Is apple cider just apple juice?

Apple cider and apple juice are both made from apples, but there are some key differences between the two. While apple juice is made by simply pressing apples to extract the liquid, apple cider undergoes a more complex process before it makes its way into your glass. In this article, we’ll explore how apple cider and apple juice are made, how they differ in taste and nutrition, and when it’s best to use each one in recipes and for drinking.

How apple juice is made

The process for making apple juice is relatively simple. Apples are washed, chopped, mashed into a pulp, and then pressed to extract their liquid. The resulting juice is then filtered to remove solids and impurities, and packaged for consumption. No fermentation takes place during apple juice production.

Here are the basic steps for making apple juice:

  1. Apples are harvested and transported to a processing facility.
  2. The apples are thoroughly washed and scrubbed.
  3. The apples are cut or chopped into small pieces.
  4. The chopped apples are mashed and pressed to extract the juice.
  5. Enzymes may be added to maximize juice extraction.
  6. The juice is filtered to remove solids like apple skin and pulp.
  7. Additional filtration removes impurities and clarifies the juice.
  8. The clarified apple juice is packaged into bottles, cans, or cartons.
  9. The packaged juice is pasteurized to kill bacteria and extend shelf life.

This quick pressing method preserves the bright, sweet flavor and clear appearance of apple juice. Minimal processing helps it retain nutrients like vitamin C. The juicing process excludes substances that cause apple juice to darken or take on a brown hue over time.

How apple cider is made

Apple cider follows a more complex production process. Instead of simply pressing apples, cider production allows natural fermentation to occur, resulting in subtle alcohols and carbonation.

Here are the steps for making traditional apple cider:

  1. Apples are harvested and transported to the cider mill.
  2. The apples are washed, cut or chopped, and mashed into a pulp.
  3. The pulp is transferred to a wooden or steel pressing tray layered with straw or fabric.
  4. Layers of apple pulp are stacked in the tray and pressed to extract juice.
  5. The extracted juice flows into a holding tank or vat.
  6. The juice sits exposed to native yeasts that ferment sugars into alcohols.
  7. Fermentation occurs slowly, sometimes for weeks or months.
  8. When fermentation is complete, the cider liquid is racked into storage vessels.
  9. The cider may be bottled right away or aged for a time.
  10. For sparkling cider, a secondary fermentation creates carbonation.

This slower fermentation allows complex flavors to develop in apple cider. Natural sediment remains, resulting in a cloudy appearance. The alcohol content can range from less than 1% up to about 8%. Cider makers carefully monitor the fermentation process to achieve the desired character.

Nutrition comparison

Apple juice and apple cider have a similar nutrition profile. Both provide important nutrients and antioxidants from apples without the fiber content. Here’s a nutrition comparison of 8 ounces of each:

Nutrient Apple juice Apple cider
Calories 114 117
Total Carbs 28 g 29 g
Sugars 24 g 25 g
Protein 0 g 0 g
Vitamin C 3 mg 3 mg
Potassium 218 mg 235 mg

As you can see, the nutrient content is nearly identical. Both beverages provide a concentrated source of natural sugars, vitamin C, potassium, and other micronutrients from apples. Apple cider contains trace amounts of alcohol from the fermentation process, ranging from less than 1% up to about 8% alcohol by volume.

Taste and flavor differences

While their nutrition stats are very similar, apple juice and apple cider can differ quite a bit in taste and mouthfeel.

Apple juice tastes light, sweet, and crisp. It has a clear appearance from filtration and clarification during production. The flavor is reminiscent of fresh apple flesh. It’s smooth, thin, and refreshing.

Apple cider has a richer, more complex flavor. It often tastes fuller-bodied and earthier. The fermentation process results in deeper flavors and subtle alcoholic notes. Apple cider ranges from semi-clear to cloudy with fine sediment. The texture can seem a bit thicker than apple juice.

Here’s a simple taste comparison:

Attribute Apple juice Apple cider
Appearance Clear Cloudy or semi-clear
Flavor Sweet, crisp, apple flesh Richer, complex
Texture Thin, smooth Fuller body
Fermentation None Natural yeast fermentation
Alcohol content None 0.5-8% ABV

The differences come down to production method. Juicing results in a lighter, sweeter drink, while fermenting apples makes a richer, earthier beverage. Your tastes will determine whether you prefer apple juice or apple cider!

Health impacts

Since they come from the same fruit, apple juice and cider share many health benefits. However, there are a few key differences to consider:

  • Sugar content: There is slightly more sugar in apple cider. The fermentation process converts some starch to fermentable sugars.
  • Alcohol content: Apple cider contains a small amount of alcohol, ranging from less than 1% up to about 8% ABV.
  • Calorie content: The slight bump in sugars makes apple cider marginally higher in calories.
  • Nutrients: Apple juice and cider are nearly equal sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants like vitamin C.
  • Acidity level: Apple cider tends to be lower in acidity due to the fermentation process.

For most people, these small differences won’t have a significant health impact. However, people with diabetes or weight concerns may want to take the slightly higher sugars in cider into account. Overall, both beverages can be part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation.

When to choose apple juice vs. cider

So when should you opt for apple juice versus cider? Here are some guidelines on when each one makes the better choice:

Pick apple juice when you want:

  • A clear, light, and refreshing beverage
  • A crisp sweetness with no alcohol
  • To avoid sediment from fermentation
  • A drink for kids and those avoiding alcohol
  • A smooth texture and thin mouthfeel
  • A lighter complement for food recipes

Choose apple cider when you prefer:

  • A richer, more complex flavor
  • The subtle alcohol content
  • A fuller body and mouthfeel
  • A drink for adults to savor and sip
  • An earthier beverage with sediment
  • A bold complement for hearty recipes

For sipping alone, apple juice makes a refreshing thirst-quencher, while apple cider’s depth pairs nicely with colder weather. In recipes, juice adds sweetness without overpowering, while cider’s boldness can enhance hearty dishes. Consider the qualities you want to determine which one suits the occasion.

Storing and shelf life

Apple juice and cider also differ in how they should be stored and how long they last before going bad. Here’s a comparison:

Storage Factor Apple Juice Apple Cider
Refrigeration Not required before opening Recommended
Shelf life unopened 8-12 months 6-8 months for UV-treated cider
Shelf life opened 5-7 days 3-5 days

The higher acidity of apple juice allows it to keep a bit longer after opening. Fermented cider has a shorter unrefrigerated shelf life once exposed to air. For longest freshness, store both sealed in the refrigerator and finish within a week of opening.

Making your own at home

You can also make basic versions of apple juice and cider at home. Here’s a quick look at home juicing vs. home cider making:

DIY apple juicing:

  • Press or mash apples into pulp and strain out juice
  • Use a juicer appliance to simplify juicing
  • Drink juice right away or store in jars
  • Juice can also be canned for room temperature storage
  • No fermentation occurs

Home cider making:

  • Chop/mash apples and add to fermentation vessel with water
  • Allow to sit loosely covered for 1-6 weeks
  • The natural yeast ferments the cider slowly
  • Monitor until desired sweetness/alcohol is reached
  • Rack into an airtight container to stop fermentation
  • Refrigerate and drink within a week

Home juicing results in a quick, light drink, while home cider making requires patience but rewards you with a complex fermented beverage. Both allow you to customize flavors to your taste.

Commercial vs. homemade

Commercial Homemade
Apple juice
  • Filtered and clarified
  • Typically pasteurized
  • Bottled for long shelf life
  • May contain pulp/sediment
  • Not pasteurized
  • Best consumed immediately
Apple cider
  • Controlled fermentation
  • Consistent flavor
  • May be UV treated
  • Natural yeast fermentation
  • Flavor varies batch to batch
  • Not UV treated

Commercial production allows apple juice and cider to be bottled and distributed while maintaining quality and safety. Homemade versions offer freshness and customization, but must be consumed quickly before spoiling occurs.


While apple juice and apple cider originate from the same fruit, their production methods create key differences in taste, texture, uses, shelf life, and other factors. Juicing apples makes a deliciously sweet, smooth, and refreshing beverage. Fermenting apples results in a richer, more complex flavored cider.

Knowing how they compare allows you to decide when apple juice or cider best fits the occasion. Both offer health benefits and a flavor that shines alone or in recipes. Whether you prefer the lighter sweetness of apple juice or the deep, earthy notes of cider, you can’t go wrong when apples are involved!

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