Expert offers advice on duty exemption for small-scale cider production

Pershore College business development manager Richard Toft offered advice at the cider seminar for growers thinking of taking advantage of the duty exemption on small-scale production - up to 7,000 litres a year.

"You can add a few approved additives and still call it cider, and maintain the exemption, but you have to make it yourself," he said. "You can use any sort of apples but the raw ingredient is critical to making quality cider. The tannin-acidity balance is key. 'Vintage' varieties like Dabinett and Kingston Black are the proven ones, whose acidity and tannin levels you can look up in tables."

Pershore began growing its own apples for cider making 15 years ago, though it has grown dessert apples for much longer, he explained. "Ten tonnes of fruit a year takes you up to your 7,000 litres. We machine-harvest, but ripeness is critical as you want the most sugar and liquid. The best indicator is the iodine starch test - too much and you won't get good cider."

The college ensures fruit is harvested clean, so avoiding the need for washing, before pressing and fermenting in 1,000-litre tanks.

"You can leave it to ferment naturally or take a more scientific approach, measuring it and adding nutrients, sugar and sulphur dioxide as required," said Toft. "The natural method will give you the best cider - and the worst."


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