Vigo Rack & Cloth Screw Press

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Vigo Rack & Cloth Screw Press

The Vigo Rack & Cloth Screw Press is possibly the best 'off the peg' press for the beginner/small scale cider maker. The press uses a traditional design which has been used in cider making for centuries, where several layers of milled apple pulp are built up in cloths seperated by wooden racks to aid juice flow. A single screw delivers a claimed pressure of around 12 tons, and a single pressing will yield around 5 gallons of juice. Priced at £660 inc. VAT and delivery, it represents a serious investment for the beginner, and many with the facilities to hand may prefer to build their own press (See Homemade Cider Press). Having said that, many small scale producers find that this size of press is simply too small for processing more than a couple of tons of fruit per season, and soon graduate onto a larger press, often using hydraulics rather than a hand screw for pressure
Vigo also retail a number of smaller, and cheaper, Basket Presses, all of which are suitable for apple pressing, but the advantage of the Rack & Cloth method is a greater level of juice extraction. The traditional 'cheese' building technique (several alternate layers of pulped apple and slatted racks) employed with the Rack & Cloth Press, produces channels within the pulp which aid juice flow.

Pressing a traditional 'Cheese' of apple pulp at Broome Farm, Herefordshire

Use of the Vigo Rack & Cloth Press

It is important to point out that all presses require that apples are pulped to a fine consistency first, and there are a number of Crushers and Mills available for this purpose. See also the Czech Shark Fruit apple mill for a cheaper electric mill suitable for this size of press.

Washed and milled apples ready for pressing

  • During use you will need to exert a good degree of force on the screw, and therefore it is desirable to fix the whole press frame to a larger area in some way. The press is pre-drilled with four holes in the feet for this purpose, and a good solution is to screw, or tie-wrap the press to a wooden pallet. I used two such pallets which had the added advantage of raising the press up to a better working height for building the cheese.
  • The Vigo Rack & Cloth Press needs around a sackful of apples for each pressing, lesser quantities would require additional wooden blocks to build up the height of the finished cheese for adequate pressing. The press comes with six acacia wood racks, six polyester clothes and a square stainless steel former. First put a container under the outlet hole of the press bed since juice will start to flow from the cheese even before the screw is tightened down during pressing. Remove the locking pin from the top beam and swing the beam up to aid access to the press bed. Place a rack on the removable stainless steel bed of the press, then the former, and finally a cloth diagonally so that the corners can be folded over into a square. Apple pulp is then scooped into the cloth until level with the top of the former. The corners of the cloth are now folded over to give a neat square. The former can now be removed and the second acacia rack put on top of the full cloth.

Building the 'Cheese

  • Repeat this process until you have six filled clothes, make sure they are reasonably straight or the cheese will tend to press unevenly when pressure is applied. Place the heavy wooden top block onto the cheese ensuring the metal plate on top lines up with the screw when the top beam is lowered and locked in place. By now several litres of juice will already have been expressed by the pulp under its own weight.

The completed 'Cheese' ready for pressing

  • With the top beam secured in place pressure can now be exerted with the screw. How long you take over this depends on how much time you have and how much fruit you need to process. A long slow pressing over the course of several hours will result in a greater level of juice extraction, but in practice I found that a gradual increase in pressure over the course of half an hour or so gave me a sufficient level of juice extraction and an acceptable number of pressings in the day. Each pressing resulted in around 5 gallons of juice.

Pressing complete

  • After pressing is complete, wind the screw back up, swing the beam up, and dismantle the cheese ready for the next pressing. I found the pulp had been pressed to the point that no juice was visible when pressed between my fingers.

Pulp following pressing