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Ask Uncle John Anything: The Juice is Loose! (And the Cider, Too)

September 10, 2015

Uncle John knows pretty much everything—and if he doesn’t, he heads his massive research library, or puts one of his many associates on the case. So go ahead: In the comments below, ask Uncle John anything. (And if we answer your question sometime, we’ll send you a free book!) This query comes from reader Jeremy C., who asks…

What’s the difference between apple juice and apple cider?

Apple Juice versus Apple CiderAs Ned Flanders pointed out on a 1997 episode of The Simpsons, there’s one great way to tell the difference between apple juice and cider. “If it’s clear and yella, you’ve got juice there, fella. If it’s tangy and brown, you’re in cider town!”

Well, it’s a little bit more involved than that. It’s also got to be a technical or chemical difference, because as far as we’re concerned apple juice and apple cider have virtually the same taste and what foodies call “mouth feel.” But you better learn the difference now, because apple season is right around the corner!

Fresh cider is the liquid that comes out of freshly-picked and freshly-pressed apples. It’s been bottled as is, unfiltered to remove particles of apple, like pulp and other bits. Apple juice is that same liquid, but it’s been filtered to remove the solid chunks, and then, usually, pasteurized so it will keep longer. This is why cider is usually darker colored: It’s raw and largely unprocessed. (It’s also not had its naturally-occurring yeasts filtered out, which is why apple cider can go fizzy, and even alcoholic, over time.)

Sometimes, however, the difference is a marketing term. There’s no federal law that requires cider or juice manufacturers to clearly state if the product is one or the other. Unless it’s hard cider, which is apple cider that has either naturally gone boozy, or produced to make it boozy.

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