How Long to Bottle Condition Cider: Your Guide

The history of cider is an interesting one to say the least. What began as a happy accident soon became a form of currency and eventually developed into a favorite holiday drink across the western world.

When brewing cider, a decision must be made – sparkling or still – and if you choose sparkling, bottle conditioning must commence.

Then the question becomes how long to bottle condition cider.

Cider: The Beginning

Mass cultivation of apples began, it is thought, around 1300 BC, in Egypt. The pharaoh at the time, Ramses, was expanding the growth of apple orchards, and the crop paid off in spades.

Like with grapes and wine, it was not long before the Egyptian people discovered that fermented apples provided myriad benefits.

First, they delivered a nice buzz. Second, they preserved this now alcoholic beverage. And third, they offered a safe drinking alternative to potentially contaminated water.

Apple cider is one of the easier fermented beverages.

And when growers would have apples they couldn’t put out to market for whatever reason, they could turn it into a beverage.

In the early days, cider making was a simple process.

First, you would grow and harvest the apples of your choice. In ancient times, crab apples grew wild on trees and were the primary ones used for cider. Today, crab apples are considered too astringent and bitter for cider. They have more tannins than other domesticated apples, and now people expect their cider to be more on the sweet side.

Then, the apples must be crushed and pressed so all the juices are pushed out of the fruit.

Unlike with beer, where the grain must be boiled and steeped in water, you can extract the juice directly from the apples, so you don’t need to add water.

At this point in the process, you can of course add any extra ingredients you like. In fact, you don’t have to use apples at all. Many cider makers prefer working with pears. They tend to ripen to a softer degree and give off more juice.

You can also blend various apple varieties or apples with pears. Some brewers like to add oranges and other spices to add complexities of flavor and aroma.

Once you’ve decided on all of your ingredients, it is time for the yeast.

Yeast in Cider

Yeast plays an integral role in all alcoholic beverages, and no less so in cider.

Test Your Yeast


It is a single celled, eukaryotic living organism that can reproduce both sexually and asexually. Yeast has one job, the same job it has had since the beginning of time, to find sugar and consume it.

Early wine makers and brewers of cider and beer discovered the wonders of yeast accidentally when they left their ripe fruit or wet grain out and the result was a slightly alcoholic beverage that added nutrition to their diets.

Though they had no idea what yeast was, yeast has always been the critical element to all the amazing fermented beverages we have made.

During fermentation, when yeast consumes sugar, it converts it to alcohol and carbon dioxide, along with hundreds of other micronutrients. The end result is an alcoholic beverage that is slightly fizzy at first. But the longer a drink is left sitting, the more the carbon dioxide will dissipate, and most beverages are then left still, like wine. When bottled, some of that carbon dioxide will remain, like in beer.

With cider, it can go either way.

Still or Sparkling Cider

For hundreds of years, cider would have been slightly alcoholic and slightly fizzy.

Brewers would have had to find a way to keep the drink in barrels or casks without exposure to air, because it is the air that removes the carbon dioxide.

Today, brewers can keep cider in pressurized containers to maintain the original carbonation.

Or, they can bottle condition the cider.

Bottle Conditioning

One amazing discovery brewers made with beer, wine, cider, and even kombucha, is to bottle condition the drink to ensure the desired amount of carbonation.

To bottle condition, you allow the fermentation process to take place naturally.

In many cases, you will also allow for secondary fermentation, which is when brewers or winemakers will “rack” the beverage, removing it from its original fermentation vessel and transferring it to a new, sanitized container. During this secondary fermentation, which takes about two weeks, all the remaining yeast in the beverage will consume all the last sugars. It will also consume all the esters and compounds in the liquid that could potentially cause off flavors in the drink.

After secondary fermentation, brewers may decide to age the cider further. Some brewers will age cider for up to a year. Over this aging period, acids in the cider mellow, disjointed flavors come together, and aromas and flavor intensify in complex and fascinating ways.

To be clear, you don’t have to age for a full year if you want to age your cider. Typically, a couple of weeks is plenty.

Finally, you will decide if you want sparkling cider.

For carbonation, before bottling, you must add a small amount of sugar to the cider, which will allow any remaining yeast in the liquid to convert this new sugar to carbon dioxide.

Be sure if you do this for carbonation, you use “priming sugar,” a special sugar designed for this purpose.

Once you have added the priming sugar, you can bottle the cider. While in the bottles, the carbon dioxide created in the cider, rather than creating pressure in the bottle, will go back into the cider and create carbonation.

Now you have a sparkling cider.

This carbonation of cider is referred to as bottle conditioning.

In general, bottle conditioning takes from 8 to 16 days. So a safe bet is two weeks.


Passionate about yeast fermentation and all the wonders it can do? So are we! If you’re interested in finding out how you can use our technology to control fermentation and monitor your yeast, save work hours and improve the cost-efficiency of your business, drop us a line at [email protected]

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