Apple suggestions for hard cider

I have been contemplating adding another 2-3 trees to our backyard that are dedicated cider-making apples. I’m looking for suggestions from what’s available from Stark Bros given I’ve been pretty happy with I’ve purchased in the past. (if anybody also has suggestions for another grower I’m open to that as well). Also, we are in z5a so I need to take that into consideration. For those that have experience with cider making, what would you recommended for a well-rounded, interesting cider(s)? I have plenty of beer making experience so cider sounds like a good change of pace.

Ben Davis
Currently the cider apples available in Stark’s catalog as far I can tell are:
Cox’s Orange Pippen
Golden Russet
Orleans Antique


Here is a more comprehensive list. Most of the big cider makers are alot more focused on the crab apple varieties.

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Fedco trees have a good selection of apples, including cider varieties. They are in Maine, so should be compatible with your 5a zone.


I’d look into the European cider varieties, too. Many of them bloom in group 5 or 6, and so are the very latest to bloom. I think in the foothills of CO that might be a very useful trait, with the swings in weather I imagine you get. Some folks here have had issues with rots and diseases due to humidity, but this is might be less of a problem for you.

I had a bottle of Kingston Black still cider from Eve’s Cidery in NY. It is very good, and you can tell why Kingston Black is considered a vintage single-variety cider apple.

Cummins Nursery and Grandpa’s Orchard also have cider trees.

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The most often lacking part of a cider blend is the bitter component, most local and easily accessible apples will provide plenty of acid, so I would recommend looking for a bittersweet cider variety. Dabinette, Yarlington Mill are two of the most recommended bittersweet varieties from europe for my area, and enosed by Poverty Lane Orchard, producer of Farnum Hill ciders. I also like Hewe’s Virginia Crab, this comes with plenty of astringency, acid, and sugar which should be balanced out with milder sweet varieties like Honeygold, Ben Davis, Golden Russet.


I’ve sampled a number of different offerings from Eve’s Cidery, and I haven’t tasted one yet that wasn’t at least very good. I haven’t tried the Kingston Black, but their single-variety Northern Spy is excellent as well.


So I’m now looking at Fedco for scions and trees. I’m thinking I may go with Golden Russet, Dabinett, and GoldRush. Unfortunately Fedco only has GoldRush as a scion. So maybe Golden Russet and Dabinett trees on M111, and a Goldrush scion to be grafted to one or more of my existing trees. I only have room for so many trees…two more maybe just enough. Then again, it seems that many folks here practice the n+1 tree planting methodology :slight_smile: so the sky may be the limit.

If anybody has experience with Dabinett, I’d love to hear about it. It’s rated z5 so I’d be interested in hearing about any successes growing it in colder climate. If growing Dabinett is iffy where I live, I could always experiment with scions first.

Thanks for the advice. In a few years I’ll hopefully have some cider!

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I’m not sure how big your operation is, but one of the biggest obstacles for a home-gardener to producing cider from apples is that you need an apple press. Also, because apples need to be broken up before pressing, you also need an apple grinder (or in a pinch you can bust them up in a bucket using the end of a bat, but that would get tedious quickly). If you have access to this type of equipment then you are miles ahead of the game, but if you don’t then you can be looking at $500 to $1,000 for a decent apple grinder and apple press. That’s why I make hard cider from a retail kit that is based on apple juice concentrate, much like how most home brewers make beer from malt extract instead of from raw barley.

@Don3a has a good point, even the small “home” cider equipment is oversized for just a few trees. However you may want to try one of the centrifugal juicers (Jack LaLane, etc). They have the advantage of extracting more juice than the traditional apple press, and they do the grinding for you too. However they are slower, as in an apple at a time every 5 sec say. But for a small harvest it’s not that bad, maybe even quicker than the setup and cleanup on more traditional equipment.

I have used one for juice for a couple of years and it is great. But I never have made cider with it, so don’t know if their finer grind would interfere with cider.

I have Dabinett on G.222. It hasn’t fruited for me. For me, on that rootstock it is very slow growing. It is about 1/3 the size of Harry Master’s Jersey on G.202. Both G.222 and G.202 are supposed to be M26 size rootstocks. I definitely recommend something in the vigorous category for rootstock. I am still trying to figure out how to make that tree grow. I think I will give it a bunch of high N lawn fertilizer and maybe foliar feeding this year. I think it got CAR for me too. It tolerated the infection, but it probably didn’t help matters.

Your mileage may vary. I’d almost recommend something a little easier to grow. Stephen Hayes is a good source for some info. He is in Winchester UK though… so a very different climate than CO.

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Thanks for the heads up! I’m anxious now to try dabinett since it’s a highly regarded apple for cider from what I’ve read. Sorry you are having challenges with yours. I’ll look for an aggressive rootstock.

I’ve seen a lot of that dude’s videos on YouTube. He does a great job explaining his orchard.

@Don3a Youd be surprised of the resourcefulness of a home brewer :slight_smile: A good home brewer can make a radio out of a coconut without spending a dime.

Lol, OK, I’m glad you’e got the pressing part sorted out in advance! I was more naive and since it wasn’t worth my effort to build or buy an apple press and apple shredder, I tried to make home cider by simmering my backyard apples on the stove, in minimal water, to release the juice. Kept doing this until I had 5 imperial gallons (6 US gallons) of what would become my brew must. Added yeast and maybe some extra sugar (can’t recall, it was 20 years ago), and let it ferment in my basement. All was good until time to siphon it into the secondary. The apple solids instantly blocked the siphon hose. Wrapping the siphon hose in cheesecloth to try and filter things before reaching the siphon hose was an instant failure too. As was trying to strain the now smelly fermenting apple mess directly through cheesecloth. Admitting defeat, I lugged the 50 pounds or more of fermenting goo out of the house and dumped it into our backyard compost bins. Even though it was very late in the season, that sweet, smelly, fermenting failure attracted every wasp within 10 miles of our house. Thankfully it was late fall and colder temperatures and snow soon put an end to that entire episode.

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The pressing part in advance? I think I may be in trouble, lol. I have a tendency to wing-it, or solve problems as they come along. Looking by your experience, I may want to be a bit more prepared so as not to waste a batch of cider! I was looking around the web and there are a lot of diy apple press ideas.

The shredder on the other hand may be more of an effort to figure out than I realized. Juicers are expensive and slow. I’ve found videos of people use a cheap garbage disposal converted to crusher, but that method seems pretty inefficient as well. Maybe a cheap yard chipper could work (unused of course)? Or, I could just walk around Home depot for a few hours and come up with an inexpensive, non-toxic, solution to crushing apples.

I’ve made several mistakes home-brewing. I used apricot puree for a beer once and ended up in the situation you were in. I had so much puree that I couldn’t mange to siphon out the beer. Another time I decided to drop-hop a beer in the keg…everything ended up plugged with so many hops that I ended up wasting a lot of beer trying to free up the lines.

@foothillsgrower5a, if you’re decent at woodworking, this seems like a nice design:


I make crabapple wine in a similar manner:

Crabs in a pot, apple juice (not water, juice may be weaker from inferior apples but still has more sugar,aromatics, and malic acid than water) just to cover.

Heat carefully, stirring, to barely simmering…stir until crabs have cracked. Cool and add pectic enzyme for 12 hrs then sulfite for 24 hrs (you wont sulfite unless using wine yeast), add nutrient, tannin, or other additives, and pitch yeast

Near end of primary fermentation pour through a paint straining bag, pillowcase, etc to collect solids

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I heard that Cummins Nursery had a major order canceled so they have a lot of cider apple trees available. Prices are still pretty high though as most are on Geneva series root stock.