Chaptalization of cider is the process of adding additional sugars to the must, or original sweet cider, in order to raise the original gravity of the juice. This higher original gravity of the cider must will result in more viable fermentable sugars for the yeast to metabolize and in turn produce more alcohol.
This can be desirable for many reasons but most likely because the cider maker desires a higher AVB in the final cider or plans to dilute the fermented cider using additional apple juice or concentrate in back sweetening.
Chaptalization in cider making is a common practice for commercial cideries as some make a high AVB cider base with the intent of diluting the cider using additional juice and flavorings to make the quickly fermented cider palatable.
A popular sugar choice for boosting the SG of a homemade cider is frozen apple juice concentrate. This apple concentrate not only adds a significant amount of sugar, it also adds apple flavor. Apple juice concentrate will also keep the fermented flavors more consistent as white sugar, brown sugar or honey can impart their own flavors into the finished hard cider.
Using honey for chaptalization results in a beverage not necessarily considered a cider but a cyser. Fermented honey and water alone make mead, but replacing the water with cider creates a whole new beverage.
The fun of making cider at home is that you can play around with whatever ingredients you would like! Try them out and enjoy the craft!
How much apple juice concentrate to add to cider:
When chapatalizing cider, it is important to consider not only the desired original gravity of the must but also the total volume of the fermentable liquid.
Most juices and concentrates will have a different specific gravity reading whether their nutrition labels are the same or not. I realized this after buying different types of cider. Both had the same nutrition label with 26g of sugar per serving, yet one’s specific gravity was 1.049 vs 1.044 SG.
Because of this, it can be difficult to calculate the exact amount of apple juice concentrate to add because hydrometers cannot measure the average 1.355 SG or 70 Brix of the concentrate.
I suggest starting with a half can of apple juice concentrate per gallon batch and then testing the specific gravity with a hydrometer. In my experience, about 122 oz of cider with an SG of 1.044 and approximately 6 oz. of concentrate resulted in an original gravity of 1.055 SG and a total volume of one gallon (128 oz).
How close are the estimates?
To back this up, I will work through the math. I converted the SG to Brix rounded to the nearest whole number to simplify the math.
Original Cider Brix: 11 (1.0442 SG)
Concentrate Brix: 70 (1.355 SG)
Desired Brix:14 (1.0568 SG)
Desired Total Volume: 128 oz
I will solve by using substitution.
x+y=128 ; 11x+70y=1792
Solve x+y=128 for x:
x +y +−y = 128 + −y (Add -y to both sides)
Substitute −y + 128 for x in 11x+70y= 1792:
59y + 1408= 1792 (Simplify both sides of the equation)
59y + 1408 + −1408 =1792 + −1408 (Add -1408 to both sides)
59y/59 = 384/59 (Divide both sides by 59)
y= 6.5 oz apple juice concentrate
Substitute 384/59 for y in x= −y + 128:
x= −384/59 + 128
x= 121.5 oz sweet cider base
This shows that 6.5 oz of 70 Brix (1.355 SG) apple juice concentrate added to 121.5 oz of 11 Brix (1.044 SG) cider will result in 128 oz (one gallon) of 14 Brix (1.0568 SG) cider.