Find out how to measure the volume and alcohol by volume (ABV) of cider for Cider Duty.
You need to measure the volume and ABV of your cider to complete your duty return. On your return you need to calculate the amount you owe based on the litres of cider that are liable for duty at each duty band. You’ll also need to apply any reliefs that you can claim.
You should round down the quantity of cider to the nearest whole litre and then calculate the amount of duty you owe. You must work out each stage of the duty calculation process to at least 4 decimal places.
You should round the amount of duty down to the nearest pence.
Measure the volume of cider
You can measure the quantity of cider by measuring each container or using an ‘average system’.
Use an average system
If you use an average system you need to make sure that the average contents of the packages are not less than the declared contents on the packaging.
The individual containers may be more or less than the declared contents as long as the average is not less than the declared contents.
You must take at least one sample for each production run. Each sample must be a minimum of 5 packages.
You can ask for permission to combine monitoring for different products if you make or package small amounts of a seasonal product, and monitoring it separately would not create an accurate result.
You should calculate duty on the quantity of cider in containers of:
- 10 litres or less (small pack) based on the quantity on the label of the can or bottle
- more than 10 litres but less than 400 litres (large pack) by measuring the actual contents through dipping, metering or weighing
Monitor your filling process
You need to monitor your filling process to make sure that containers are not regularly filled with excessively more or less cider than the amount on the label.
You need to record the checks you make so we can check this.
Overfilled containers of cider
You’ll need to pay more duty if you have consistently and excessively overfilled your cider containers.
If you have not paid the correct amount of Cider Duty, we’ll:
- assess how much you owe based on your records
- use our best judgement to assess how much you owe if your records are not enough
Measure the ABV of cider
You need to measure the ABV of cider at 20°C and record it to one decimal place.
You need to measure the strength of each batch for each of your products. It does not matter if a batch is then packaged into different containers, like boxes and bottles.
You’ll need to pay the duty based on the alcoholic strength of cider when it becomes liable for duty.
How to measure the ABV of cider
You can use any method of measuring the strength of cider but it should produce the same results as the distillation analysis method. You’ll need to be able to explain your method and show that the results would match the distillation analysis method.
If your method is not based on laboratory analysis, you’ll need to get an independent analyst to test the ABV of each of your products annually. This must be consistent with your calculation of ABV and you’ll need to keep a record of the results.
How we check you have the correct ABV
If there is a dispute about the strength of cider we may take a sample of cider and analyse it using the distillation analysis method.
We calculate strength by:
- taking a sample of the cider and clearing it of sediment and gas
- making it alkaline by the addition of calcium hydroxide
- distilling it until it’s pure alcohol
- bringing the distilled alcohol to the original measure by adding water
- measuring the distillate’s density in air at 20°C using a pycnometer
- working out the strength of the distillate by using the Laboratory Alcohol Table to find the percentage ABV that matches the density of the distillate
Using the declared strength
You can calculate the duty based on the declared strength of your cider. This is the ABV that you put on the packaging of your cider.
You need to explain the processes you’ve used to make sure the actual strength, on average, matches the declared strength of the cider.
Record how you check ABV
You need to check the strength of your cider continuously and show that the average strength is similar to the ABV on your return and on your packaging.
If the average strength goes above that amount specified on your return, you need to record the actions you took to return it to the correct ABV. If you do not take action to keep the strength of cider within the limits of your duty band, we may assess the strength of your cider and you may have to pay extra duty.
Measuring one-off products
You do not have to measure the ABV of new products or products that are produced infrequently.
You’ll need to show that you’ve based the ABV on evidence from your other other products and your experience.
Cask-conditioned cider carries on fermenting in the cask for some time, making a residue that cannot be consumed. This is known as undrinkable sediment.
We may not charge duty on any undrinkable sediment in your cask-conditioned cider, as long as you:
- tell your customer, in writing, the quantity of cider that duty has been charged on and keep a copy of that notification
- can, if asked to, satisfy our officer that you have only excluded undrinkable sediment from the duty charge
Any sediment that duty has not been charged on cannot be included in any later claims for relief on spoilt cider.
Calculate the amount of undrinkable sediment
There is no prescribed method. However, you must be able to satisfy us that the method you use gives fair results.
The measurement of undrinkable sediment in any container returned to you is not an acceptable method as the cider has been outside your control and may have been tampered with.
You must regularly monitor sediment levels for each quality of cider and container size at least annually and notify us. If you make changes to recipes or ingredients that would affect sediment levels during the year, you must write to the Excise Enquiries Team and adjust the allowance accordingly.
Undrinkable sediment allowance for polypins, mini-pins and bottle-conditioned cider
There is no undrinkable sediment allowance for polypins and mini-pins sold by cider makers to the public or on bottle-conditioned cider.