Cider Faults

This section describes common cider characteristics which are at least sometimes defined as faults; largely those on the left side of the BJCP Cider Scoresheet. Each character is described by name or definition, then by how it is perceived and if it is ever appropriate, and finally causes and sometimes controls are detailed. Perception is a description of the fault and the perceptual cues it triggers (flavor, aroma, mouthfeel, appearance, with specific characters given). Cause and control describes how the problem can be introduced, and sometimes a bit on how it might be addressed, or if there is no known way to fix the problem. Most faults have several possible causes, so judges should resist excessive speculation about how a particular problem was introduced.


How Perceived: Aroma and flavor of green apple, green apple candy, freshly cut grass, green leaves, or occasionally latex paint. At very high levels it may remind of banana or rotting citrus, at which point it indicates a serious problem.
Appropriateness:  Significant acetaldehyde is not appropriate, but there are many possible sources in cider of an appley aroma; judges need to be reasonably certain of what they are experiencing.
Cause/Control: Typically formed during normal fermentation but cleaned up later in the process, some other methods can cause significant levels. Very high levels may be indicative of Cider Sickness, caused by Zymomonas bacteria. In the presence of excess oxygen the last stage of alcoholic fermentation may actually reverse and ethanol may be oxidized back to acetaldehyde. One of many sources of an appley aroma in cider; many judges will need practice identifying which is which.


Acetic Acid

Vinegar. Also known as component of volatile acidity (VA). See Also: Ethyl Acetate

How Perceived: Sharp, harsh sourness, vinegary aroma and flavor. Often gives a burning feeling in the back of the throat when swallowed.
Appropriateness: Accepted in very low amounts in perry and higher amounts in Spanish and other sour ciders. Acetic is often considered a flavor positive at very low levels that becomes a fault when as soon as it is identifiable.
Cause/Control: Acetic acid is formed by Acetobacter, film yeast or Brettanomyces infection in the presence of oxygen. Yeast may form acetic acid from citric acid during fermentation. Perry can sometimes naturally have a very light degree of acetification which is unrelated to contamination. Vinegar is a natural progression of fermentation and often found in cider that is forgotten about and not protected from oxygen. Acetobacter may be present in the juice or borne in on contaminants like fruit flies. Due to citric acid content MLF in perry should be avoided to limit acetic character, and containers should be sealed and headspace minimized in cider/perry storage – lack of oxygen and presence of sulfites will retard acetobacter.



Low pH. High Total Acidity (TA).

How Perceived: Tart, sour (it is a basic taste sensation), often with an indication of tart sharpness in aroma, varying with what kinds of acids are present.
Appropriateness: Not itself a flaw, as every cider has some level of appropriate acidity, but must not be harsh, and must be in balance and of type and level appropriate for the style.
Cause/Control: Component of balance caused by acid additions, acid level in apple juice, adjunct fruit additions, or infection, whose impression will vary with the amount and type of other structure to balance. Perception of acidity can be lowered by increasing sweetness, blending with lower acid cider, lowering carbonation, increasing serving temperature, or reducing other components of structure such as tannin. Malolactic fermentation will decrease acidity, but depending on the conditions and organism performing MLF will add other flavors and aromas.



Ethanol and higher alcohols.

How Perceived: Hot, spicy, vinous aromas and flavors, warming or burning mouthfeel and aftertaste, sometimes an increased impression of sweetness. Adds structure to mouthfeel, and tends to both increase the perception of bitterness and decrease perception of astringency. Not to be confused with the burning at back of throat from vinegar.
Appropriateness: An important part of balance of every cider, it is only a fault if the level or kind of alcohol characters are not appropriate for the style. Every style will have some alcohol, though it can be difficult to detect in dry cider below 6% ABV, or a bit higher alcohol cider featuring some residual sugar. Judges should not approach the mere presence of alcohol as a flaw. The amount must be in balance and appropriate for the style, never harsh.
Cause/Control: Too warm a fermentation, insufficient aging and conditioning, or an unhealthy fermentation may all give the wrong alcohol impression by favoring solvent character which is never appropriate in cider. Expect greater alcohol content in New England Cider, Ice Cider, and especially Applewine, with greater warming in the palate, throat, and stomach as alcohol content increases. If high sugar apples were used that cause alcohol content to be greater than normal for the style, the entrant should include such information with their entry. Judges must remember that these are guidelines, not laws, with significant variation among styles allowable.



Chemicals in the cider above taste threshold levels, presence of undesirable chemical substances.

How Perceived: Chemical, vitamin, nutrient flavors, occasionally in aroma as well.
Appropriateness: None.
Cause/Control: If an apple juice concentrate was used, could include problems in the water, though most cider will not involve added water. Excessive nutrient use resulting in residual nutrients in the cider, poorly-rinsed cleaning and/or sanitizing agents, and artificial flavorings may all add a chemical character. Check glassware for soap or rinse agents if glasses are to be used in evaluation.


Cider Sickness

Infection by Zymomonas bacteria; “Framboise” in France.

How Perceived: Characterized by large amounts of the flavor and aroma of acetaldehyde, presenting as rotten lemon or banana peel. It also produces hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, and ethanol as yeast do. Infected cider is often extremely hazy, even turbid, and almost milky in appearance. Infection can proceed quite quickly. Can occur in Perry or Beer as well.
Appropriateness: None.
Cause/Control: Zymomonas mobilis is anaerobic, occurs in apples and other sugary plant saps such as sugar cane or date palm, consumes sugar like yeast, and thus does not act upon dry cider. The French name “Framboise” comes from a perceived aroma of raspberries. It is inhibited by high amounts of acidity, but not by sulfite or by alcohol levels typical in cider. Any sulfite added will by bound to the acetaldehyde and thus is not available to kill microbes. Temperatures below 50F and lowering pH by addition of malic acid can retard further growth, and will be avoided in the first place with elevated acid and fermentation that proceeds completely to dryness. Though fairly uncommonly in North American homemade cider, it can occur if store-bought juice of low acidity was used and fermentation stopped prematurely or significant back-sweetening performed without adequate stabilization. Occasionally seen in incompletely pasteurized fresh orchard juice held at elevated temperatures. As Zymomonas consumes sugar and produces carbon dioxide, cider sickness in the bottle can create bottle bombs. Though there is no fix in the bottle, if discovered in conditioning a subsequent refermentation to dryness may remove the worst of the acetaldehyde.


Cloudy / Haze

Lack of brilliant clarity in finished cider, obscured with visible particles (of any source).

How Perceived: Hazy appearance, obscuring particulates, floating flakes (floaties), lack of clarity. Some degree of turbidity when the cider is viewed in the glass. Depending on the type of haze it might be accompanied by off-flavors and aromas associated with suspended yeast or bacterial or wild yeast contamination, or in mouthfeel.
Appropriateness: Perry is notoriously difficult to clear and thus some haze is not a fault. In other styles, the amount and kind of haze will determine how big a flaw it is. No cider should be murky or turbid, while the descriptors clear, bright, and brilliant are at the other end of the spectrum.
Cause/Control: Yeast remaining in suspension, unfermented fruit, suspended spices, clarifiers not working completely, recent back sweetening with fresh juice, and pectin haze may all result in lack of clarity. Often occurs with bacterial or wild yeast contamination. Cidermakers may add pectic enzyme to juice before fermentation begins or let crushed fruit stand before pressing to reduce pectin levels, and should avoiding boiling juice which will set pectin. Time will clarify most cider, and clarifying agents or mechanical filtration may be used if one does not have sufficient time to wait.



Excessive sweetness unbalanced by acidity. Sometimes known as “flabby”.

How Perceived: Overly sweet, syrupy flavor. Heavy body, tongue-coating mouthfeel. Lack of acidity or tannin in flavor. In the case of “flabby”, this is more about the lack of acidity rather than sweetness necessarily being extremely high – i.e. a dry wine may be flabby without much residual sugar.
Appropriateness: None.
Cause/Control: Incomplete fermentation is rare with normal gravity ciders and perries that are made of nearly 100% fermentable sugar, thus excessive back-sweetening and use of a fruit blend without enough structure in the form of acidity and tannin are far more likely to blame. A one-note flavor may seem cloying at a lower sweetness than a complex flavor and judges should expect some variation in opinion at the judging table as to where “sweet” ends and where “cloying” begins. Typically controlled by use of increased amounts of acidic fruit or post-fermentation adjustment or blending, cloying cider is difficult to fix once in the bottle. Colder serving temperatures and increased carbonation may provide some improvement to balance.



Butter or butterscotch aroma/flavor.

How Perceived: Buttery, butterscotch or toffee aroma and flavor, slickness or oily mouth. Tongue-coating texture in mouthfeel.
Appropriateness: Low levels are acceptable (see below).
Cause/Control: Diacetyl is part of every fermentation, however the amount must not be excessive. Sweeter ciders may cover diacetyl, and warmer serving temperature and increased carbonation may make it more noticeable. Besides normal fermentation, diacetyl is sometimes a product of bacterial infection, and is known to occur during malolactic fermentation. Often controlled by simply choosing a yeast strain that produces lower amounts.


Ethyl Acetate

Nail Polish Remover. Component of Volatile Acidity (VA). See Also: Acetic Acid

How Perceived: Flavor and Aroma, at low levels vague, indistinct fruitiness, often becoming similar to pear drops at moderate levels. As such, can be quite welcome or pleasant. At high levels gives a sour, distinct nail polish remover solvent character.
Appropriateness: Never appropriate at high levels.

Ethyl Acetate is an intermediate byproduct of normal alcoholic fermentation that should normally be cleaned up by the yeast later, or could be created during an infection by Zymomonas bacteria. Finally, it can also be formed from an esterification reaction between Acetic Acid and Ethanol, in which case it can serve as a warning sign of increasing acetification of a cider so that the cidermaker may act before it becomes too vinegar-like or solventy.

Low levels can be quite pleasant, adding complexity in the form of delicate, indistinct fruitiness or slight pear character. Higher levels – anything giving a solvent character or reminiscent of nail polish remover – are a serious fault.



Manure-like (cow or pig) or barnyard (horse stall on a warm day).

How Perceived: Aroma of manure or barnyard, sometimes described as horse blanket, leathery, or old horse. Flavor of burlap or leather, earthy or manure-like.
Appropriateness: Appropriate at low levels in English and French ciders experiencing MLF, but should not dominate.
Cause/Control: At high levels generally indicative of an undesirable bacterial or Brettanomyces infection, however at lower levels may include desirable flavors and aromas from malolactic fermentation. A wide range of flavor and aroma may result, with some overlap between desirable malolactic fermentation and undesirable Brettanomyces infection. Hints of old horse may be OK, while an overt pig manure or sewage character is not. Significant amounts of barnyard character without spicy or smoky phenols generally indicates a Brettanomyces infection. Sulfiting can inhibit both Brett and lactic acid bacteria, as can keeping cider at low pH (below 3.8) and low temperature (below 60F). Once present in high quantities there is really no fix other than blending to palatable levels.


Film Yeast

Contamination by film-producing wild yeasts.

How Perceived: White spots or a papery white film on the surface of conditioning vessels or bottles. When stirred into the cider the film can appear as flakes of suspended material. If left unchecked it can create strong solventy ethyl acetate aroma, as well as breaking down alcohol and making the cider seem dull, insipid or musty.
Appropriateness: Not appropriate, but may not be noticeable or may even be considered positive until at moderate levels.
Cause/Control: Infection by wild yeasts, typically Mycoderma vini or Candida mycoderma. These yeasts are aerobic; oxygen access is necessary for growth. Very small amounts of the solvent characters created are generally flavor positive, but become a major fault at higher levels. If found in time the cider may be racked away from the film, sulfited, and kept from oxygen and at cool temperatures to stop further growth.



Flower-like volatile aromatics.

How Perceived: Flower blossom, perfume-like aroma and flavor.
Appropriateness: Very often appropriate; depends on the source and the style.
Cause/Control: Occurs largely due to choice of yeast strain, fruit/juice choice, and floral characters from spices, honey, or other fruits used. Some apples are very floral. Among the most common floral characters is the pleasant rose-like floral of phenethyl alcohol, which can be both found in apples and created from amino acids by yeast.



Estery, reminiscent of any number of fruits.

How Perceived: Fruity aroma or flavor (may include apple, banana, pear, grape, strawberry, citrus, melon, or others). Individual fruity notes may not be appropriate in all cider styles.
Appropriateness: Some level of fruitiness is appropriate in all cider, though in the case of cider that has experienced MLF it may be nothing like the original apple character.

Esters are a significant portion of the character added by yeast, and vary enormously by yeast strain in variety and level created. Some fruitiness is to be expected in a fermentation of fruit; as an example ethyl-2-methyl butyrate forms the bulk of the positive apple character you’ll encounter in cider and is present in both raw apples and fermented cider, giving a “fresh” character. Other fruity characters will be formed in fermentation: 2-methyl 4-pentyl 1,3-dioxane gives a “cidery” aroma while the fusel ester isoamyl acetate is recognized by most judges as banana.

Both fruit and fermentation will each contribute myriad other fruity characters in significantly varying levels. Choice of juice/apple cultivar blend will make an enormous difference in quantity and variety of fruity character, but even when dealing with identical cultivars fruit one should expect significant differences based on orchard treatment, location, and weather. Malolactic fermentation tends to reduce overt fruitiness. High fermentation temperature, yeast strain, and a weak or nutrient-deprived fermentation may all affect levels. Some spices such as coriander have a fruity character. When evaluating entries in the C2B Cider with Other Fruits style, the added fruits should not completely dominate the cider character. Mere presence of esters is not a flaw, however fermentation aromatics should not dominate a cider.


Geranium Taint

Geranium leaf character from interaction of Lactic Acid Bacteria with sorbate.

How Perceived: Harsh, unpleasant leafy, musky aroma and flavor reminiscent of geranium leaves.  Some liken it to kerosene.
Appropriateness: None.
Cause/Control: Caused by Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) fermentation in the presence of sorbates, creating ethoxy hexadiene, which judges usually find very memorable once identified.  If sorbates have been added, sulfites should also be added if the cider may undergo malolactic fermentation – i.e. if there is residual sugar, remaining malic acid, lack of acidity, or temperature high enough to allow malolactic fermentation.  Once formed, there is no fix.


Hydrogen Sulfide

How Perceived: Rotten egg, hot springs, sometimes sewage, in flavor and especially aroma.
Appropriateness: High levels are not appropriate.

H2S is a normal byproduct of fermentation by yeast formed by reduction of sulfur compounds during amino acid synthesis or their subsequent breakdown. In very low amounts it can be pleasant or add complexity.  Could indicate Zymonomas if accompanied by significant acetaldehyde and in a low acid, sweet cider.   A great deal of the sulfide produced in fermentation blows off with carbon dioxide, however an excess will create a highly stinky cider. Excess time on the lees, especially at elevated temperatures, can liberate sulfur compounds during autolysis.

As hydrogen sulfide is a natural part of fermentation and quite volatile, low levels would not be considered a major fault and judges should give it a chance to dissipate. Sometimes after the aeration of a few swirls and taking 30 seconds to describe the Appearance, a judge may find the previous slight sulfide no longer noticeable.

Insufficient nutrients during fermentation is the most well-known source of an H2S character; in such cases simply choosing a less needy strain can reduce sulfide.  Nitrogen is the most commonly needed nutrient, however fermentation of apples and pears may also have insufficient levels of the vitamins pantothenate, thiamin, pyridoxine or biotin.  Note nutrient needs are not constant for a given yeast; a low temperature, slow fermentation will require generally fewer nutrients than a fast, higher temperature fermentation.  Cidermakers may have to experiment to find the combination of yeast, temperature, and nutrient level that creates the kind of cider they are looking for.  High temperature fast fermentation may blow off volatiles and reduce complexity, while a low nutrient fermentation at reduced temperatures may take several months to complete.

It would be easy and certainly handy as a judge to be able to say “moderate sulfide aroma, increase nutrients next time” however this is not really feasible.  There is more than one source for H2S and dozens of other sulfur compounds are created during fermentation and aging, many with similar aromatics but different means of reduction.

“Splashy racking” and treatment with copper are often recommended for hydrogen sulfide.  In the case of the former, sulfur dioxide (sulfite) added to the cider protects the beverage from oxidation while the volatile sulfide is driven out by intentionally splashing the cider during racking, just as happens during fermentation.   If insufficiently sulfited, oxidation of other sulfur compounds may actually bring the sulfide aroma back later.   Bubbling carbon dioxide through a keg of cider may avoid some of the oxidation concerns.

Copper sulfate treatment can treat sulfide at the expense of other aromatics, and can be seen in a sample when a copper penny (pre-1982 in the USA) added to the cider results in reduced sulfide aroma, however copper cannot treat all sulfur compounds such as disulfides or DMS. For this reason and others mentioned above judges will be well-served to recommend entrants perform tests to determine what is actually in their cider rather than recommend a treatment that may not be effective for the specific problem at hand.



Containing metallic ions, especially iron or copper.

How Perceived: Flavor of iron, copper, coins, or blood. Cider may turn green (contact with copper or brass) or greenish-black (contact with iron).
Appropriateness: None.
Cause/Control: Contact with metal is never good; even with copper treatments to address excess hydrogen sulfide one should expect deleterious effects on their fruit characteristics. Excessive nutrient additives, corroded equipment, or equipment not properly cleaned and rinsed may present as metallic.  Make sure equipment is food grade plastic or stainless steel, and in the latter case properly passivated.


Moldy / Musty

A wide range of mold-like characters.

How Perceived: Stale, moldy, musty, cellar-like, earthy, or compost-like. Wet soil after rain, wet dog. Wet cardboard and old rag flavors and aromas.
Appropriateness: None.
Cause/Control: Depending on the character may indicate mold growth or rotting fruit was used, oxidation, bacterial infection, or could be Cork Taint in the form of 2,4,6-tribromoanisole (TCA).  Fruit should be examined and juice tasted prior to fermentation, rotting fruit discarded, and storage in moldy barrels and damp ground contact avoided.  Artificial corks will help if the problem is TCA; however, once present there is no fix.



Distinctive musky flavor reminiscent of a rodent’s den.

How Perceived: Flavor reminiscent of rodent cage, sometimes perceived as wet rodent fur, bread-like, (unbuttered) popcorn or Cheerio.  Usually builds in strength on palate, and very often will not be immediately noticeable – salts must be broken down in the mouth and become volatile.  Ability to detect mouse varies significantly by person as well as the pH of the judge’s palate at that given moment.  An alkaline (baking soda) mouth rinse may increase the pH of the palate and allow detection of mouse that was not noticeable to a more acidic palate.  Without treating the actual cider, which judges will not do, there should be no associated aroma. Some believe that at high levels and with low acid cider there may be an aromatic but judges should expect to perceive mouse only in flavor.
Appropriateness: None.
Cause/Control: Infection by certain species of Brettanomyces or Lactobacillus, whether intended or not.  It is slowly becoming more apparent which organisms, under which conditions, will produce positive and negative malolactic fermentation characteristics, however MLF is still incompletely understood.  Controlled with adequate sulfite levels for cider pH, particularly during conditioning, to prevent secondary fermentation. Moderately high pH cider will need significantly higher sulfite levels, and at very high pH no drinkable amount of sulfite will help.  If discovered at low levels in conditioning cider, sulfiting, holding at low temperature, and keeping below pH 3.5 may slow or stop further production of mousiness, however once present there is no known fix for mouse.


Oily / Ropy

A sheen in visual appearance, as an unpleasant viscous character proceeding to a slimy character.

How Perceived: Visual and Mouthfeel. Appearance of increased viscosity or “oiliness” as cider is poured and sits in the glass. Shiny surface texture. Unpleasant slimy character in mouthfeel.
Appropriateness: None.
Cause/Control: Caused by infection by certain species of Lactobacillus, this can be controlled with proper pH and sulfite levels for juice pH, particularly during conditioning.  Can also occur in sour ciders. If the oily structure is broken up and the batch sulfited the condition may be stopped in conditioning/storage; ropiness needs to be treated in advance of bottling as there is no treatment for it later.



The chemical oxidation of stored cider in contact with air or containing high levels of dissolved oxygen.

How Perceived: Stale, dull aroma and flavor, sometimes perceived as sherry, caramel, leather, nutty, or  bruised or dried fruit, possibly with an increased bitterness level or with color changes, typically in the golden brown to orange range.  May show up as a graying edge to the color in the glass. “Papery” is sometimes mentioned with beer and mead but if experienced with cider it could be due to off flavors related to a filter pad or moldy cork.
Appropriateness: Depends on style, level, and specific character of oxidation.
Cause/Control: An enormous class of characters too numerous to detail completely and too complex to generalize as always negative.  Some obvious oxidation characters are a major flaw. Beyond this amount of oxidation is really a matter of personal preference, appropriateness for style, and how it fits with the balance.  Oxidation of juice during crush and press is necessary for aroma and flavor development.  Micro-oxidation in the bottle is another huge component of flavor development.  In general, however, contact with air is the enemy of making good cider, including excess head space after primary fermentation, oxygen permeable storage, and careless racking.  Use of antioxidants such as ascorbic acid and sulfites can limit negative oxidation effects.



A large group of organic chemicals often having plastic, medicinal or tar-like aromatics.

How Perceived: Spicy, herbal, smoky, plastic, Band-Aid, mouthwash, medicinal, clove, pepper or vanilla aroma and flavor.
Appropriateness:  Appropriate in ciders that have undergone MLF but must not dominate.
Cause/Control: May indicate wild yeast infection, or simply be ethyl phenol (Band-Aid, medicinal), ethyl catechol (barnyard, old horse), ethyl guaiacol (smoky ham, clove) malolactic fermentation phenolics welcome in French and English style ciders.  Fruit and spice additions can be a source, as can wood-aging (vanilla) or poorly rinsed cleansers or sanitizers.  A judge’s review will largely focus on whether said characters are appropriate and their levels/intensity in balance with other cider characteristics in the style being judged.  Phenolics should add interest, not completely dominate the cider.



Fusel alcohols, ethyl acetate.

How Perceived: Hot burning on palate, harsh finish and aftertaste. More harsh on the palate than ethanol or esters. Headaches are commonly noted soon after consumption of some fusels. Nail polish remover or cleaning solvent flavor and especially aroma.
Appropriateness: None.
Cause/Control: Includes many causes including high fermentation temperatures, stressed fermentation with insufficient nitrogen, very low yeast counts, high gravity, lack of one of several trace vitamins, or from wild yeast infection.


Spicy / Smoky

Spice, cloves, smoky, ham.

How Perceived: Aromas and flavors described as spicy, gingery, peppery, clove-like, smoky, bacon or ham.
Appropriateness: Appropriate in cider that has undergone MLF, but must not dominate.
Cause/Control: Wild yeast, Brettanomyces infection, or MLF from lactic acid bacteria whether desired or undesired.  Very often present in English or French style cider or C2 Specialty Ciders with an English, French, or Spanish base, but out of place and generally a flaw in other styles.  Very minor spiciness from wood-aging would not be a flaw, however it must remain low unless entered and declared in the appropriate C2 Specialty Cider and Perry style.



A large class of aromatic characteristics that may vary from minor component of aroma to serious flaw dominating the cider.  Most are due to sulfides or mercaptans. See also, Hydrogen Sulfide, Sulfur Dioxide.

How Perceived:

Flavor and especially Aroma.  Some of the more common sulfur compounds are:

  • Hydrogen Sulfide: Presents as rotten egg or sewage
  • Dimethyl Sulfide: Presents as cooked corn or vegetal.
  • Methanethiol: Presents as garbage or stagnant water in a clogged drain
  • Sulfur Dioxide: Will give a burnt match character; at high level may irritate the nose
  • Dimethyl Disulfide: Seems most similar to cabbage or rubber.
  • Ethyl Mercaptan: The familiar additive to natural gas that gives a strong odor many identify as skunk, onion, or garlic.
Appropriateness: High levels are not appropriate; some become inappropriate/offensive at much lower levels than others. Detection thresholds may also vary significantly among judges.

Sulfur is a major part of fermentation and its mere presence isn’t necessarily a fault – think of the pungent nature added to many tropical fruits by their hint of sulfur – but high levels of stinky reduced sulfur compounds can ruin enjoyment of any delicate cider.

These sulfur compounds are often changing even while in the bottle; attempting to fix them isn’t really feasible at the competition level as judges have no way of testing what exactly is present.  Thus as judges it isn’t really important that you identify which exact compounds are present in a competition entry, but rather to inform the entrant what flavor/aroma is there, at what level, and how it affects the other flavors/aromas, balance, and overall experience.

Hydrogen sulfide is produced naturally during fermentation and may then be reduced to the other sulfur compounds mentioned above (and many others).  If the detection threshold of the new chemical is significantly higher than that of H2S, the previous “rotten egg stink” may seem like it has disappeared.  Note that these are largely reversible reactions, thus an aroma that has been reduced into another less undesirable character could actually return if oxidized back into its original form.  Many sulfury compounds are from excessive time on the lees; in these cases a yeasty aroma is often present as well.


Sulfur Dioxide

Sulfites added for stability or as an antioxidant.

How Perceived: Acrid, burning match aroma and flavor, may present as somewhat soapy in flavor. Generally unpleasant, may cause a slight burning or irritation in the nose.
Appropriateness: High levels are inappropriate.
Cause/Control: Most cider does not have the higher alcohol of grape wine, and thus alcohol often does not protect a cider from contamination adequately.  Sulfur dioxide is both an antioxidant and lethal to many microorganisms that could otherwise infect a cider.  The amount of sulfite necessary to protect a batch of cider is highly dependent on pH; no drinkable level of sulfites can protect a very high pH.  Overt burnt match aroma is caused by excessive or very recent sulfite additions.  Decreasing pH may allow a lower, less noticeable amount of sulfites to be used; the entrant will have to decide if this is worth the effect on balance and possible need for further adjustments.  Very minor levels are an expected part of cider but this character must not become obtrusive.  Noticeable sulfite levels usually reduce with time in conditioning or the bottle.



Basic taste associated with sugars in fruit juice or adjuncts such as sugar or honey.

How Perceived: Sugary or honey-like flavor and aroma.  Too much sweetness is referred to as a syrupy or cloying quality. Must be in balance if present.
Appropriateness: Important part of balance; even dry cider may have the tiniest bit of sweetness.
Cause/Control: Most yeasts will have enough alcohol tolerance to fully ferment the gravity of apple juice and attenuation is not a concern when apple juice sugars are nearly 100% fermentable.  Sweetness is a matter of balance; if a cider is excessively sweet generally this means it was back-sweetened excessively for the amount of amount of alcohol, acid, and tannin in the cider.  Occasionally excessive sweetness could occur if a batch was keeved or fermentation otherwise stopped prematurely. Using a juice blend with higher acids and/or tannins may improve this balance, and carbonation or colder serving temperatures may slightly increase drinkability of excessively sweet cider.  New England Cider should have an adjunct character that may include brown sugar, limited amounts of honey, molasses, maple syrup, or other sugar sources such as raisins.  Several apple cultivars have honey-like aromas.  Honey character may otherwise be actual honey, or could indicate oxidation, or even reaction between phenethyl alcohol and acetic acid in which case a rose-like floral character may also be noted.



Polyphenolic. A variety of astringent, bitter plant polyphenols that either bind and precipitate or shrink proteins.

How Perceived: Astringent, mouth-puckering mouthfeel, sometimes with lingering harshness, grape skin or “boiled tea” character, increased bitterness, drier finish. Includes added ingredient characters sometimes described as “woody,” or “oaky.”  Tannins themselves do not have an aroma though certain tannic things like oak certainly have associated aromas.
Appropriateness: Appropriate at some level in every style.  Tannin type, tannin intensity, and resulting balance determine if appropriate for individual styles.
Cause/Control: Caused by choice of apple or pear cultivar, addition of oak, tea, bitter or astringent herbs/spices, or tannic fruits used in the cider.  A matter of balance; high levels of acid may demand lower tannins or vice versa.  Over time tannins tend to polymerize into larger forms, becoming less bitter and more astringent, and falling out of solution and thus becoming less tannic overall – for this reason an excessively tannic beverage may improve with age.  Spice or Other Fruit tannins must be appropriate for those ingredients.  Powdered wine tannin may present difficulty in getting it evenly blended into a cider, and also has a fairly distinctive bitterness and often harshness when used to make very late adjustments to cider – entrants should be judicious with the use of such products.



Lacking in body. Generally a negative, compared with the neutral adjective “light”.

How Perceived: Thin palate, mouthfeel, and finish. Watery palate impression and body. Insipid character.
Appropriateness: Appropriateness in cider is a matter of degree. No style should be extremely thin or truly watery. Dry cider will naturally be thinner in body than sweet.
Cause/Control: Attenuation isn’t really an issue with a beverage composed of nearly 100% fermentable sugars, thus this is usually a lack of structure, excessive fining or filtration, or simply a boring, one-note apple/juice blend.  Very warm, aggressive fermentation can add to this impression by blowing off delicate volatiles.  Greater alcohol, acid, and especially tannin can help add body to such a cider.  Sweetening such a cider may add interest but the cider should not seem raw or unfermented.  Malic acid cuts viscosity, thus excessive use may make a cider seem thin.



Smell or taste of plants or green vegetables.

How Perceived: Cooked, canned or rotten vegetable (cabbage, celery, onion, asparagus, parsnip) aroma and flavor.
Appropriateness: Never appropriate at high levels.
Cause/Control: May indicate bacterial infection or simply be residual hydrogen sulfide that has been reduced into other stinky compounds.  Cidermakers should look to minimize or preferably eliminate rotten fruit in their blend and maintain a healthy, happy yeast population during fermentation, without excessive time on the lees upon completion.



Bread-like or yeast-like character.

How Perceived: Bready, sulfury, yeast-like aroma and flavor.  Mild amounts can be pleasant, but will generally interfere with a “clean” impression.
Appropriateness: Inappropriate at high levels.
Cause/Control: Generally indicates yeast in suspension, autolysis, or excessive aging on lees.  Affected by flocculation tendency and flavor characteristics of strain, lack of proper aging to allow time to settle, or lack of timely transferring off yeast upon completion of fermentation.  Strong yeasty flavor and aroma with excessive carbonation may indicate primary fermentation was not finished and has continued in the bottle.