Cellaring Cider the Worlidge Way

In which we revisit a pressing question

I could have saved a lot of fuss and trouble on the question of how to cellar cider if I had simply consulted John Worlidge’s 1676 treatise on cider: Vinetum Britannicum. Worlidge’s recommendation? Store those cider bottles in spring water:

The placing of Bottles in Cisterns of Spring-water, either running or often changed, is without all Peradventure the best way to preserve Cider or any other Vinous Liquors. …
The reason why Water is to be preferr’d for such a Conservatory, is, because the closeness of its body admits not a sudden rarefaction of Air, as other Materials do, but is generally of an equal degree of coldness, and that colder than commonly the Liquor is preserved …
For the same reason that cold detains or [suppresses] the Spirits before fermentation that they cannot act, now after fermentation doth it keep in the pure and genuine Spirit, otherwise apt to exhale, which [purifies] and [enriches] the Liquor so preserved. …

Worlidge proceeds to share specs for a spring-cooled cellar, an excerpt of which is shared here:

In some places the convenience of Water may easily be had for such a Refrigeratory, both for the constant supply of cool Spring-water, and for its evacuation again, which is as necessary as its supply: and in many places the Ciderist may command a Spring from some place a little distant from his Refrigeratory, but cannot so easily be rid of it again, which must be as well considered of as the other. Therefore if you can conveniently make a Cistern in the bottom or on the side of your Cellar that will hold water, either of Stone or Brick well cemented, and if of Brick, plaistered with Plaister of Paris, or with a Cement made of Linseed-oyl and Lime newly flakened, with a little Cotton-wool beat into it, and can, as occasion requires, supply it with a descent of cool Spring-water…
~John Worlidge, Vinetum Britannicum, or a Treatise of Cider,’ 1676
John Worlidge, Vinetum Britannicum, or a Treatise of Cider,’ 1676

Worlidge’s recommendation begs the question: What’s the mean temperature of spring water?

Per usual, Google puts us in touch with the folks who can tell us:

For the most part, the temperature of groundwater in an area is equal to the year-round average air temperature of the surface. ~XKCD.com

And what’s the average air temperature of Worlidge’s beloved Britain? I can’t speak for 1676, but in our times it averages 8.5–11°C. For we state-siders that converts to 47–51° F — which we previously roundly about reasoned to be the ideal temp for cellaring cider.

Thank you, Google.

Of related interest: The history of St. Paul, Minnesota lends evidence to spring-cooled cellars in both Jacob Schmidt’s Cave Brewery and whiskey peddler Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant, who based his operations out of a place called Fountain Cave.

Fountain Cave, St Paul MN

There is also some evidence of a lost commercial beer cellar under the main branch of the local library in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, that is rumored to run remarkably close to a submerged spring that still has its outlet in the DuPage River. Were the early German beer makers of Naperville (foreman Adolph Coors, among them) up to some hydro-engineering tricks? Pure speculation, but I’m rooting for it. FWIW, I’ve reached out to undercity explorer Steve Duncan to ask whether he’s ever encountered archaeological evidence of a spring-cooled cellars in his subterranean explorations of Minetta Brook under NYC and other submerged waterways — I’ll share updates if they happen.

Cidrbox.com connects people seeking orchard-driven cider with the artisans who make it. Each month we visit a single, distinctive American heritage orchard — where small producers grow, harvest, press, ferment and refine their cider — and we ship their cider to our subscribers. We also sit down for a tasting with the maker, and we share that tasting with you at cidersessions.com.

p.s. When we say cider, we mean hard cider: Artful fermentations of heirloom apples by master cidermakers. You must be at least 21 to drink what we deliver, and you will be asked for your ID and signature at the door.