Washington State University researchers received a $40,000 Emerging Research Issues grant to evaluate cider apple qualities and consumer preferences.

Carol Miles is the lead scientist on a team of WSU researchers that will study what affects juice qualities that attract cider makers and consumers. (Photo courtesy of Carol Miles)

Carol Miles is the lead scientist on a team of WSU researchers that will study what affects juice qualities that attract cider makers and consumers. (Photo courtesy of Carol Miles)

“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 WSU Mount Vernon and lead on the study.

The grant from the WSU College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS) is one of eight awarded. The grants support innovative approaches to resolve 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 the WSU Mount Vernon research orchard to determine the impact of that technique on fruit and juice quality.

Miles has been investigating cider apple production at WSU 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 School of Food Science.

Cider qualities are evaluated in the WSU Mount Vernon processing lab. (Photo by Kim Binczewski, WSU Mount Vernon)

Cider qualities are evaluated in the WSU Mount Vernon processing lab. (Photo by Kim Binczewski, WSU Mount Vernon)

Tozer will 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.