The Art of Racking

The 2017-18 cyders are racked off.


I’m always curious to see the patterns the lees make after racking. Generally everything drops right to the bottom, leaving clean sides and a watery, cratered surface.


Pretty standard stuff.

But the honey wheat left more of a vortex.


Pretty stuff.

Now that they’re racked, they’ll spend the winter conditioning and be bottled sometime in the spring.


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We’re Back, and We Have the 2017 Cyders

It’s been two years since I last made cyder. In 2016 we moved again (for the second time in 12 months) and shortly after the move I took a new job with an extended commute. There was certainly interest, but there just wasn’t time or energy to make cyder. This fall is calmer, so the cyder can flow.

This year’s line-up includes:

  • Honey wheat cyser (6 gallons; potential ABV 11.5%)
  • Northern spy (3 gallons; potential ABV 6%)
  • Golden russet (5 gallons; potential ABV 8.5%)
  • Raw blend (1 gallon; potential ABV 7%)

The warning on the golden russet jugs should really read, “for fermentation only”

There are also three new cyder experiments:

  • Arkansas black (1 gallon; potential ABV 3% – seems low, but this is what the hyrdometer read each time)
  • Cherry cider (3 one-gallon test batches of varying proportions of cherry juice to cider; potential ABV 7.5%)
  • Boiled cider (3 gallons; potential ABV 11.5%)


2017 Ciders

All told there are 22 gallons of cyder going.


With the 2017 cyders underway, I have time to plow through all of the research I’ve been amassing. I have various receipts and recipes to review, several decades of eighteenth-century cider inventories to transcribe, and an ever-growing collection of references to cider at war, among other researches. Fortunately, there’s just enough 2015 cyder left to keep me inspired until the spring bottling.

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Upcoming Talk At Philadelphia’s Pour the Core, October 21st

I’ll be presenting my greatly-expanded talk, “Cider: Pennsylvania’s Once (and Future?) Favorite” at Pour the Core in Philadelphia on October 21st at 2:30.

Hope you can make it out for some cider and cider history!


Click here for event information.




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Upcoming Cider Talk and Living History Demo at Pennsbury Manor

On Sunday, September 24th, from 1-4 pm I’ll be at Pennsybury Manor in Morrisville, PA for their Beer Brewing Sunday talking about cider.

At 1 pm I’m presenting my ever-evolving talk “Cider: Pennsylvania’s Once (and Future?) Favorite.” Afterwards and until 4 pm I’ll be there with my colonial cidermaking demo talking about the tools and techniques of early American cidering.

Hope you can make it!


We’ll be in the Bake & Brew House.




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Upcoming Talk on Cider & Prohibition


Click here for more information.

On Saturday, October 7th at 1 pm I’m presenting an original talk, “Did Prohibition Prohibit Cider?” at the Sigal Museum in Easton, PA in connection with their new exhibition, The Cat’s Meow: Lehigh Valley in the Age of Art Deco & the Roaring Twenties.

Prohibition is often blamed for abruptly ending American cider, yet it didn’t change our taste for beer, wine, or spirits. Come find out how Prohibition did and did not change cidermaking in Pennsylvania.

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Trust Issues

There is a grand contradiction in some corners of the cider (and alcohol) world. It goes like this:

Back Then – whenever then was:
People drank cider (or alcohol of preference) because the water couldn’t be trusted.

Wild yeast (what most cider was historically fermented with) should be avoided because it can’t be trusted.

Neither one of these is true. So why are they repeatedly said?


I ask because my experiments in cidermaking have produced hundreds of gallons of wild yeast-fermented cider with no problems and recognizable consistency and my adventures in cider research show they drank the water back then.

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Cider on the Rocks in 1787

Some people are hot for drinking cider on ice. We tend to think of that as a relatively recent preference created by British and Irish cider marketing campaigns.

Centuries before those campaigns, there was at least one early American who enjoyed his cider on ice. In 1787 Manasseh Cutler, a minister, Revolutionary War veteran, and (at that moment) lobbyist, was at dinner with colleagues in New York City when he tasted something new and novel. He said he

…was never more deceived in any thing (sic) I ever drank than in a tumbler of bottled cider, occasioned by the ice which I put into it – for I had no conception what it was, and supposed it to be a species of liquor I had never before tasted. It was exceedingly fine.(1)

For Cutler, anyway, this was a new and novel experience. His quote is intriguing. It begs several questions about ice and cider. Was it a regionalism? Was it a show of wealth or simply of availability? Was it ever popular and, if it was, when did it become so?

Now I’m interesting in finding ice in my cider research. But maybe not in my cider glass.


1. Cutler, William Parker and Julia Perkins Cutler, Life, Journals and Correspondence of Rev. Manasseh Cutler, LL. D., Volume I (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Company, 1888), 240.

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