Yesterday I posted about how we found some apples and mashed them in preparation for pressing out the cider. I’ll let the pictures do the talking mostly. I’ll include some lessons learned at the end.
We quickly learned that adding one apple at a time into the crusher is much better than dumping in 10 at a time. We didn’t empty the bucket for every apple but we made sure one was crushed before adding another. We also learned that you get a lot more cider if you crush the apples a lot. We ran several batches of apples through the press with a “poor crush” and got much less cider than when we really crushed the apples. We only got 2 gallons of cider so we ended up spending $6/gallon which is not cheap, though it is still of value to me since it is fresh and educational. Anyhow, we’re getting another bag of apples and will crush all of them completely. I expect at least twice as much cider. I’ll make a good crusher for next year so this won’t be a problem then. Some folks completely pulverize apples in a new, only-for-apple-cider dispose-all (like in your kitchen sink). I didn’t want to spend the money but they do get a great yield per pound of apples. I’ll likely make some sort of hand cranked grinder.
We learned that yellow jackets and honeybees can smell apples from thousands of miles away and that they can fly at supersonic speeds to get to them. Cover stuff up whenever possible.
Get a piece of metal to put between the bottle jack and the top of the wooden presing frame. I thought of it before hand and am glad I did. The bottle jack would destroy the wood otherwise. Also, have several blocks of wood around that will fit into the basket. The bottle jack probably will not fully press all the cider out at its fullest extension without adding blocks at some point to lengthen its extension.
Listen for stress on the wood when you are pressing. The jack puts the whole system under a lot of pressure and you could tear things up pretty good if you don’t pay attention. Wood will tell you when it has had enough. Listen to it!
If the cider pours over the top of the wooden plunger, release the pressure and let it go back down. Press it again and you’ll get more cider out. Also, cut a drain hole in your catch pan or empty it often so the cider doesn’t re-absorb into the pomace when you release pressure on the bottle jack.
When you are done pressing, keep pressure on the pomace a bit longer. Cider will drain for a short while after you stop pressing.
I drilled holes in a single row around the lower side and the very bottom of the stainless steel pot. I am not sure if more holes would be better or just make for a weaker pot. I will not likely add more holes.
Run the cider through a coarse strainer. It just looks better to me without chunks of apples floating in it.
We read that apples sometimes (often?) carry E. coli and that homemade cider should be drunk at one’s own risk or else be pasteurized. I have read several things but apparently heating it to 160 deg for 1 minute is enough to kill all sorts of stuff. I also know that heating cider too much ruins the pectin and sort of erases the “cider” taste/texture. We haven’t gotten sick yet but will likely pasteurize and can most of the cider. Officially, I’d recommend you do too. If you choose not to, at the very least, refrigerate it so it doesn’t ferment too quickly (good for 5-10 days). Of course, you can ferment cider and make adult beverages too. I’ll leave that for you to research.
All-in-all, this was a good time and I’d recommend building one of these if you have access to apples. The kids had a good time and the cider is hard to beat! Holler at me if you want a parts list or more specific/detailed pictures. I am happy to help!