Tag Archives: Measures

Prepositions Important When Preparing Cider

Recently Damien over at Blackledge Winery lent me his copy of C.J.J. Berry’s First Steps in Winemaking.

Admittedly, I usually stick to cidermaking books, and haven’t read many on winemaking. That’s clearly a mistake. Not only was there was a greater discussion of yeasts and various fermentations than I’ve seen in cidermaking books, it was full of great bits and asides.

In talking about introducing sugar to the must (unfermented juice), Berry mentions there are two ways to do it – “to the gallon” and “in the gallon,” which he defines as:

To the gallon: one adds an amount of sugar to a gallon of juice, the final solution equaling more than a gallon.

In the gallon: one adds the sugar and then adds the juice until the gallon mark is reached. Uses less sugar and juice.

Based on his experience Berry says “to the gallon” requires half pound more of sugar than “in the gallon.” For example, if you’re making a dry wine, you would add 2.5 lbs. sugar to the gallon or 2 lbs. sugar in the gallon.

Details like this aid in a closer reading of historical (and modern) cidermaking texts.

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Pennsylvania Cider Consumption 1740-1790 – Maybe?

As I’ve mentioned before, one of my research interests is finding out how much cider early American farm families produced and consumed. Pennsylvania is of particular interest because I live there.

If you have any interest in Pennsylvania agricultural history you’ve probably come across James T. Lemon’s The Best Poor Man’s Country: A Geographical Study of Early Southeastern Pennsylvania. It covers everything from demographics and soil studies to crop preferences and home production. I won’t say it’s the most riveting reading, but it does touch on many of my interests, including cidering.

As part of his production discussion[1], Lemon turned to farmers’ wills from 1740 through 1790 to see what they left for their widows annual support. Among those goods listed was cider. Based on the widows’ totals Lemon extrapolated what he thought a family of five’s annual needs were, which he expressed as follows (underscoring added):

Lemon Home Production 001

This seems pretty straightforward: 2.4 barrel of cider per year for a widow and 10 barrels for a family of five per annum. However, how many gallons did one of Lemon’s barrels hold? Nowhere in the book does he indicate whether he’s using modern measurements or period measurements, such as these.

Let’s assume he’s using 31.5 gallons per barrel, which is the modern volume. In that case the totals look like this:

Widow’s Share: 2.4 barrels at 31.5 gallons per = 75.6 gallons. That comes to 26.5 ounces or 1.66 pints consumed per day.

Family of Five: 10 barrels at 31.5 = 315 gallons. That comes to 110.08 ounces or 6.9 pints consumed per day, or 1.38 pints per person per day for each of the five.

You could replace the modern 31.5 gallons with the eighteenth-century hogshead of 63 gallons which simply doubles everything. At that rate, a widow would have 3.32 pints of cider per day and each of the family of five could have 2.76 pints per day.

While there is a wide range between them, both sets of numbers are within the realm of possibility. Even though Lemon’s amounts may be variable, one thing seemingly wasn’t: widows got a little more cider every day than everybody else.


1. Chapter Six, “General Mixed Farming and Extensive Use of the Land,” 150-183.

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How Much Cider Is That?

How much cider did an early American family make or drink annually? Seems like it should be an easy question to answer, but it’s not. Those early Americans didn’t often record detailed accountings of their cider production and consumption. Instead we have to dig into what they did say to find our answers (or at least more informed questions).

Alcohol, including cider, was usually listed by vessel type, not gallons. You’ll find casks, kegs, cags, barrels, tierces, hogsheads, and pipes of cider in the records.  According to The American Instructor (1770) some of these vessels represent a standardized amount(1):

While this focused on measures for wine and beer, the second Note (printed above the Beer Measure) is important for the cider researcher. It says that wine measurements were used for ALL liquids except beer and ale. Which suggests that a tierce of cider was 42 gallons, a hogshead was 63 gallons, and a pipe was 126 gallons.

Of course this implies a consistency that never was. Even if the words remain the same, weights and measures change with the time, place, and contents. For example, in Pennsylvania (the only state I looked up so far) there’s an 1823 state law establishing a hogshead of cider as 110 gallons.(2) However, in Carlisle, PA in 1832 hogsheads of whiskey were said to contain 75 gallons.(3) It seems the American Instructor’s liquid measure table is merely a suggestion.

The page raises other questions: If cider is treated as wine, does that mean there is no set measurement for a barrel of cider, like there is for a barrel of beer? Are casks, kegs, and cags really only generic descriptions for storage vessels? Which “gallon” was The Instructor using? And why couldn’t they have just written everything down for us?


1. An 1811 British edition includes the same information.

2. Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg, PA: William Greer, 1823), 10.

3. George Duffield. An Address Delivered In the Presbyterian Church, Before the Young Men’s Temperance Society of Carlisle [Pa.].  (Carlisle, PA: George Fleming, 1832), 8.

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