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apple juice vs. cider

Ok...apple juice vs. [non-alcoholic] apple cider: what is the technical difference?

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  1. Most cider is not filtered and some aren't pasteurized either.

    3 Replies
    1. re: treb

      I'd only add that largely because of what treb mentioned, apple cider isn't shelf stable and needs to be in the fridge, even when unopened.

      1. re: treb

        I grew up in an apple producing area that had GREAT cider and I'd agree that cider is unfiltered and, if you're lucky, unpasteurized. It's what's squeezed directly from fresh apples in a press.

        TJs doesn't agree. Now that I live n Los Angeles the closest I can get to the cider I remember and crave still is their apple "juice" from the refrigerated case. So maybe the distinction isn't so clear anymore.

        Look for cloudy liquid with, possibly, some residue of apple solids and as little else as possible listed in the ingredients. But if you can get to a cider producing region and get the stuff that comes from the spigot do it! It should taste like apple pie with a crisp tang.

        1. re: treb

          But I've seen "unfiltered apple juice".

        2. The local cider I get is not pasteurized and it is delicious. I could live without its bland cousin, apple juice.

          Simply put, fresh cider is mashed up apples, pressed to squeeze out the juice, then bottled up, sediment and all. Apple juice is filtered to remove sediments and pasteurized, hence it being rather clear (not cloudy with sediment like cider).

          1. Apple juice is sweet or unsweetened water with a splash of apple flavor (the real stuff only if you can find it)
            Cider keeps the full character of apples in tact.

            26 Replies
            1. re: HillJ

              "the full character of the apples"

              THAT to me is what distinguishes cider over apple juice, absolutely. And it's especially noticeable with single varietals (is that even a term we use with cider, or am I being silly/pretentious/babbling?). We've just polished off a jug of SweeTango cider from a local orchard, and it was sensational. The flavor of that specific apple came through beautifully. I'm so happy we have a few gallons in the freezer!

              To me, apple juice just tastes of sweet with a nondescript apple flavor. I don't actively *dislike* apple juice, but to me cider tops it every time, flavor-wise. Particularly because of the single varietal issue.

              1. re: cayjohan

                The NJ farm folks I know make apple wines every year so I think your description is spot on and would make those folks very happy.

                I use apple juice NOT from concentrate only and then only in place of water called for in recipes. If I want a glass of apple goodness, grabbing cider!

                1. re: HillJ

                  Um- whoah- what?!?
                  Apple wine?!!!!
                  What's the name of these awesome people- and do you know if its sold in nyc?

                    1. re: HillJ


                      I have this one in the cooler right now. A spiced apple wine. I really like it on its own, mulled and in martini.

                      1. re: HillJ

                        Four Sisters is great...been there many times!

                    2. re: HillJ

                      Apple wine is a high alcohol hard cider made by adding extra sugars to the must to up the alcohol from around 5% up to 15% or more.

                      1. re: Raffles

                        I love apple wine. All fruit wines, ice cold. Ice wine too. We have a # of suppliers in NJ but the best prices I've encountered were in Canada.

                    3. re: cayjohan

                      We just had Honey Crisp cider and it was wonderful, best I had in years.

                    4. re: HillJ

                      Exactly! I bought a 6-pack of apple juice months ago and I think there's still 4 bottles left. My gallon of local PA cider (which I am enjoying as I write) is almost gone after only a few days--it's just like drinking an ice-cold apple. I love apple cider season!

                      1. re: gaffk

                        Ever make apple cider caramels?

                        1. re: HillJ

                          Never even heard of such a thing. Do tell.

                          1. re: gaffk

                            So good, the cider really comes through. I subscribe to Imbibe magazine but this is a recipe Smitten K adapted.


                            1. re: HillJ

                              Wow, I just bookmarked that recipe. I think I know what I'm making for Thanksgiving. (I live in a household of 2 and there's no way I'm making 64 caramels without a destination ;)

                              Thanks HillJ!

                              1. re: gaffk

                                Oh my pleasure. They really are wonderful and a great way to enjoy cider.

                                1. re: gaffk

                                  you can freeze them..just in case too many caramels fill your household.

                                  1. re: HillJ

                                    You obviously overestimate my willpower.

                                    1. re: gaffk

                                      ROFL. You could just cut the squares bigger and it is a fruit based product after all!

                                      1. re: HillJ

                                        oh the addition of a little apple brandy works well too if you want a softer caramel.

                                        1. re: HillJ

                                          Yeah . . .fruit-based . . . with a stick of butter . . . a cup of sugar . . . heavy cream. Probably not what my doctor meant when he said to eat more fruit.

                                          1. re: gaffk

                                            Oh bring him a few pieces and then decide :)

                                  2. re: HillJ

                                    Cider caramel gastrique is wonderful on pork. I must take it a bit further and make caramels.

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      Thank you so much for posting this HillJ. I just made a batch for my Christmas goodies, and they are incredible! So hard to keep them all waiting in little baggies to give out to my friends - I want to eat them all.

                                      1. re: ksbee

                                        Awesome! They are incredible my version of fudge and def. my preference over fudge. Easy as all get out.

                                        1. re: HillJ

                                          Oooops, I forgot to follow up--these were devoured at Thanksgiving. I have a fresh jug of cider chilling in my garage just waiting to make a fresh batch for Christmas.

                                          Thanks again HillJ!

                                          1. re: gaffk

                                            Oh good for you, gaffk. I'm so glad my suggestion is going over well for fellow CH's.

                            2. Hi, Michelly:

                              The American convention is that cider is of two types: (a) sweet, a/k/a unfermented; and (b) hard, a/k/a fermented.

                              IMO, apple juice and sweet cider are names for the same thing, at least at the squeezin'. In the marketplace, however, they divurge with processing, additives and preservatives. When I become Emperor, there will be nothing called cider that has any ingredient other than the apple, its water and what comes naturally with them.

                              Trying to go much further than this is like going down a rabbit hole. I've made a lot of hard cider, much of which was flash pasteurized *before* pitching just to manage the fermentation. Is it cider? Yeah, I think. But what about additives to stop fermentation before the juice goes bone dry? Or Chaptalizing to get the Brix up? Is it still cider if you filter, fine or use the Methode Champagnoise to clear it? How about adding a little CO2 for spritz and sparkle? How about a little artificial flavor or color? A little HFCS maybe?

                              My rule of thumb is that the fresher, purer, colder and cloudier the beverage, the more I'm likely to call it "cider". But follow the rabbithole wherever it leads you...


                              1 Reply
                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                Thanks, Kaleo!

                                As I replied earlier, I've seen unfiltered apple juice, like Martinelli's (I'm going to the store today, and will check the ingredient list).

                              2. A year or 2 ago, a similar Chowhound discussion came up and I innocently mentioned I was excited that fresh apple cider was again seasonally showing up in the supermarket, I was quickly scolded by at least one Chowhound who said the mass marketed cider was pasteurized, and that seemed to equal such poor quality, not even worth considering. Their comments probably were not as harsh as I remember.
                                Fast forward to a trip to east Tennessee about 3 weeks ago, and I ran across unpasteurized apple cider in a cooler at the Apple Barn, Sevierville. I did a double-take, to make sure I wasn't seeing the Hope Diamond or something. I was very frustrated that we were traveling by car, did not have any way to preserve the goods if we were to buy it. So I thought quickly of the old back-and-forth on Chowhound, and just had to think, I came so close! And we drove on.
                                Pasteurized apple cider will have to do it for me until next time when we might find room to pack a good quality cooler on our travels.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: Florida Hound

                                  Glad you found some unpasteurized cider, But to be clear, if you ever come across _cold pasteurized_ cider, which many cider producers are now doing, don't hesitate to grabsome. It is not sublected to heat, so it comes out of the process tasting no different than unpasteurized.

                                  1. re: The Professor

                                    Sorry to differ, but unpasteurized cider is to cold pasteurized as cold press is to apple juice. A world of difference.

                                  2. re: Florida Hound

                                    No need for a cooler--just keep it out of direct sunlight and intense heat. The worst that might happen after several days of non-refrigeration is that the cider will begin to ferment--and it tastes better that way!

                                      1. re: mdzehnder

                                        Only if you prefer a rancid vinegar taste to your cider.

                                        1. re: mdzehnder

                                          If you let it ferment that way you are relying on a crap shoot of wild yeasts that may or may not produce a drinkable hard cider.

                                        2. re: Florida Hound

                                          Our 2014 trip to the same Tennessee- North Carolina- Smoky Mountain area has just concluded- I told our friends at the campground that we needed to include a trip to the Apple Barn in Sevierville to get some apple cider. They talked us into an alternative apple orchard in Waynesville, NC, very popular with locals. Unfortunately, their apple cider was "pastereurized," and for my taste buds, no better at all than what I could get at home. Didn't buy. The woman at the orchard said by law they had to pasteurize the cider. Heading through Maggie Valley, NC, we stopped at an apple stand where they bragged on and on about some variety of cider they could only get a few weeks of the year. I bought a 75 cent cup to sample and it was cloyingly sweet where even my sweet tooth could not deal with it. Passed on that. So, once again, the elusive "unpasteurized" will have to wait for another time. Happy Fall, y'all.
                                          Florida Hound

                                        3. If you have to ask, it's obvious that you've never had real cider (unpasturized).

                                          (IMO, apple juice is simply sugar water.)

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Clams047

                                            I'd be tempted to agree with you but it's more complicated than that. Particularly so since bottlers use the terms "juice" and "cider" so imprecisely.

                                            I grew up in apple country in the Hudson Valley of New York. We used to get the fresh-from-the-press stuff that you could drink while you watched the mash still dripping in the flats. What I'm saying is I know good cider.

                                            Now I live in Southern California. Good cider is a taunting memory. BUT the closest thing I can get to it is the apple "juice" that Trader Joe's sells from their dairy case. They blend 10 varieties of apples so they can keep the flavor consistent throughout the year. I don't have a bottle now but I'd bet the farm they pasteurize it. They don't filter it. And it's yummy and a pretty close approximation to what I've always remembered as a high point in my youth.

                                            1. re: rainey

                                              I agree that the flavor profile of the pasteurized variety can be good. The difference is that the unpasteurized sort, if left to sit for a week or so after pressing, will start to ferment ever so slightly from the natural bacteria on the apple skins. Not enough to develop any real alcohol content, but enough to get fizzy and bubbly, and get a slight tang. It's an incredibly lovely drink.

                                              1. re: mdzehnder

                                                Pasteurized cider ferments, too. Happens to me every time I buy a pottle if I don't remember to freeze half, since I'll only get through a quart before it begins to fizz. (BTW, not a typo, pottle = half gallon.)

                                          2. It's a question I always have to ask about when I visit America.

                                            Where i am in the world, cider is always alcoholic - and I don't drink alcohol. When I first visited America, years ago, I would never order cider but, of course, would order apple juice.Now, I know there can be alcoholic and non-alcoholic cider, so I know always to ask. Although, generally speaking, I can't be arsed to, so just order something "safe".

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: Harters

                                              In my region of the US, menus list the non-alcoholic version as "cider" and the alcoholic version as "hard cider." I'm a big fan of the former, not so much the latter. Also, apple cider is usually only available in the Fall, but hard cider is year-round.

                                              1. re: gaffk

                                                And just to be a bit of a stinker here, you can make those caramels with hard cider :)

                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                  No way . . . my family is boisterous enough without adding alcohol to the candy.

                                                  1. re: gaffk

                                                    Alcohol cooks out. The caramel is just much richer in flavor.

                                                2. re: gaffk

                                                  Soon after I was first married many years ago, we visited my parents in CT and we dropped into a local cider mill for a typical New England fall treat.

                                                  My wife (from MS) was hesitant being under the belief it was going to be hard cider. Her comment - "It just tastes like apples".

                                                  Hmm - It's been a running joke for many years. Of course, we never drink apple juice and now that we've moved back to New England, only unpasteurized will do....because........it just tastes like apples..

                                              2. Sweet apple cider is just mashed and squeezed apples. It may be pasteurized with heat(not so good for flavor) or by UV light(better). Unpasteurized cider can only be found at the cider mill and there it is rare because of the threat of lawsuits resulting from food poisoning.
                                                That is according to the mill where I buy my sweet cider here in the Finger Lakes of NY.
                                                Sweet cider can be treated with preservatives such as potassium sorbate ,etc. Once treated with these preservative the sweet cider can't be used to make hard cider as the yeasts will not grow. My mill sells untreated UV treated at the mill. They add preservatives to the sweet cider market at area stores.
                                                We use the mills untreated to make Hard Cider.

                                                Apple juice is processed,strained, adulterated ,and filtered much more. No way they are going to get the juice so clear without additives,processes ,or filtering.