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What Is the Difference between Apple Juice and Apple Cider?

Dale Marshall
Dale Marshall

Apple juice and apple cider are both 100% apple juice squeezed, or pressed, from apples and in many respects are the same when first pressed. In some jurisdictions, especially outside North America, apple cider is not pasteurized and is generally sold with an alcoholic content. Apple juice, on the other hand, undergoes more processing and is nearly always pasteurized, and thus won’t ferment or develop any alcoholic content.

There’s a substantial year-round market in the US and Canada for both apple juice and apple cider, but the cider product enjoys special popularity around the end-of-year holiday season that begins with Thanksgiving, the traditional harvest feast days. Stores will increase their stocks of apple cider during this period to meet the increased demand, and special recipes for cider-based drinks such as mulled cider are featured. Another popular variation of apple cider is a non-alcoholic carbonated beverage called sparkling cider, which is often served as a champagne substitute. There’s also a small but vibrant year-round market for apple cider vinegar.


In the US and Canada, producers are required to process apple juice and apple cider to extend their shelf life and destroy any disease-causing organisms such as E. coli. To accomplish these goals, most producers utilize pasteurization, a method of heating liquids that destroys such pathogens; it also destroys the bacteria that convert the natural sugars to alcohol. This is why the juice and cider sold in American and Canadian supermarkets doesn’t ferment. The only exception is when producers sell directly to consumers, such as an apple orchard that presses and sells jugs of cider on its premises or from roadside stands; when such cider ferments, it's called hard cider.

Apple cider vinegar is a year-round product.
Apple cider vinegar is a year-round product.

The first step of production in the US and Canada is the same for both apple juice and apple cider. Ripe apples are ground up and the juice pressed out, through a strainer and into a vat. This juice is brown and opaque with minute particles of apple suspended in the liquid; if it’s going to be sold as apple cider, it may not be subject to any further filtering. If it’s going to be sold as apple juice, it will undergo additional filtering and processing to remove all apple particles, pectin and starches. This clarified juice is clear and lighter in color. Most large producers blend the juices and ciders from different species of apples to achieve a uniform flavor.

Apple cider is not pasteurized, and is often sold by orchards.
Apple cider is not pasteurized, and is often sold by orchards.

Outside the US and Canada, apple juice is produced in the same manner, and is generally sold as apple juice or sweet cider. Apple cider, on the other hand, is produced to ferment and develop an alcoholic content, much like wine. Some producers allow the apples to begin rotting, so that the fermentation process begins before the apples are pressed. There’s a substantial market in Europe for hard cider, with many different varieties available.

Discussion Comments


I disagree with this article on one point. Not all apple cider is fermented. The orchards use an apple cider press to force all of the juice from the fruit, then it is filtered and bottled. I think apple juice sold in stores can contain added water and sweetener. Apple cider is naturally sweet.


There's a commercial fruit orchard near my house that sells unpasteurized apple cider during the fall months. We have to sign a waiver in order to buy it, since unpasteurized apple cider could potentially contain harmful bacteria. The orchard's owners tried to sell a pasteurized version for a few years, but it didn't taste nearly as good. They also put fresh apple cider in a slushie machine and sold it by the cup. My favorite form of apple cider sold there was hot mulled cider. They added some spices and served it hot from a coffee maker.

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    • Apples.
      By: Pixelbliss
    • Apple cider vinegar is a year-round product.
      By: Comugnero Silvana
      Apple cider vinegar is a year-round product.
    • Apple cider is not pasteurized, and is often sold by orchards.
      By: altocumulus
      Apple cider is not pasteurized, and is often sold by orchards.
    • Apple juice has had all particles, pectin, and starches removed.
      By: shishiga
      Apple juice has had all particles, pectin, and starches removed.