Talk:Homemade Cider Press

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OK that's the first instalment complete. If there are any questions, please place them here and I'll do my best to answer them.

Contents

Lift Rating

Ray - What is the lift rating (6-ton? 12-ton? 20-ton? etc.) of the jack that you intend to use for your press? I'm building a similar style and I'd like to determine the minimum jack rating for pressing optimal yields of juice without bursting the press beams. Thanks for your advice!

Dave (Connecticut USA)

Dave - The jack I've bought is rated at 6 tonnes (metric ton = 1,000kg) but it was selected for the length of action rather than capacity for lift. 6 tonnnes seems to be a fairly common choice with this style of press, though I know folks using 2 tonne hydraulic jacks have had very good results too. I'm afraid I'm not enough of an engineer to calculate what size of press beams would be needed to take this type of pressure. I usually go for a long, slow, gentle press and go by 'feel' as to when to back off, more in the interests of not bursting the 'cheese cloths' rather than putting too much strain on the beams. Sorry that I can't be more specific! If in doubt, err on the side of safety and caution. Good luck. -

Bench screws

Great article!

I've recently built a press myself on very similar lines from diagrams in 'Real Cidermaking On a Small Scale' by Michael Pooley & John Lomax, although I did'nt hear about this site until afterwards. Doh! If anyone's interested, I found a site in Germany selling woodworking bench screws reasonably cheaply, and their overall length is 21in which is a damn site longer than any i found from uk websites... The site is [1]

Hope it helps! Alex - Wales

Hello, stumbled across your site. Looks great! We are planning to make our first batch of cider this year, and I was wondering if there was any on this site that lives near Newbury ( Berkshire ) that I can rely on for help/advice? Thanks Gavin Berkshire

Racks

Hi, Just read your article on the homemade press and the Apple mill. I have also built a press out of scrap. Axminster Tools sell screw threads which are good for making a press. Look for York vice parts. The reason for writing is to suggest that you place a sheet of wood or other stiff material between the layers of Apple pulp. This will even out the forces, reducing the toppling of the Apple pulp and acts a force multiplier. Without this plate some areas of the Apple pulp will be hardly squeezed at all. Hard to imagine but you will have noticed the pulp is wet in some areas and much drier in others. One test is to add the sheets and press the pulp again.

Paul.

Hi Paul, Yep, am aware of the fact that press racks of some description would help, but so far we haven't had any problems and the pulp does come out really dry, like a board. We found that the quality of the scratter/mill plays a huge part in juice extraction, along with ripeness of the fruit, etc. I have bought a large sheet of 12mm HD Polypropylene which I've cut up into squares to fit the press and am (hopefully...) going to find time to machine grooves into the squares within the next couple of weeks, before I start to press this years fruit. I'll add a page with photo's to show the outcome of this endeavour when I've finished.

Hi You can get the vice screw in the UK from axminster tools http://www.axminster.co.uk/product-York-Tail-Vice-Screw-22373.htm

John Wales

Cheese Cloth

Hey this is Tim from nova scotia. I love the step by step instructions of how to build the cider press as I was looking to buy one until I stumbled across your site. Anyway I was wondering if you could more fully explain how you put the apple pulp into the shear curtain material and how you seal it so that it won't pop open. Thanks Tim One last question what size of cheese cloth/shear material do you start with.

Hi Tim, and welcome! Glad you found some of it useful. Anyway, to answer your questions: We buy the material by the yard / metre, looking particularly for strength and a mesh that is not too open - or too closed. Surprisingly, pattern does not seem to affect flavour or juice extraction!!! About 1 or 2 millimetre square mesh size seems best. We cut it into rough rectangular pieces, approx. equal in size and then lay it over the wooden 'cheese mould' / frame or former, tucking it carefully into the corners, so the frame is roughly central-ish to the rectangle of net. The pulp is then ladled out into the frame (we use a 2-pint / 1 litre plastic measuring jug) and pushed down and into the frame by hand. We spread the pulp around by hand to get a roughly even depth, then fold over the overhanging material, sort of like wrapping a parcel? So two oppposing sides are folded over first and pulled taught, carefully overlapping, then likewise with the remaining opposing sides. Sort of Front / Back, followed by Left / Right... The overlaps are held in place by the cheese formed on top, and once the pressure starts, they don't shift or slide. We've never (in six years anyway...) had any cheeses pop open, slide or slip, and that's under around 6 tonnes of hydraulic pressure.

Hope that helps. If you need any help, just ask. I can measure my cloths if you wish. Good luck.

Update: At home now Tim, and have measured the cloths. The 'drop' (according to my mum that's the right term to use...) is 5 foot / 60 inches (approx 1.525 metres) and we've cut it into 3 foot / 36 inch (approx 0.915 metre) wide strips. We can only fit seven cheeses in our press, so we bought 7 yards / metres. The actual width of the squares that make up the mesh / net is about 1/16 of an inch (roughly 1.5 mm). Lizzy, one of the members of the ukcider email group, recommends a net curtain called 'Arran Lace' which is sold in the 'Dunelm Mill' chain of stores here in the uk - not sure if that information is any use to you in Nova Scotia though...
Cheers.

Dave Bryant About to make cider for the first time

Hi Ray,

I'm just getting started with cider making. I have 3 trees on my property that produce huge quantities of apples, and 2 pears. Thanks for a fantastic explanation of how to build a cider press, I've just finished harvesting my apples and can probably have the press built this weekend. My father inlaw is an avid beer brewer, but has never made cider, and although he said the brewing process is fairly similar and shouldn't pose any complications, I was stumped as to how to rend alot of apples into juice without a great deal of extra work. (Harvesting is time consuming enough.) (This should help alot.)

I have a couple of technical questions for you regarding process. Prior to pressing you talked about ripeness and milling, do you think freezing the apples would hurt the outcome? Also, as I want to maximize my product and quality, and end up with an alchohol content of 7-9% (not quite wine but not quite beer) I'd thought of cutting the juice with water and maybe sugar. Is this common at all? or is it a big mistake from the outset? If I do use water, would you have a recommended ratio of water vs pure juice? (same with sugar.)

Thanks again for the article and good luck with this years bottling.

Dave Bryant Nobleford Alberta Canada (Bryada00@uleth.ca)

Hi Dave,
As regards ripeness, the apples should ideally be as ripe as possible, so that they are falling from the tree with just a little shake of a bough, or so that when you press the pad of your thumb into the apple it leaves an imprint. The pips need to be good and brown too. The apples are also better if left to ripen for a while off the tree, preferably above ground and under cover; this gves the fruit time (days to a week or two) to soften further and concentrates the sugars. You'll need to keep a close eye on them though so that they don't rot; if they start turning brown, mill them. Exactly what type of apples are they? Eaters, cookers or cider apples? Are you going to use the pears as well? Do you have access to any crab apples or wild pears?

Freezing the apples will break up the structure of the fruit and so make pressing and (potentially) juice extraction easier, but you'll still have to mill them in some way. Have you looked at Ni's Homemade_Scratter page? This gives lots of info on building a scratter (or mill) on a budget. Other options folks have used include large food processors, industrial centrifugal juice extractors - or simply pounding them with a baulk of timber. If you go the freezing route, be careful that you don't end up with loads of apple "mush" that could be difficult to press and would clog any pressing cloths.

Adding sugar and then cutting the juice with water after fermentation, is the way most of the big industrial cider makers work. Personally, I don't add any water to my ciders and have no intention of doing so, so I can't help you there; they are 100% apple juice. If your target is quality, I wouldn't recommend adding water. I have added a little sugar in the past when the Specific Gravity has been very low and so would be unlikely to keep, but only to raise it to around a potential 6.5% ABV. Before you consider adding any sugar, use a hydrometer to check the SG of the juice. Have a look on the Cider_makers_FAQ for some more info. This will give you an idea of the SG to aim for, for an ABV of around 8%.

You'll get a much more immediate response from far more knowledgable people than amateurs like me if you join the email discussion group and post questions on there: Ukcider:Community_Portal

Good luck.

Plans for Freestanding Homemade Cheese Press

Hi Ray,

Rather than throw this up on the main page, I thought I would put it here and let you decided whether or not to include it.

Working from the blurry pictures of Canadian cheese presses from Andrew Lea's website ( Linked here ), last year I drew up plans for and built a free-standing cheese press, similar in many ways to yours.

I built this press out of 100mmx100mm (aka 4" by 4") green english oak, and use it with muslin cheese cloth and a 12 ton hydraulic jack. Interestingly enough, I have never had any problems with the jack being too strong - in fact I regularly have to work quite hard on the pumping lever towards the end of the pressing cycle.

Being made of oak means that this is incredibly heavy and needs a trolley to move it around. I hope that someone finds this useful ;-)

--Timo 14:56, 6 November 2006 (GMT)

Cheese Press Plans

Hi Tim,

Looks good! I would have liked to use oak too, but my first press was definitely made on a budget, so such exotic (!) timbers were out of the question. Plus (as you've found) presses can get mighty heavy and I have to carry mine around to store it. No problems about adding your drawings - the more the merrier, gives folks greater chance to make an informed choice.


Interestingly enough, when I brought it out this year it has reduced to about half it's weight. It has self-seasoned and lost a huge amount of water. Since the oak I used here was green - aka still soaking wet from having been cut down - it has not been processed at all. It was rough sawn and not kiln dried at all. This means that all of the wood that I use for this press, including the 2x4 chocks for spreading the force onto the press place, came to £100. Not excessively expensive in the grand scheme of things. --Timo 15:34, 8 November 2006 (GMT)


Tim from Nova Scotia

I just completed my apple grinder and I was wondering in general aproximatley what is the yield of a bushel of apples. Tim

Another Homemade Press by Jerf - merges seamlessly into a scratter discussion!

I have just made a 6 ton press using ideas from this website - its been a great success. Now I have been thinking of making a scratter - similar to the ones described elsewhere on this site (wooden barrel with screws in etc) I have calculated this to cost well over £100 just for the core parts. Has anyone made one of these using parts from a washing machine as they have most of the mechanical bits - bearings/ motor/ pulleys/ mounts and stainless steel stuff. Any thoughts?

Thanks

press pics if anyone interested: Press

J

Hi Jerf. Looks good, nice press! Good height and size too. Are those racks made from plywood? Did you groove them? What are the press cloths made from? Hope you don't mind me moving your edit to this section. Fits in better and leaves the Cider Making FAQ clear to be more focused. I'll post up your addition and a link on the ukcider email group. Cheers! --

Hey Jerf. The press looks great, can't wait to hear more about it. As far as the grinder goes it can be done on a shoestring budget if you are not in a hurry and don't mind scrounging for things. I just finished building one and I used my motor from an old washing machine. If you are lucky enough to find a two speed motor it will save a little money as if you use the low speed you will need smaller pulleys. Anyway my entire machine cost $30 canadian dollars which I guess is roughly £15. Anyway let me know if there is anything else I can help you with. Get off cut lumber or pallet lumber from a hardware store which is usually free. Talk to appliance repair people for old pulleys and belts. Check machine and boat shops for the stainless steel rod where they sell it by the foot cheaper that way. Good luck Tim from Nova Scotia

No problem Ray, was clueless where to put it really... Racks are made of cheap plywood - not the best choice but the marine ply cost twice as much but I should have paid the extra really. Have given them a couple of coats of polyurethane so will hope for the best. I wanted to see if they worked without grooving first and they seemed to be ok - got just under 60% yield with a 16" template. I may go to 14" templates for higher pressure and increase the height of the press to get the same yield. Get about 25L per pressing.

Not sure about the name of the press cloth material - went to Dunelm looking for net curtains but came away with stuff which is apparently used for balerina skirts-I'm no expert honest. It has a 1 to 2mm mesh size.

Tim - do you have any photos? I was hoping to use much of the washing machine assembly - In effect just replacing the large drum with a 8" steel tube with blades on. Is it really that bad to use steel for this? I don't fancy using a bucket and fence post next year.

It may be worth looking at the older example of a homemade scratter made from an oil drum with holes drilled into. It's powered by lawn mower parts. Richard Thomes' Scratter pics on ukcider --Andy 18:12, 14 November 2006 (GMT)

Newbie question.

Hi, I have built myself a press, roughly based on the design on your website, and I am now waiting for my apples to ripen before I can test it properly. Do you know if there is any reason why I shouldn’t use 5 gallon water bottles as fermentation vessels? They are significantly cheaper than glass jars from the wine retailers. They are heavy plastic.

Thanks

John, Ontario

John, well done for getting the press ready. Drinking water bottles should be fine. See this answer for information applicable to larger volumes. Food grade plastic, not coloured etc. Check the suitability of the neck opening for fitting an airlock --Andy 09:44, 10 August 2007 (BST)

great cider press but!

I worry about the cleanliness of a hydraulic press above my grapes, which I am pressing. How about putting the jack underneath. It keeps the jack and the mash seperate and only requires protrutions from the bottom plate fitting into the vertical sides of the press to keep it all in line. It would only take a drip of hydraulic fluid to corrupt the whole brew.

- This problem of contamination has been discussed in the ukcider email group repeatedly over the years, hence many professional presses using water as the hydraulic medium, even when the ram is mounted under the press base as you suggest.

Sure, your point is taken, but my press was just sharing my way of doing it simply and on a very low budget - there is nothing to say that this is the only way of doing it and thankfully many variations on a theme have emerged. Personally (and I bought a brand-new jack specifically for the job) I haven't had any problems with fluid leaks or spills; soon as the jack looks like leaking, it will be passed on and a new one sourced.

Where are the cider press plans?

Sorry to post here, but I can't for the life of me find the cider press plans anywhere.....

Certainly not here:-

http://ukcider.co.uk/wiki/index.php/Homemade_Cider_Press

Thanks

Darron

Making a press and scratter - advice needed

Hi there,

I'm planning on making a scratter and press, and I know it's getting near the end of the apple season. I have a lot of the materials needed, but have a question that I hope will be simple to answer.

my materials will be wooden, some taken from an old (mdf/chipboard) chest of draws, some just wood, etc and I know I'll have to coat, or protect the surface with some kind of liquid or varnish?

so what would be recommended as food grade and suitable for this?

I don't know the materials, as they were scavenged/forraged, so I'll have to take pictures and put them up on my webshots account.

the barrel for the press will be made from the flexible part of an old bamboo chair that I found.

What kind of screws/bolts are best for the grindy bits of the scratter?

Thanks in advance for help, and thanks for a great website.


Hi, I made a very effective scratter utilising a beech rolling pin - you need the type that has a thin steel shaft running through and plastic 'bearings' that cost around £3.00 from a local branch of Wilkinsons (in fact you can get all the bits you need here except the stainless steel screws - I got mine off the local market but Screwfix do 'em) Prise off one handle and discard the thin steel shaft and plastic bushes. You now have a pilot hole that you can open out to fit the shaft of a tap wrench (the ones for sale in Wilkinsons are too short and I bought two, but a better shaft would be in one piece) When drilling out the rolling pin to accept the new steel shaft take your time as you want it to spin pretty much true (though, using a two piece shaft mine doesn't, but still works okay...) Longer tap wrenches are available in bucket shops in the tool section, 'Supatool' do one about £3-4 about 14" - just try it up against a steel ruler to make sure it's pretty straight. Once you've got your tap wrench (or whatever else you can lay your hands on for a shaft - needs to fit inside 15mm copper tube) cut off the wrench end so left with just the shaft and grind (or file) some keyways or such and araldite the shaft into the drilled-out rolling pin. (The Wilkinson two part epoxy is just as good - about £3.99) Once you got a good shaft you can mark out for the stainless screws. A block of wood half the diameter of the rolling pin would be good, but anything that you can draw a straight line against and allow for rotation of the roller. Mark a line and turn through 180 degrees, then half again - you want the screws spaced out so that you don't have two next to each along the grain. So aim for spaced out and staggered. I tend to think that the more screws you add the more you'll get a grinder than a scratter.

You will need two pieces of around 3/4" (ply won't split and will last longer) for either side of the roller. Decide where you want the roller to be (I went for one end with a feed chute at the other - but centrally mounted would be just as good..?) Once you've decided how you want it setup, drill each piece or clamp/screw them temporarily together and drill through both. You can mount the roller into plumbers' straight 15mm compression fittings (hence the shaft ie.tap wrench being a snug fit into 15mm) Wilkinson's sell the 'Comisa' brand, but plumbers and skips would be a good free source.

Once you've braced the two sides together (I used 3"x1" timber with good long screws) you've got the basis of your scratter. I used the two sides to add supports for a series of 'plates' made out of 12mm beech-faced plywood. This makes the whole thing dismantlable for washing. I used to use a little vegetable oil on the bearings but don't think it's necessary and as juice doesn't get to the bearings I don't worry too much about the copper/bronze 'contaminating' the juice, but if this worries anyone then the shaft could be longer and the bearings could be mounted outside of some ply drilled to the same size as the shaft that would then act as a seal. But I haven't had any trouble with this anyway. The whole set-up can be powered by an electric drill (1/2" chuck) and I find that a variable speed drill is useful. It handles small apples very well and with a side feed chute apples are thrown up against the cover and not back out again like some designs I saw on You Tube, but large apples can sit atop the roller/cutter and a piece of wood is handy just to help push them down. Once moved from side a to side a few times they soon wizz through. The scratted pieces could be pressed but I opt to further pulp them. Another process, yes - but yeilds more juice. A simple effective tool that can be knocked up in weekend and mine's in it's third year now - cost me about £12. There's pics of it dismantled here - see 2010 - December - 'Scratter Assembly' [2] and You Tube here:[3]) - though the vids don't show it working very well (I do have some better ones, but haven't got around to posting them yet...) After a half-hour of continuous use it can tend to clog up underneath and it might be a good idea to make it so that it sits directly onto a tub for the scrattings to drop straight into rather like a paper shredder sits on top of a waste bucket, as it's the chute that clogs up on my set-up, so doing away with the chute could be better. [Experimenting with a slower speed it seems to work better and didn't clog up at all with 93lbs of apples - (scrats were a little bigger though)]

The current press is 4" sq timbers with cross beams of 6" x 2" - couldn't get long enough bolts so used studding (disadvantage is that it's threaded through the timber...) with 12 x 18" plywood press boards (curtain lining material for press cloths) I can now get 30 litres in one pressing. Internal dimensions are 21" (24" would be better) by 28" (30" better...) Pulp former is 16" sq by 3/4". As mine cracked recently I'm thinking that a timber frame could be made much stronger by bracing with steel strip, ie. between the top and bottom bolt holes maybe, also the cross beams would be better left with overhang each side so that the bolts aren't so close to the end grain.

hope this helps, cheers, lwm