Evaluating Apple Varieties for Hard Cider Production

This project addresses the BIOAg priority of innovation and diversification by supporting the formation of a hard cider industry in the Pacific Northwest. The project includes a comparison of juice of more than 50 hard cider apple varieties grown in the region, a comparison of select varieties grown in five regional orchards to better understand if there is regional variation in juice quality, an evaluation of four ciders made from varieties selected based on juice characteristics, and the formation of a cider sensory evaluation panel comprised of regional cider experts. The project goal is to increase knowledge about characteristics of cider apple juice and hard cider, to support the production and quality of hard cider, a high value apple product that can be processed and marketed year-round. Hard cider production can improve the economic sustainability of growers’ orchards and provide local employment opportunities beyond the harvest season, promoting greater sustainability in the rural community as a whole. Washington State is poised to become the leader in hard cider research and production in the U.S., and WSU Mount Vernon NWREC has one of the most active hard cider programs in the country. Hard cider is well suited to small-scale artisanal producers in western Washington who rely on local markets, as well as large-scale wholesale producers in eastern Washington who rely on mass production and export. Additionally, hard cider apple production is well suited to western Washington where environment-induced disease such as scab otherwise limits apple production. This project will provide a foundation for an expanding Washington hard cider industry.

Grant Information

  • Project ID: 096
  • Project Status: Complete




1. Miles, C, D. Bauermeister, A. Zimmerman, J. Roozen, and J. King. 2012. Hard Cider Project Summary 2012.
2. King, J., G.A. Moulton, and C. Miles. 2012. Cider Apple Bloom Data 2000 – 2012.
3. Hoffman, B., T. Thornton, and C. Miles. 2013. Propagating Dessert and Cider Apples with Chip Bud Grafting.

Additional Funds Leveraged

WA State Dept. of Agriculture $ 74,990
Northwest Agricultural Research Foundation $ 3,480
Northwest Cider Association $ 1,600
WSU CSANR BIOAg $ 10,000
WA State Dept. of Agriculture (pending) $ 340,000

Peck, G., C. Miles, T. Bradshaw, D. Conner, G. Ferreira, S. Galinato, A. Neilson, N. Rothwell, A. Stewart, and P. Tozer. 2014. CIDER: Creating InterDisciplinary Extension and Research programs to redevelop the North American hard cider industry. NIFA SCRI $50,000.


Short-Term: We will continue to make 3-5 ciders each season and evaluate them through a trained sensory panel. This will add to the information on cider variety characteristics which will assist cider makers in deciding on potential apple varieties to use in cider production, and aid orchardists in evaluating the potential for growing and marketing cider fruit. Trials of a mechanical harvester for picking cider apples will be extended and training systems tested that can facilitate machine harvest.

Intermediate-Term: Growers will view the increased potential for producing cider apples in high demand for the specialty cider market and the economic potential of mechanical pickers such as raspberry harvesters in reducing harvest costs.

Long-Term: Improvements in the economic status of cider orchards, including planting of those varieties most in demand, and adaptation of mechanical harvest options, will increase the economic viability and sustainability of orchardists throughout the region. Cider production can provide a high-value use for cull dessert apples as well, when combined with selected specialty cider varieties. By 2025 there will be at least 30 cideries
in the region.