Community Posts ~ Allen Brown


How to Make Hard Cider – Adding Sugar

Posted on May 31, 2023 by Allen Brown

Homebrewers and cider makers have long debated the merits of adding sugar to their cider. Some say that sugar is essential for achieving the desired alcohol content, while others believe that it can mask the natural flavors of the cider. So, how much sugar to add to hard cider?

How Much Sugar to Add to Hard Cider?

Homebrewing experts Beer Snobs explains that generally, one ounce of sugar per gallon will raise the alcohol content by about 0.5%. However, this is not an exact science, and the amount of sugar needed may vary depending on the cider’s initial gravity, the yeast used, and other factors.

It is important to note that the sugar content of cider can vary depending on the type of apple used. For instance, Granny Smith apples tend to have a lower sugar content than Fuji apples. As a result, the amount of sugar needed to achieve the desired alcohol content will vary.

The desired alcohol content will also vary depending on personal preference. For instance, some people may prefer a cider with lower alcohol content, while others may prefer a cider with higher alcohol content. Therefore, to achieve the desired alcohol content, adding more or less sugar may be necessary.

What is the Purpose of Adding Sugar to Hard Cider?

Sugar plays a vital role in the fermentation process. Any experienced brewer will tell you that fermentation is the key to making great cider, and the best way to control it is by adding sugar.  The following are some of the importance of adding sugar to hard cider during the brewing process:

— Fermenting

Sugar is essential in the fermentation process. Yeast uses sugar as fuel to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. The apple juice in the cider already contains sugar; however, adding more sugar will boost the yeast, resulting in higher alcohol content.

— Controlling Alcohol Content

The amount of sugar added to the cider will determine the alcohol content. If more sugar is added, the alcohol content will be higher. Conversely, if less sugar is added, the alcohol content will be lower.

— Achieving Desired Flavor

Sugar can also affect the flavor of cider. For instance, adding more sugar may result in a sweeter cider, while adding less sugar may result in a drier cider.

It is essential to experiment with different sugar amounts to find the perfect balance of sweetness and alcohol content, 

—  Priming

Adding sugar to cider before bottling is also known as priming. This is done to add carbonation to the cider. When sugar is added, yeast will eat the sugar and produce carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide will then be dissolved in the cider, resulting in a fizzy, bubbly beverage.

The Basic Formula for Adding Sugar to Hard Cider

Adding sugar to your cider should be done in small increments to avoid making the cider too sweet or drying it out. Use the following formula as a guide:

Start with 1/2 pound (225 g) of sugar per gallon (3.8 L) of cider. This will give you a Starting Gravity of 1.040. If you want a sweeter cider, add more sugar in increments of 1/4 pound (113 g) until you reach the desired sweetness. If you want a drier cider, add less sugar or water to the cider to dilute it.

When adding sugar, it is best to use a brewing hydrometer to measure the specific gravity of the cider. This will help you determine how much sugar has been added and how much alcohol has been produced.

What Happens if You Add Too Much or Too Little Sugar to the Hard Cider?

If you add too much sugar to your hard cider, it will be too sweet and sticky. The yeast will not be able to eat all of the sugar and will produce too much alcohol. This can make your cider taste hot and alcoholic. 

If you add too little sugar, the fermentation will be incomplete, and your cider will be tart and acidic.

Always ensure you get the correct amount of sugar either by using a carbonation calculator or the hydrometer. The hydrometer will help you know how much sugar has been fermenting, while the carbonation calculator will help you get the right amount of sugar for your level of sweetness and carbonation.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Sugar Do You Add to Hard Cider When Bottling?

It is recommended to add one ounce for every priming sugar to hard cider when bottling. This will give you the right level of sweetness and carbonation.

What Happens if I Don’t Add Any Sugar to My Hard Cider?

If you don’t add any sugar to your hard cider, it will be very tart and acidic. The fermentation process will also be incomplete, which means that some of the sugars in the cider will not be converted into alcohol.

Can I Use Honey Instead of Sugar to Prime My Hard Cider?

Yes, you can use honey instead of sugar to prime your hard cider. Honey has a unique flavor that can add an extra dimension to your cider. However, it is more expensive than sugar and can be difficult to measure.


Sugar plays an important role in the fermentation process of hard cider. Too much or too little sugar can ruin your batch. Adding an optimal amount of sugar will ensure that your cider is tasty and carbonated, making it easy to drink and enjoy.


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