|image taken from Voran website|
To look at filtration (as with any addition or subtraction from full juice cider), you have to ask ‘what are the benefits’? Generally, the answer is to produce a clear cider that doesn’t drop any additional sediment. Also, heavily tannic or acidic ciders can be adjusted through filtering. However, in a well kept traditional cider which is well balanced this should not be really necessary. And as with other additions or changes, it is best done sensitively and with good judgement. Too much and you will start to strip away the flavour and body of a traditional cider. When reviewing, I am conscious when a cider tastes weak, with a short aftertaste; this can often either watering down or heavy filtering. Either way, to me, it’s a shame as the original drink may well have been bolder, more individual and tastier. It is a sad thing to me that so many ciders have been filtered without any regard to this.
As mentioned in my last Cider101 post, filtration can also take the place of pasteurisation when sweetening a cider. Done in a clean room environment and to the correct degree, all yeast cells can be removed at the point of bottling to eliminate any chance of renewed fermentation. The pay off? Well, its not only yeast cells that are being removed. If you think in terms of flavour, aroma, body, tannin and acid – some of this can easily be removed along with the yeast, leaving the drink somewhat the less for it- very less for it!
I am not sure where CAMRA stand on filtering (and, lets be honest, why would anyone care really what they really think... do you really think that its based on good working knowledge of cider?) The CAMRA website simply says 'no micro filtration' which is a bit ambiguous and doesn't really give any reasoning. So, whilst they are 'debating' the pro's and con's of pasteurisation, perhaps they should be focussing on filtration as process that can change a cider more than any other.
Me? Well, I don’t think it’s such a crime when done sensitively and lightly but it can be more damaging to a cider than pasteurisation. It’s a case of needs must… and for a lot of ciders, there is no need. As is pretty clear on this, if I had to put the 'techie' processes in order of badness, filtration would be the worst, followed by additions (well, if you have a full juice cider it shouldn't need much eh).
Trouble is, when you start to go down the route of most of these processes you end up doing more than one of them. Then PR companies get involved and then shareholders and before you know it, you are looking at the HMRC guideline of 35% and wondering how you can get around it. Ha, OK - extreme but... I would like to know what percentage even the big 'family' cidermakers are down to these days!