There are a few basic rules to follow when bottling hard cider. Basically the thicker and darker the container the better the cider will keep. They must have an air tight seal to prevent contaminates from entering and spoilage from occurring. The most common materials used are stainless steel, oak barrels, glass, and plastic.

Food Grade Plastic

Plastic (HDPE) is the popular medium for storing cider these days, the thicker the better if you want to store for any length of time. There is no significant benefit of one color or another, although some people do favor a darker shade to keep out the light.

The main benefits of using plastic are that it is cheap to obtain, available widely and easy to clean. It doesn’t add any flavor to the cider or Perry, so don’t expect any additional ‘oaky’ notes. However, it is reliable and available in many sizes (from 5 liters to an IBC of 1000 liters)



The traditional way of storing cider, wooden barrels will add its own character to a cider and keep it well. Generally larger than plastic tubs, although require more maintenance to keep them water tight. Barrels are also More expensive to buy than food grade plastic and harder to thoroughly clean.

Rather than being sized by liters, wooden barrels can be found as: Rundlet (15 gal/68l), barrel (26 gal/119l), tierce (35 gal/159l), hogshead (52.5 gal/239l), firkin/puncheon/tertian (70 gal/318l), pipe/butt (105 gal/477l) and ton (210 gal/955l). Of course, a visit to a number of cider makers will demonstrate that wooden barrels can come in much larger sizes than these! Oh, and just to confuse you, these names/sizes are different in the USA.

Stainless Steel

Favored as a clean alternative to wood, stainless steel also has an extremely long life and can come in very large sizes. Stainless steel is a more commercial medium to use than plastic, whilst being more reliable than wood.



Glass is the most common material for storing small quantities, although it is breakable and comparatively expensive. Care must be taken when bottling cider or Perry that either it is fully fermented (i.e. not going to start fermenting and explode the bottle) or that the bottle is strong (champagne bottles). Even then, the SG of the drink should be below 1010.

Bottles will require either a crown cap, cork or screw cap to be fitted in order to seal them. This can be done cheaply, although normally requires a small tool for fitting the top/cap.

Larger glass containers, such as glass carbouys, will store more – although again these are expensive and cumbersome once filled.

Having said all this, the strongest pro for glass bottle storage (apart from the portable nature of storing small quantities) is that it does not allow oxygen to diffuse into the cider. As long as the bottle is stored properly (in a cool place, on its side if it has a cork etc.) the drink should be good for a long time.