A Basic Guide To Cider Apples

Great cider consists of a balance between acidity, tannins, sugar, alcohol, and aroma.

Since very few single varietals of apple contain all of these elements in a nice balance, cider is usually made by blending multiple varieties of apples.

We categorize cider apples based on which of the above elements they bring to a cider blend.


Bittersweet apples are high in tannins and low in malic acid. Tannins add bitterness and/or astringency to a cider blend. Tannins are also thought of as giving “structure” and complexity to the flavour and mouthfeel of cider.


Sharp apples are high in malic acid, low in tannins. They add acidity to a cider blend.


Bittersharp apples have significant amounts of both tannins and malic acid. Some bittersharp apples, such as the famous Kingston Black, are known to make an excellent single varietal, or “vintage” cider.


Apples with high sugar are used in cider blends to increase the alcohol content. Apples with interesting flavour/aroma are used to add complexity and appeal to cider blends. Ideally apples in this category have both high sugar and excellent flavour/aroma.