Bulletin #4191, Food Safety Facts: Safe Home Made Cider

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Food Safety Facts

Prepared by Jim Schupp, Tree Fruit Specialist, University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
Revised by Jason Bolton, Assistant Extension Professor for Food Safety, University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
Reviewed by Beth Calder, Extension Food Science Specialist, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, and Alfred Bushway, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Maine.

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apple producer making cider

Outbreaks of foodborne illness have been attributed to the consumption of fresh, unpasteurized cider contaminated with a foodborne pathogen like E. coli O157:H7 The risk is low but it is still probable. Certain age groups are at a greater risk of complications from harmful bacteria like E. coli O157:H7 especially children, the elderly and persons with compromised immune systems. You can prevent these risks by boiling unpasteurized apple cider before drinking it, or drinking pasteurized cider or juice.

In addition to bacterial concerns, there is a fungal toxin called Patulin that can form during apple cider production and storage. Patulin forms when there is mold growth on or in the apples. This toxin is heat stable and can survive pasteurization.

The safety of cider relies on its acidity and refrigeration, as well as sanitation during processing and manufacturing. Producers who make cider for sale must be licensed by the Maine Department of Agriculture and are inspected regularly to make sure that safe and sanitary practices are being followed. According to Maine State Law, cider producer may not sell, advertise, offer or expose for sale any cider that has not been heat-treated to a temperature of 155 degrees F or higher for 10 seconds unless it is labeled as being unpasteurized and is labeled as unpasteurized. In the case of hand-pressed or homemade cider, it is your responsibility to assure the safety of the cider.

The following list of guidelines has been prepared by Maine’s apple growers, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension to help you make safe, healthful delicious cider. If you have questions about cider production or other food safety issues please contact Jason Bolton at the UMaine Extension: jason.bolton@maine.edu or 207.942.7396.

Growing and Harvesting the Apples


  • Pick apples at the proper stage of maturity, before they drop.
  • Pick apples when they are dry.


  • Allow animals to feed in the orchard.
  • Use animal waste as fertilizer.
  • Allow apples to begin to spoil on the ground.
  • Use apple drops to produce cider.

Storing the Apples


  • Use only clean, dry containers.
  • Store the apples at a cold temperature, if possible below 40°F.


  • Let the apples be contaminated by rodents, birds or insects.
  • Store the apples out in the open or directly on the ground.
  • Store wet apples.

Making Cider


  • Wash the apples with clean water to remove debris just before grinding them.
  • Keep press cloths and racks off the floor in a clean place between batches.
  • Make sure equipment and cloths are clean and sanitized before using them, including the apples press, which should be scrubbed with a warm soapy water, rinsed with clean potable water and sanitized.
  • Blend in some tart apples to increase the cider’s acidity.
  • Use food-grade plastic or stainless steel containers to catch the cider.
  • Heat the cider to 155°F for 10 seconds.
  • Store cider at 40°F or lower if not bottling immediately.
  • Bottle in clean and sanitized containers as soon as it is pressed.


  • Use spoiled, moldy or defective apples.
  • Expose the juice to air and insects.
  • Allow spoiled or partially spoiled apples to enter the grinder.
  • Leave cider at room temperature for longer than two hours.

Using and Storing the Cider


  • Use the cider promptly.
  • Cool the cider to 40°F or lower as quickly as possible after bottling.


  • Reuse food containers that cannot be thoroughly cleaned.
  • Use containers with porous surfaces, such as crockery, to store cider.
  • Forget to clean and sanitize equipment before putting it away.


  • Sanitize: Removal of microorganisms both spoilage and pathogenic
  • Clean: Removal of dirt and debris

Cleaning and Sanitizing

After each day’s cider making, all equipment, including press cloths, should be:

  1. Rinsed with potable water to remove apple and cider residue.
  2. Wash with warm soapy water and a clean brush. This is the cleaning step that will remove the dirt and debris.
  3. Sanitize with bleach diluted with clean, potable lukewarm water in a ratio of one-tablespoon bleach to one-gallon clean water. All utensils and equipment that comes in contact with your cider should be rinsed with this sanitizing solution.
  4. Air-dried in a well-ventilated, clean area away from flies.

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2008, 2011

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