Using the Apple Press

October 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 so!

First off, I went to my local grocery store and asked their bakery for buckets. They get frosting in buckets, and they just recycle them, so they will give you them for free if you ask. These buckets are food grade, and they are a life saver! They were what I cut apples into, crushed into, and pressed juice into. I probably used six of them.

I also got a hold of a few large Rubbermaid tubs. One of these I filled up with a sanitizing solution to put my PVC frame, plastic racks, and cheese cloths in when not in use. Watching Al Yelvington,  I also purchased a laundry basket that would fit inside one of these tubs so that I could rinse the apples. I did this by putting the apples in the basket, putting the basket inside the tub, and then hosing them off. I read Andrew Lea and Ben Watson, and neither one of them mentions using any sort of chemical on the apples, so I did not. The apples will float in water, and dirt and rocks sink, though I did have a problem with leaves sticking to the apples. I would then take the basket out of the water and set it down and let the water drain. It is important that the basket have a bottom, unlike a milk crate, so that the apples do not get dirty again.

Unfortunately, with my apple grinder, I had to cut all the apples in half while sorting out bad apples or cutting out bad spots. Rule is, if you wouldn’t eat it, then don’t make cider from it. A little bruising is okay, but decay is not. I placed my good cut up apples in a bakery bucket. I then had to slowly feed them though the grinder, as if I dumped them, they would instantly clog the grinder. I could push them around a little bit using a new BBQ tool my father was looking to get rid of, but if the chunks were too big and if there were too many in the chute, I had to turn it off and empty it. The grindings from the chipper went into another bakery bucket.

I set up my apple press with the PVC frame and cheesecloth, and I just used a small Rubbermaid food container out of my cupboard to be a scoop to get the pomace from the bucket into the cheese frame. Meanwhile, below my press, I had another bakery bucket set up to catch the juice that was already starting to trickle as I set up the press. Admittedly, I abandoned the diagonal placement of the cheesecloth that I’ve seen others use, and went in line with everything else. I had enough cloth that it didn’t seem to matter, though I’m sure there is some good reason why it is done the other way.

After folding over the cheese cloth and removing the PVC frame, I then put on a plastic rack, and then repeated this process until I ran out of plastic racks. From there, I placed the top on the press, and then slowly lowered the press.

I pressed slowly. That is, I would lower the press enough that juice would really start to flow, and then I would go do something else for 15 seconds to a minute when the flow rate would ease up, and then I would lower the press a little bit more. I adopted this technique when learning about real cheese, as pressing to fast too quickly actually traps the whey in the cheese. I used the same principle here. All in all, my little press was doing about 4 gallons of juice an hour, and got about 7.5 gallons total. I think I might try more racks to up that rate, but that will increase the set up and take down time of the cheese.

I threw the spent pomace into yet another bucket, though a tub would have worked just as well. The pomace is pretty dry at this point, and is kind of cake like. I had about 32 lbs of pomace when I was though. If it had been a large amount, I would have tried feeding it to livestock. However, it was a small amount, so I put it out in the garden and then buried it with wood chips.

When everything had been pressed, I had to clean everything up and wash, which took awhile.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the way things went, and I have a few design flaws that I’ll have to work out. For later pressings, I got some tables to get my various stations raised off the ground so that my back didn’t hurt as much as this first pressing did, and I have been experimenting with the position of work stations in relation to each other. In the future, my first upgrade would be to get a different chipper/grinder. Right now, with having to cut up the apples before it can go into the chipper, it is the slowest part of my operation. It takes three people cutting up apples to make the press the slowest part of the operation. If I had a different, more efficient chipper, there would be a huge labor savings, and I would also probably be less tired and more relaxed. It would also probably be more fun for guests to participate in, so I would probably have more volunteers.

My first pressing in a photo gallery.

Here are some quick videos of people grinding and pressing apples if you want to see the process:

One Response to “Using the Apple Press”

  1. […] on for how the press works. Posted by candlewineproject Filed in press Tagged: Al Yelvington, apple press, build, […]

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