MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – Cider apple qualities and consumer preferences will be evaluated thanks to a $40,000 “Emerging Research Issues” grant received in February by Washington State University researchers.
“The cider industry will gain a better understanding of the impact of growing environment, location and harvest method on fruit quality – and whether or not these differences are valued by the cider maker or detectable by consumers,” said Carol Miles, horticulture professor at the WSU Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon and lead on the study.
The grant is one of eight awarded by the WSU College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences, or CAHNRS. These grants support innovative approaches to resolving significant issues – including social and economic factors – faced by the state’s agricultural industries.
Miles will evaluate fruit quality of several cider apple varieties harvested from four orchards in Washington to see if there are differences due to environment. She also will use a mechanical harvester at NWREC research orchard in Mount Vernon to determine the impact of that technique on fruit and juice quality. (Read about related research).
Miles has been investigating cider apple production at Mount Vernon since 2007. For this study, her WSU project collaborators in Pullman are Peter Tozer, research associate in the School of Economic Sciences, and Carolyn Ross, associate professor in the WSU/UI School of Food Science.
Tozer is working to determine how cider makers value certain juice qualities such as tannin level. Tannin is a bitter-tasting organic substance present in some plant tissues. Cider apples have high levels of tannin compared to dessert apples, but it is uncertain if cider makers pay more for juice that is high in tannin.
Ross, who manages the CAHNRS Sensory Evaluation Unit, will evaluate the sensory qualities of cider made from juice from Miles’ experiments to see whether consumers can detect differences due to location or harvest method. Ross will compare two evaluation methods: a human tasting panel and electronic tongue technology. (Read more about the electronic tongue).