Thinning cider apples?

For those growing cider varieties for hard cider, are you thinning the crop at all or just using the smaller uglier apples. My instinct is not to thin, but this is the first year I may get a decent crop and I don’t want to ruin it.

Definitely maybe… (is complicated).

Fruit size: It is not the fact that an apple is small that imbues it with special cider qualities. Take table apples: they do better on the marketplace the larger they are. You can increase size that by overfeeding nitrogen to the tree which will give you prettier apples that are easier to sell but are of substandard quality and not the best for cider (watered down, lower brix, higher concentration of nitrogen). The ugliest smaller apples from the same tree will have the same characteristics.

The ugly & small = better for cider comes from two angles: One if you can’t retail it, you can juice it. So anything that is not pretty can end up as juice. Two, nitrogen deprived soils will produce smaller and uglier apples that have better hard cider qualities in respect to acidity, Brix, nitrogen, and other factors.

Then there is the consideration that you may send your tree into biennial bearing. I let my favorite tree prairie magic overproduce last year, this year it did not put out a single flower :’( You may want to prune just to avoid overstressing the tree.

Out of curiosity I looked up for studies on the effect of tinning and cider and found this one.

I’m about to read it. It probably contradicts half of what I just said :smiley:


Fascinating article - thanks for sharing don1357!

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Makes life easier!

Even Claude Jolicoeur would be impressed with this article! IBy reading, it appears as though thinning is a good idea far a few good reasons: First, it helps to prevent the tree(s) from becoming biennial-bearing–a no-brainer. Second, it increases the YAN concentration in the apples to allow for a faster and more complete fermentation.Whereas Jolicoeur recommends a slower fermentation of cider in his treatise–and the avoidance of nitrogen rich soils–the charts/grafts in this article shows to the contrary a very negligible increase in [primary] fermentation time. I think Jolicoeur would agree this is a negligible increase, and that the added YAN is more important. And finally, the thinning also causes an increase of the TA measured in the apples, which seems significant to me as well–especially when attempting to make something similar to that “Rutty Englishman” I enjoy! The article also states there is better flavor in the thinned apples, as I recall. So, to please Jolicoeur and follow his way of thinking, no need to add nitrogen and nutrients to the soil, you can increase the quality of the apples by simply thinning them.

I thinned some of my trees by hand, this year, which was a lot of work, but it seems to have improved the size and quality of my apples, and also made the application of spinosad spray for codling moth more effective. I thought I had thinned quite a bit, when I did it this spring, but it appears I missed a lot and next year I will be thinning much more. Can’t wait to grind and press some of those apples in a few weeks and see the difference in quality of the juice they make!! :yum:

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