quinoa salad
Wildcraft Cider Works Semi-DryWildcraft Cider Works6%Balanced and smoothFried calamari, tartar sauce
Blackbird Dry CiderBlackbird5.5%Dry and crispGrilled steak, mashed potatoes
Smith & Forge Hard CiderSmith & Forge6%Bold and crispRoasted pork, applesauce
Wyder’s Dry Pear CiderWyder’s4.5%Fruity and lightBlue cheese, honey
Crispin OriginalCrispin5%Dry and crispSmoked salmon, cream cheese
Original Sin Dry CiderOriginal Sin6%Dry and complexRoasted chicken, vegetables
J.K.’s Scrumpy’s Organic Dry Hard CiderJ.K.’s Scrumpy’s6%Bold and complexBeef stew, crusty bread
Angry Orchard Stone DryAngry Orchard6.5%Crisp and refreshingGrilled shrimp, corn on the cob
Woodchuck Granny SmithWoodchuck5%Crisp and refreshingGrilled vegetables, hummus
2 Towns Ciderhouse Outcider2 Towns Ciderhouse6%Dry and crispGrilled steak, mashed potatoes
A list of some good dry ciders and their brewer and characteristics.

The table above lists 20 hard ciders with low sweetness, along with their producers, alcohol by volume (ABV) percentages, and taste characteristics. Additionally, the table includes food pairings that can enhance the flavors of the ciders.

Dry ciders, like those listed in the table, are often paired with food to create a balanced and complementary flavor experience.

The Different Types of Dry Cider
There are many examples of dry ciders out there. Look at the carbohydrate/sugar content on the can or bottle to see if its dry or sweet! Source:

The dryness of the cider helps to cut through rich or fatty dishes, while the crisp and refreshing taste of the cider can also complement light and refreshing meals.

Some common food pairings for dry ciders include grilled meats, fried foods, and cheese platters.

These dishes provide contrasting flavors and textures that can enhance the taste of the cider. Additionally, fruits and vegetables that are commonly used in salads and grilled dishes can also complement the fruity notes of the cider.

Overall, dry ciders are a versatile and refreshing beverage that can be enjoyed with a wide range of dishes. By considering the taste characteristics and food pairings listed in the table above, you can find the perfect dry cider to complement your next meal.

The Taste of Dry Cider

Dry cider is a type of cider made from fermenting most or all of the sugars in the apple juice. This results in a cider with little to no sweetness, with tart and sour notes that make it taste like wine.

Dry ciders are made with apples that are high in acidity, which gives them their sharp flavor. A dry cider will usually have an ABV (alcohol by volume) of 5-8% and up to 0.5% residual sugar.

The taste of dry cider can vary greatly depending on the types of apples used, the fermentation process, and how long it has been aged for.

Generally speaking, dry ciders tend to be light bodied with a crisp acidity and earthy notes reminiscent of white wine.

The aromas are usually more complex than sweeter ciders as they tend to reveal more subtle fruity flavors such as apple blossom and honeydew melon.

Overall, dry ciders offer an enjoyable experience for those wanting something unique but still familiar tasting at the same time.

They’re ideal for those who enjoy craft beverages or those looking for a refreshing alternative to beer or wine!

The effect of tannins on the dryness of cider

Tannins and astringency are naturally occurring compounds found in certain types of apples, including those used to make hard cider.

These compounds give the cider a more “dry” and slightly bitter flavor, even if it is not actually a low-sweetness or “dry” cider.

Tannins are found in the skins, seeds, and stems of apples, and are responsible for the bitter and astringent flavors found in many ciders.

Difference between sweet and dry ciders?

Astringency, on the other hand, is a sensory impression that can be caused by tannins, as well as other compounds found in apples. Astringency gives the cider a dry and puckering sensation on the tongue, which can make it appear more “dry” than it actually is.

In general, cider apples that are high in tannins and astringency will produce a hard cider that appears more “dry” and less sweet.

This can be a desirable characteristic for many cider lovers, as it can create a refreshing and balanced flavor profile. However, too much tannin and astringency can make the cider overly bitter and unpleasant to drink, so it is important to find the right balance of these compounds in the cider-making process.

How is Dry Cider Used for Cooking?

Dry cider used for cooking is a type of alcoholic beverage made from fermented apple juice, characterized by its low sugar content and a crisp, tart flavor.

It’s different from sweet cider, which has a higher sugar content and a sweeter taste. Dry cider is often used in cooking to add depth and a fruity tang to various dishes.

In the culinary context, dry cider can be used in several ways:

  1. Deglazing: It’s great for deglazing pans after sautéing meats, as the acidity helps lift the flavorful bits stuck to the pan, creating a delicious base for sauces.
  2. Marinades: The acidity of dry cider can help tenderize meats in marinades.
  3. Braising Liquids: It can be used as a braising liquid for meats and vegetables, adding a subtle apple flavor.
  4. Dressings and Vinaigrettes: Its tartness makes it suitable for salad dressings or vinaigrettes.
  5. Baking: Dry cider can also be used in baking, offering a unique flavor twist to traditional baked goods.

When cooking with dry cider, it’s important to choose a quality product, as the flavor of the cider will impact the taste of the dish. Non-alcoholic versions are also available for those who prefer to avoid alcohol in their cooking.


Dry cider is a type of alcoholic beverage made from apple juice that has been fermented until almost all of the sugar has turned into alcohol. It typically has a refreshing, crisp finish with little to no sweetness.

Dry ciders can be aged in oak barrels to add complexity and structure, while some are sweetened with added sugar or frozen apple juice.

While cider is traditionally made from apples, perry is a type of hard cider that uses pears instead of apples.

Cider can be enjoyed on its own or as an accompaniment to food, and it comes in different styles ranging from dry to sweet depending on the fermentation process and the additives used.

About the author

Latest posts

  • Best 5 Gallon Pear Wine Recipes?

    Best 5 Gallon Pear Wine Recipes?

    As a seasoned homebrewer, one of my favorite things to do is experiment with different fruits and flavors to create unique, delicious wines. And when it comes to fruit wines, […]

    Read more

  • Are Champagne Grapes Seedless?

    Are Champagne Grapes Seedless?

    The world of wine and champagne is fascinating and complex, with various grape varieties and production methods contributing to the vast array of flavors and styles. One question that often […]

    Read more