Do you like your cider with a little bit of bubbles? There are two primary ways in which hard cider is served: Sparkling (with carbonation) and Still (without). Each has different merits and drawbacks, and excellent examples of both can be found in Connecticut. Cider, as with wine, undergoes a fermentation process during which the yeast convert the natural sugars into alcohol through a metabolic process. As part of this process, carbon dioxide gas is given off. Typically this gas is lost to the atmosphere, but this process can be exploited to create the different versions of cider described above.
Still cider is the simpler version of the two. If the gas is allowed to "blow off" and exit the mixture, the resulting cider will not have any fizz to it. This can enhance certain aspects of the cider, bringing out the apple notes more prominently but also giving the cider more of a "wine" characteristic - Depending on the residual sugar left over a still cider can taste similar to a Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. Leaving the cider "still" can also simplify the bottling process. Because there is no carbon dioxide, there is little pressure build up. One could, if so desired and as is common in Connecticut, serve the cider in a plastic jug or wine bottle without worry of pressure build-up.
Sparkling cider is a little bit more difficult to produce. The beginning of the process is the same as still cider: The sweet cider undergoes fermentation and the sugars are converted to alcohol while the carbon dioxide blows off. After the cider has finished fermenting is when the fun starts. There are two ways to create a sparkling cider. One is a refermentation (double fermentation) through which the cider gets fermented again while the other is an infusion method, known as forced carbonation, where carbon dioxide is added back in. A second fermentation is the more classical option, the one which is used for the creation of Champagne and some beers. At the time of bottling, a small amount of sugar is added to the bottle. The yeast, having become dormant from the lack of food available to them, reawaken and begin to consume the newly added sugar. This process starts to generate carbon dioxide again but by now the bottle has been corked or capped. The carbon dioxide has no where to escape to and instead becomes suspended in the solution as bubbles.
The other way, forced carbonation, creates this suspension by infusing carbon dioxide into the cider. No sugar is added back in for the yeast to ferment, in this case. First the cider is chilled down to a chilly 34(.) Fahrenheit. This allows the liquid to "carry" or absorb more of the carbon dioxide as it is infused into the solution. The cider then undergoes a process over the course of about 48 hours (depending on the size of the batch) where the carbon dioxide is forcibly injected into the solution. Then it is time for bottling, which is also done at the cooler temperature. After capping or corking, the cider is allowed to come back up to cellar temperature which allows the bubbles to expand a bit and create the bubbly drink. Because of the increase in pressure on the container created by the carbon dioxide within the liquid, sparkling ciders typically need to be bottled in a pressure-rated vessel such as a Champagne-style wine bottle or beer bottle.
In Connecticut several good examples of both types of cider exist. Holmberg Orchards, in Gales Ferry, produces a McIntosh cider that is a sparkling delight. This cider has a very forward apple flavor and is done in a semi-sweet style. Drier still ciders can be found at the various cider mills throughout the state, including Clyde's. Use our directory to find more locations to get some delicious, Connecticut grown and made cider!