Bottling FAQ, part of the Cider makers FAQ
A Summary of Options for A Small Producer
When it comes to bottling your cider, the choice is broadly as follows:
- If you want to keep the costs down and your demand is only likely to be for a drier style of cider, then it seems quite practical to either keep the product as draft and sell as required (in take-away bottles or boxes), and/or budget bottle yourself a still dry cider in a smaller quantity. If bottling by hand, be prepared to allocate plenty of time for larger quantities.
- For sweeter ciders, bottling in-house becomes more difficult because it is best practice to include pasteurising (to prevent secondary fermentation detonating your bottles), and this can become very time consuming and/or involves large capital outlay. It can be done but may be a false economy or consume more time than it’s worth for anything more than very small batches.
- If you do wish to produce a slightly sweeter cider (and maybe enjoy a broader audience), or create arguably a more professional product (and perhaps test out a potential market) or allow for higher quantities, then it could be prudent to try contract bottling. This could include filtration and would include pasteurising to arrest further fermentation (unless chemical sweeteners are used, a non-preferred practice) and will prolong shelf life. It would invariably involve a greater unit outlay (for the process), but should provide you with a more consistent product and absorb a considerably smaller investment of time and effort.
- If you are considering a filtered, carbonated and pasteurised cider, then this becomes either very difficult or involves a greater capital outlay to achieve in-house (particularly with larger batches) and in most cases would be more cost efficient and far less hassle to contract out. Indeed, for most contracting out would be the only practical solution for this product line.
- If you have very little interest in the process of cider making (and as such I am not too sure why you would be reading this), then you could have the whole process from fruit to a delivered fermented bottled drink done entirely for you. But for the consideration of this audience, you will miss out on all the fun and may as well just go to a wholesaler and buy any cider made by someone else, with considerably less risk.
These choices should be decided when you have made the best possible assessment of your market place and know what type of cider you will be able to sell (and how quickly you can sell it) - and may actually involve more than one of the options. It should also take into consideration what budget, what physical space and what available time you have.
If bottling in-house, it is worth remembering never to leave storage containers less than full for any period of time - that is to say avoid headroom like the plague as this can cause oxidisation and spoiling by yeasts and bacteria.