Building My Apple Press

October 5, 2010

After seeing Al Yelvington’s youtube videos about how to make an apple press and how to use it, I set off to make my own with the help of my father. Dad has the saws and scrap lumber. It, of course, ended up looking nothing like Yelvington’s press.

The Shop Press
First off,  I didn’t purchase the 20-ton shop press, but went for the then on sale with a coupon 12 ton shop press from Harbor Freight Tools. Now normally, my father is not a fan of Harbor Freight Tools equipment because the products are from China, but he said that metal is metal, so the frame should last even if the jack doesn’t, so that purchase did save us some time.  The trade off for going with a smaller press is that is that my yield is less. The 12 ton is narrower than the 20 ton, so there will not be as much surface area, and therefore I cannot press as much pomace per set up, which means a reduced juice per hour rate.

The Platform
From there, I was all set to order a tray to fit my press, just like Yelvington did, but my father had other ideas, especially after he saw the tray made by Claude Jolicoeur on the Cider Workshop. Therefore, he decided to build the platform out of 2”x6” lumber at dimensions of 16.5”x20” to support the tray, and we put little blocks on certain sides to keep the platform from sliding off of the press, and to keep the tray from sliding backwards off of the platform. I then used putty to fill the minor holes and used white semi-gloss paint that I had. I had planned on this platform not coming into contact with juice, but that the paint would allow me to wipe off the splashes to prevent bacteria from growing.


The Tray
From there, Dad told me to find a cabinet maker to make the tray like Jolicoeur’s without the rack, but all the quotes I was getting was for around $150, so Dad decided to go ahead and make it himself. He said it would have looked better if a cabinet maker had done it, but it should work just fine, especially once I got done sealing it. I asked the Cider Workshop about a sealant, and they said I could use about any polyurethane, but there was an FDA approved one called EZ-DO. I debated about it, and decided to go with that so that I wouldn’t have to replace my tray when I get my license just because I had the wrong polyurethane. The tray is 16”x20” with another 2” out on the peak, and 3” deep.

The biggest flaw we made was that we sanded the hole in the tray, which resulted in some rounding. Therefore, when the juice came though the hole, the rounding gave it something to grab onto and continue to the bottom of the tray. Depending on the wind, it would have several dribbles down, including on the platform! We are looking into a pipe or hose in the hole to guide the juice.

The Racks
Most presses, while they may have a rectangular box, set up for a square “cheese,” which is the ground up apples in a cloth. The cheeses are usually square because it cuts down on the amount of thinking involved to set up the tray, and therefore speeds up the yield per hour. Because my tray was made with ¾” wood, the interior of the tray was actually 14 ½”. The cheese must be much smaller than that, especially if using racks, because otherwise the juice will not land in the tray but outside. Claude at the Cider Workshop recommended that I make my racks with 2” clearance. However, I had purchased a sheet of ¼” FDA approved plastic measuring 24”x48”, which would easily cut into eight square 12”x12” racks but instead went with four 12”x16”, which I had to use a hand wood plane on edges because they didn’t cut as clean as one would like, and I’ll have to really stay on top of keeping this clean so that nothing harmful grows in the scratches. One could also use plywood if it was coated in varathane, other materials, or one can purchase cider press racks at OESCO or Goodnature. Racks are not necessary, but do help to get more juice out of the apples. I’m considering purchasing another sheet of plastic to cut down and make a few more racks to see if I can add more cheeses to my press and therefore increase my juice yield per hour.

The Cheese Frame
From there, Claude recommended another 1 ½” smaller cheeses than the rack, so I bought PVC, four 90 degree elbows, and some food grade PVC glue to make a cheese frame.  Again, since it is plastic, I will have to take care to keep it clean so that nothing harmful starts growing in any scratches. I could have used wood if I had used varathane, but I didn’t want to spend the time doing that.

Cheese Cloth
Originally, I set out to purchase the press cloth, but it was back ordered. The Cider Workshop told me not to use those things on my homemade press, but instead get cheap tulle from my local fabric store and everything would be fine. It costs about $2 a yard, and I about 3 yards worth. My mother also had a box of some decent cheesecloth that she was looking to get rid of. Both worked quite well, but the cheese cloth stained. Tulle is also artificial thread that does not absorb water, so it is probably more sanitary.

Top Plate
Finally, I took one of my plastic racks and placed an old bread board that I used polyurethane on. From there, Dad made a “prototype” top out of inferior wood, and he already has plans on how to make it lighter. If it was not a prototype, I would have painted it in my semi-gloss paint to help keep it clean. However, I did not find that juice went up and came into contact with it, so that was good. Also, at the end of each pressing, the top would kind of indent and crack on the top where the press pressed into it. I’m not sure how expensive of materials I want the real official top to be if this happens.

All in all, here is what I spent:

Now if I had purchased a tray instead and not gotten the polyurethane, the cost would have been around $225 (+ free stuff).

Read on for how the press works.

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7 Responses to “Building My Apple Press”


  1. […] 6, 2010 So the big day arrived – I had 100 lbs of Gravenstain apples ready to grind, press, and start fermenting, and I had the equipment to do […]


  2. […] and now there is so much I should be doing for the coming season. I need to pick blackberries, reseal my wooden tray, buy more plastic racks, and fix some plumbing. The apples are going to be late this year, but apparently, I’m […]


  3. […] stuff with tannin. So it is out percolating away. I think I will finally break out my grinder and press out this weekend as the Golden Delicious are finally on. Thing is, I was running out of carboys at […]


  4. […] D will be yellow when ripe, and this was not. Still, I took them and in four hours crushed and pressed 12 gallons of juice, and spent another hour doing clean up and playing chemist. Being green, they […]


  5. […] (a close 11th place) Building an Apple Press […]


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