Apple cider vs apple juice: an age-old debate. If you’re a fan of apple-flavored delicacies, you’ve likely enjoyed a mug of steaming hot apple cider or two throughout the autumn season. There’s nothing like a warm drink on a cold day, and the seasonal cinnamon-apple flavor of cider just can’t be beat, especially if you picked up a couple apple cider donuts to go with it. But if you’re looking to beat the summer heat, you’ll likely reach for apple cider’s colder cousin, apple juice!
What exactly makes these two drinks different? Read on for a comparison of apple cider vs apple juice!
What is Apple Juice?
Apple juice is fairly self-explanatory: it’s the juice pressed out of an apple. It’s rarely flavored beyond its natural state, and it’s mainly enjoyed cold, though it can be stored in or out of the fridge until you open it. This golden-hued juice can be found as the content of juice boxes all around—in fact, one-third of US consumption of juice can be attributed to apple juice! In all likelihood, you’ve probably drank from a juice box or two yourself in your childhood. While it can be considered a drink for children, this juice is popular among adults and kids alike and is a common staple in fridges everywhere.
What is Apple Cider?
What is the difference between apple cider vs apple juice? Whereas apple juice is rarely altered in its flavor beyond sometimes adding sweetener, apple cider is often thought of as unrecognizable without the extras! While technically coming from the same source, the composition of many cider recipes is very different. A sweetener (such as brown sugar, white sugar, or even maple syrup!) is still a must in most recipes, as well as cinnamon, but some ciders are made with additional ingredients such as cloves, allspice, or even elements of citrus! It all depends on individual taste or company/family recipes.
Differences in Creation
The main difference between apple cider vs apple juice comes down to pasteurization. Apple cider tends to be unpasteurized and unfiltered, while apple juice is nearly always pasteurized and filtered. Apple cider may contain pulp, while apple juice won’t. These factors affect flavor, expiration, and composition. Funnily enough, while this means apple juice can exist without refrigeration and apple cider must be refrigerated, apple juice is often consumed cold while apple cider is consumed hot.
Differences in Flavor
When it comes to apple juice vs apple cider, apple juice, of course, will have a very pure apple flavor. Though it can taste thinner and almost diluted compared to cider thanks to the lack of additional ingredients, if you’re seeking an apple flavor without all the fancier frillings of cider, apple juice will provide a clean, crisp, refreshing sip to enjoy on a hot summer day.
Meanwhile, apple cider is the way to go if you’re craving a little more full-bodied spice. Cider can come without extra flavoring, but often contains spices and other ingredients. In my opinion, apple cider is where tea or coffee enthusiasts might want to get their apple fix, while someone who prefers juice or water may want to stick to apple juice.
Still, apple cider definitely packs a punch with flavors reminiscent of the holiday season, and it’s impossible to take a sip of hot cider without immediately falling down a rabbit hole of longing for pumpkin patch visits, corn maze adventures, trick or treating, and cozy scarves. You’ll especially find yourself feeling the holiday nostalgia if the recipe you choose (or create!) includes allspice in its ingredient list!
Differences in Shelf Life
What about the shelf life of apple cider vs apple juice? Apple juice is pasteurized, which gives it a far more extensive shelf life than apple cider. It can sit without refrigeration for quite some time without going bad, so you don’t really have to consider expiration dates or anything of that nature. So long as you store it in the fridge once you’ve opened it, you shouldn’t have any problems with it staying good. It will keep for quite some time.
Apple cider, however, is far more perishable. If you don’t refrigerate cider, it can go “bad” pretty quickly—also known as becoming fermented. In the fridge, cider can last for up to two weeks, but even then it will start to deteriorate. If you leave it out at room temperature, it will hasten the fermentation process.
Unless you’re going through a deliberate process to ferment the cider, which requires certain steps to be followed with specific timing, don’t leave your cider outside the fridge! You’ll end up with something a bit stronger than you intended to treat yourself with.
Differences in Color
The color of apple cider vs apple juice is interesting. Apple juice will appear as a golden-yellow type color, crystal-clear from going through the filtration process to remove pulp. Apple cider, however, will appear closer to a dark golden-orange or golden-brown color, you won’t be able to see through it, and you’ll likely spot some pulp hanging around inside the bottle. It will appear slightly thicker in consistency compared to apple juice, as well.
Differences in Availability
Availability is another thing to look at when it comes to apple cider vs apple juice. Apple juice is available year-round, and you can find it in just about any grocery store you visit. You can find it in bottles, in juice boxes, in juice pouches…it will honestly be more difficult not to spot some kind of apple juice whenever you visit your local grocery store! This is a drink that’s available for consumption in all months and all seasons, so you’ll never be deprived of this household staple no matter when you catch a craving for it!
Apple cider, however, is another story. This drink is characteristically seasonal, so it can be pretty difficult to track down outside the autumn and winter months. Though you might be able to find some spiked cider offerings in certain restaurants outside of its usual season, if you’re a cider mill purist who wants to get your cider from a fresh and home-grown source (or if you choose to make your own homemade cider!), you’re likely going to find yourself out of luck for the spring and summer.
You could always warm up apple juice and spice it to mimic the idea and take the edge off your autumnal craving (or try out powdered apple cider mix), but nothing’s quite the same as a legitimate cider. (However, if you find yourself desperate for that cider-like taste and can’t bide your time till autumn, try out this recipe for apple cider cake!)
Apple Cider vs Apple Juice: Which Will You Enjoy?
Now that you know the difference between apple cider vs apple juice, which would you prefer to enjoy? Both? Neither? No matter which drink you choose to enjoy, you can’t go wrong by taking a sip of apple-y goodness to start or end your day. When it comes to the battle of apple cider vs apple juice, there are only winners. Apple juice fans, snag a bottle from the fridge or pack it in your cooler to keep yourself hydrated on a beach trip! Apple cider lovers, fill up a steaming mug of cider, grab your favorite knit blanket and a good book, and spend a cozy night by the fire!
Hoping to try your hand at making your own cider? Take a look at our list of the Best Cider Apples to get started!
Excited for more apple content? Visit our apple trees page to learn more about apple planting, growing, harvesting, cooking, and more!