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Best apple varieties for hard cider

Hard cider is made from fermented apple juice. While you can use any apples to make hard cider, in the cider-producing areas of England and France a range of specialist varieties have been developed. These traditional cider apple varieties often have juice which is very high in bitter tannins. This makes them almost unpalatable to eat fresh, but the tannins give the finished hard cider depth and "body" which you don't get from sweeter mainstream apples.

The American tradition is to use eating or cooking apples with complex juice flavors, and especially crab-apples - these provide the tannins found in traditional European cider varieties.

Whether you are following the European or American traditions, in both cases the best cider varieties tend to prefer cool or mild climates rather than hot or humid climates.

  • 1st Dabinett

    See also Dabinett

    Dabinett is a traditional English hard cider apple, famous for its very high-quality juice. It can be used in cider blends and is one of the few European varieties that can be used for making single-varietal hard cider.

    The juice has an palatable tannic bittersweet flavor, so this is not a variety you grow for eating or cooking. Its sole purpose is for making hard cider.

    Dabinett flowers very late, but fortunately it is also self-fertile. It is easy to grow, and an excellent choice for anyone wanting to grow their own cider apples.

    Buy Dabinett cider apple trees here
  • 2nd Hewe's Virginia

    See also Hewe's Virginia

    Virginia Crab has long been a mainstay of American hard-cider production. It has an unpalatable, uncompromising, complex, intense juice which can be transformed into a full-bodied cider.

    Virginia Crab is also an excellent pollinator of other apple trees - it flowers profusely over a long period.

    Buy Hewe's Virginia crab apple trees here
  • 3rd Frequin Rouge

    See also Frequin Rouge

    Frequin Rouge is a traditional French hard-cider variety, producing a high-quality bittersweet juice. If you like French style cider this is an excellent starting point.

    Frequin Rouge is reasonably disease-resistant, and performs well in most of the cooler apple producing areas of the USA.

    Buy Frequin Rouge cider apple trees here
  • 4th Kingston Black

    See also Kingston Black

    Kingston Black is one of the best-known English cider varieties, producing a high quality bittersharp juice. Like Dabinett this apple is a dedicated hard-cider variety and not palatable for eating fresh.

    Kingston Black is more disease-prone and more difficult to grow than Dabinett, but if you are serious about making your own hard-cider it is an essential ingredient. The juice is complex and can be used to make a single-varietal cider, or blended with other varieties.

    Buy Kingston Black cider apple trees here
  • 5th GoldRush

    See also GoldRush

    GoldRush is a modern disease-resistant American apple, related to Golden Delicious. Unlike the other apples in this list, it is not a dedicated cider variety, and there are no bitter tannins here. On the contrary it is a highly-regarded apple for eating fresh, with a crisp dense texture and an excellent sweet / tart flavor.

    It is also easy to grow, and the apples keep well for several months. The only drawback is it needs a long growing season, so is best for growers in zones 5-8.

    Despites its mainstream background GoldRush is often used for American-style hard-cider because its juice has plenty of sugar and acid, and it can be used to make a single-varietal cider.

    Buy GoldRush apple trees here

Click here for a list of all our hard-cider apple varieties.