Ok. Well, if you made it through the apple processing section–good job! That was a lot of information. So we cleaned and sanitized our equipment, conducted our testing (link), and have milled our apples. It is now time to get down and do some pressing. I have to admit this is my favorite part. There is nothing quite as satisfying (except for drinking the finished cider) as hearing your pressed juice splash down into that container. Just the thought of that sound brings a smile to my face as I sit here writing about it, and you will know what I am talking about soon enough.
There are a lot of options for pressing your pomace created in the last step (Apple Scratting). Let’s discuss some basics that a lot of these methods will have in common.
For the ciderest, I think that your scratter or apple mill and your press are probably the two most important and expensive pieces of equipment that you will need to make your own juice, especially if you have dreams of going commercial.
I have ordered the press types into categories that I believe are fitting for their quantities and for the home ciderist. The last three are more on the commercial side with some overlap.
When I first started making cider I built a cider press out of a little homemade bearing press. It is a little Rack & Cloth Apple Press (Plate Press) with irregular size cheeses (not square). I made 30 gallons using this press and feel that I could make 3x that amount before it would become too burdensome. Here is a video of my first time making hard cider using the press.
As you can see, this press is small, yet it has a decent sized cheese at about 16 x 12.
I unfortunately didn’t get very good quantitative data using this press; however I do know I got about 67% efficiency. If I use it again on some specialty batches, I will update the data.
Methods for obtaining juice from your apples and pomace.
That’s right–do nothing…well, I don’t mean nothing, just don’t juice. There are other options for making your fantastic hard cider. This option takes no processing or pressing of the raw apples or other fruits. Check the full section on Making Cider the Easy Way (link) for full details on the process. If you have any doubts about getting into cider making I would try my hand at this process. Just be aware that you can not tailor your juice to a specific style and you get what you get with bought juice. However you may be be able to talk to a local orchard and get a custom press using their apples or your own.
Juice and Strain
I mentioned this in the processing section but it pertains to this section as well. In the juice and strain method you use a regular juicer and you process the apples through it and then strain out the larger materials through a cheese cloth, leaving them with some good juice. I have a friend that has used this method and have read a few reports in which people have had good results with it. Check out the post on this method if you are interested in trying it this way. I think this is a decent option for those that already have a juicer or do not want to mess with a press or scratter and want to try your hand at cider making.
The venerable basket press–also known as the tub press or screw press. For most of us in America, when we think of pressing apples into a cider, we think of this style press.
There are several different styles of this press: single basket, double basket, screw, ratchet, and hydraulic. Each style has its own unique strengths.
The basket press is comprised of a wood or metal basket in which you insert a cloth bag containing your freshly milled apple pulp. Once your pulp is safely inside, the bag is folded over the top of your pulp and a press plate is placed on top. The screw, ratchet, or hydraulic jack is used to press the plate, expelling the juice from the pomace.
These can be great presses for the home hobbyist and even some large capacity ones are used by a few semi commercial ciderists.
Searching online it looks like the price for a decent single tub press made with hardwoods runs from about $231.00 for a 18-Quart screw press made by TSM at Amazon to a 16-Quart ratcheting press made by Weston for $251.00 and the most expensive model on Amazon was the Jaffrey Cider Press (looks like it has a little larger basket and comes with a apple mill unlike the other two models). Lehmans has some single baskets that range in price from $330 to $765 depending on if you want a grinder to come with it. These presses look pretty durable as well. The most expensive model I found was a hydraulic basket press sold by GW Kent for a whopping $6,000. I believe if you are looking at spending this type of money on a press, then you can do a lot better for the money. I really can not vouch for the quality of any of these individual basket presses, as the only basket press I have used is an old one that we found in a neighbor’s garage and borrowed it for the season. It was my first introduction to making cider. I must say I have come a very long way since then. (All these prices WILL change and are only for reference)
Double tub presses are a little more continuous as you can fill one tub as you are pressing the other. You just slide the tubs around and under the press once they are full. Happy Valley Ranch, Inc. makes and sells a double tub press the “American Harvester Press” for around around $1000.00, their site says they have a good layaway program as well. There is a company here in Oregon that manufactures a double basket system out of Veneta called Correll Cider Presses--they are handmade and look very nice. They produce a few different models ranging from $990.00 to about $1700.00. Looks like these models do have scratters attached.
There are also some DIY options in this category with plans being offered up online. Here is a book that looks pretty decent. This guy also has a website where he sells his wares and talks about cider making. Buy his book Anyone Can Build A Whizbang Apple Grinder & Cider Press at Amazon. Also check out the resources page for more places to satiate your DIY curiosity.
Hydro Press – Aka Bladder Press, Water Press
A hydro press is an effective and simple design consisting of very few moving parts (less to break down and clean! :)) The press has a stainless steel perforated outer basket, an inner rubber bladder (hence bladder press), and a screw-on pressure lid. The basic idea is that you add your milled apple pomace to the area between the bladder and the outer basket until it is full, screw on the pressure lid, and turn on the water. Using household water pressure, the rubber bladder expands outward, pressing the pomace against the inner surface of the basket.
You can adjust the pressure to regulate the time you want to press your fruit. These can be “explosive,” sending juice out the perforations in a good long jet. It is best to use a “spray jacket” to keep your juice in the press. Most presses, I believe, come with a spray jacket. Once the juice stops flowing, open the drain valve and the bladder goes back down; you then can remove the press bag with the spent pulp and start all over again.
Water consumption is my only real concern with this, as it releases all the water that was added to press the fruit. I have talked to a few ciderests about water consumption as this is an issue where water is at a premium or your city has issue with commercial operations. (Update: I was just reading a post over at Hall Home Place, they use bladder presses and have developed a recirculating system to combat the use of water.) Most of the ciderists state the use a 1:1 ratio of water to cider and I believe the hydro press would push you out of this ratio pretty quickly. The book Winery Utilities: Planning, Design and Operation states in “Table 6.7, p141, Sparkling Wines < 50,000 cs yr = 4.2x production volume” or as Wes Cherry over at Dragon’s Head Cider on Vashon Island, Washington put it “rough usage [for the] wine industry is 2.5 to 10x your yearly production vol. Barrels make for more use, stainless, less.” If you have never had a bottle of his cider please give it a try it is some fantastic stuff.
OESCO imports the Lancman Bladder Press from Europe. The smallest one, the VSPI-X80, is an 80 liter model. It holds about 189 pounds of ground apples and retails for $1,865.00. They go up in size to the biggest model, the Lancman VSPI-X250 which holds about 230 liters, which is approximately 546 pounds of ground apples. These presses need the mill that is designed to go with them as it grinds the fruit into just the right size. GW Kent offers a 450 liter model retailing for $8,495.00. One of the only other suppliers I could find was St. Patricks of Texas in San Antonio–they sell the Zambelli Water Presses, ranging in size from 20 liters to 450 liters and costing from $795.00 to $7,995.00 respectively.
Rack & Cloth Press a.k.a Plate Press
Although we “Americans” may think of the basket press as being the traditional apple press, the rack and cloth press actually holds that distinction. The concept of the press is similar to the basket press where pressure is exerted on the pomace, squeezing out the juice. However, this is a much more open system consisting of a heavy duty wood or steel frame and base. The pomace is formed into individual cheeses, which are layers of apple pulp wrapped in a cloth. The cheeses are separated by wood or HDPE racks between them. Pressure is then applied to the full stack of cheeses with some sort of mechanical pressure. Traditionally, it was a screw press or ratcheting system. Hydraulic systems are now the most common means of pressure for the home and commercial press alike.
I had a really hard time finding non commercial rack and cloth presses for sale. It looks like for the smaller scale ciderist that a DIY option may be your only choice. OESCO sells some rack and cloth presses; however, they are hugely expensive – $27k to $67K – and are solely for commercial purposes.
I think that the Rack and Cloth Press is also probably one of the easiest press designs to construct at home. Check out the resources page to find some great sources of DIY cider press options.
In the United States the squeezebox or horizontal press seems to be the most popular option for the larger commercial cideries that I have interviewed. This may come down to the fact that they are available and made here in the states. The largest manufacturer and the most widely used is Goodnature, most notably their SX-200 model which, according to their webs site is capable of producing up to 200 gallons cider per hour. Check out this video of Nat West with Reverend Nats Cider in Portland using a Goodnature SX-200. The squeezebox press is similar to a rack and cloth press that lays on its side. The pomace is placed into cloth sleeves and squeezed from one end like an accordion. Once the juice has all been extracted, the spent pulp is then dumped to the side. This makes the process go smoother as cheeses do not need to be individually built. The larger models can also squeeze in both directions, making it possible to load one side as the other is being squeezed.
I have not seen one of these in operation; however, I have heard that Herndon’s Orchard in nearby Marionville, Missouri uses one. Some of the bigger companies (that actually press juice) may use one. These presses were adapted from sewage dewatering equipment so they can handle massive quantities of pomace In a very continuous fashion. I believe the belt press is probably the most continuous system that you can get to date. The only manufacturer that I know of that handles this type of press stateside is Frontier Juice Press.
Whoa! That was a lot of information. Thanks for sticking in there. We have in theory gone from cleaning and sanitizing our equipment , conducted our juice testing, processed our apples and created some tasty juice. Lets move on to fermentation, oooh we are getting so close to the best part, Quaffing a damn fine cider!
Please help keep this site active.