Holly wrote a much nicer writeup of this year’s cidering than mine: http://tooling-up.blogspot.com/2012/10/8th-annual-cidering.html
Archive for the ‘cider equipment’ Category
Thanks to everyone who pitched in to make the 8th annual Cider Weekend run remarkably smoothly. The weather was downright damp on Friday and Friday night, so my folks dragged the cider equipment into the big new barn they’ve been building, while I made the annual run to Poverty Lane. Work prevented me from making the usual improvements to the pedal-powered equipment; I barely had time to assemble everything and make sure it still ran. Joshua and Kelsey got things kicked off right on Saturday AM with delicious breakfast burritos and chocolate pastries, and then we set to work. We set up a nice little process flow, with washing, grinding, pressing, and bottling running counter-clockwise in the first two bays of the barn. We pressed sweet cider first, then the bin of Yarlington Mill I brought back from Lebanon. Thanks to Brenda, Steve, and the crew at Poverty Lane for finding us a bin of bittersweet despite the weird spring weather.
MomJones made a big pot of mac and cheese for lunch, which was washed down with copious quantities of cider. More and more folks kept arriving, and taking turns at each station, and the jugs filled quickly. We bottled four kegs of 2011 cider in parallel with the pressing, using the dual counterpressure rig. We were cleaning up by 4PM, and the total production was approximately 200 gallons, with approximately 73% yield (plus however much went straight into peoples’ mugs right off the press). Holly led an epic production of wood-fired pizza and delicious apple pie for Saturday dinner at #70, and Jake ran an extended tomahawk training session and contest, which was won promptly by Narath, who carried off the prize, a brand new ‘hawk hot from the forge. The kids got their turn at the tomahawks, and when the crowd thinned out a bit we played some old time music.
Sunday morning saw apple pancakes at #5, then more cleanup and some folks paddled around in Robinhood Cove. Heli made a nice lentil soup to go with leftover pizza for lunch, and folks departed laden with cider. I sulfited the newly filled carboys, transferred them to the root cellar, and made a starter for Emily to pitch the following evening.
Thanks again to my folks, grandparents, and Joanna and Jake for hosting, to the folks who made all the delicious food, and to everyone who pitched in to make this year’s Cider Weekend the biggest yet.
A day or two ago I heard a piece on NPR about a guy named Marcin Jakubowski who is on a mission to design and build the Global Village Construction Set, “a modular, DIY, low-cost, high-performance platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilization with modern comforts.” As described in a short TED talk, Jakubowski explains that he was a theoretical physics student, started farming when he felt that he lacked practical skills, and had bad experiences with old farm equipment that motivated him to design simple, practical open-source tools. This evening I checked out the website of his organization, opensourceecology.org, which has a work-in-progress wiki-based compendium of concepts, specifications, designs, fabrication videos, and test images. The group is big on modularity, hydraulics, and structural steel, and they’ve done a pretty impressive amount of development on a few of their concepts, including a skid-steer tractor and an automated press for making rammed-earth blocks. They are based at Factor e Farm in Missouri, which reminds me a lot of stuff I’ve read about the New Alchemy Institute.
Some folks up in our old neighborhood have taken up the homebrew cider equipment torch, and produced a very attractive hydraulic tie-bar press made of hickory:
They then proceeded to make two bins(!) worth of cider using a hand-crank grinder – that is serious work! These folks obviously have the skills to build stuff, so I would imagine they’re thinking about new grinding equipment for next year.
They were powering the hydraulic press From a small tractor, and from their blog entry it sounds like they had some trouble with the fabric, and with the racks they used. I’m just speculating, but I suspect that these could be related. They started out using canvas, which sounds like it blew out, so then they switched to jersey (which is much weaker I think) – maybe they can clarify in the comments. Based on our experience, canvas should work OK if you’re careful. We use the heaviest muslin we could buy at the fabric store in West Lebanon, just north of I89 – it sounds like that same fabric store was flooded out by Irene. I think the material is sometimes called ‘drill’, but it feels just like a fine canvas. It occurs to me that Home Despot used to sell natural canvas drop cloths that might do in a pinch, though I doubt the material is very good quality, and I’d wash it a couple times in hot water, since it’s surely not food grade.
Anyway, even with the heaviest cotton fabric we could find, we have had blowouts when we applied pressure too quickly. The trick is to bring the ram down VERY slowly once the pressure starts to build. The hydraulic presses are capable of delivering between 50 and 100 PSI to the stack itself, and if the pomace is still liquid-y when you get up to pressure, or if the radius of curvature of the fabric isn’t good and tight, it will burst right through. This makes perfect sense from a mechanical engineering perspective in terms of hoop stress in pressure vessels, but it makes intuitive sense once you’ve seen the pomace streaming out through a bulging hernia in the fabric. You need to gradually ramp up the pressure so the partially-exhausted pomace helps form bridges between the gaps in the grates; then you can really hit it with pressure – we go up to ~2500psi on the 4″ cylinder, but not until the stack is nicely consolidated. Even then, our fabric has been in use several years and we’ve had a few ruptures, so now we use 2 layers just to be safe – the yield is not noticeably affected.
It sounds like the Lockehaven folks are going to try making grates with 1/4″ plastic next year; I would caution that the fabric is pretty good at poofing out and filling shallow gaps. Our grates are made of 3/4″ by 1.375″ slats with gaps about 5/8″ wide between them, and I wouldn’t want much less than the 3/4″ for cider to flow through. Some of our grates are made of basswood (much softer than hard maple) and others are red maple (also somewhat softer) and we’ve used them a few years now, so I suspect the issues they were having might have been related to too much speed.
Anyway, I’m glad to see other folks home-building serious cider equipment – nice work, guys!
PS. it looked like they might have been aiming to ferment some of the mac/cortland cider. I suspect that a lot of folks get into the situation where they want to make hard cider but can’t get decent tart or bittersweet apples. We had the issue last year where we bought a bin of Dabinet from Poverty Lane, but we couldn’t get any tart apples (due to the widespread frost), so we ended up with several tanks of seriously unbalanced cider. Steve Wood would probably swoon if he heard we were adulterating our brew, but Holly discovered that 3g of malic acid from the brew store took our cider from way-overbitter to pleasantly tart. 1.5g per liter was more to my taste, so that’s how we bottled some of our 2010 stuff. Better Living Through Chemistry, as Jillian Cooke would say – not everybody has the luxury of 100 acres of fruit to pick from in blending their cider. This year, Steve couldn’t sell us any bittersweets – the brew store also sells tannin; we haven’t tried that though.
The two bins of drops we bought from Brackett’s had set in the shade for a week, and required some picking through. The washing crew requests a pedal-powered apple washer for next year.
Um and Pops surveyed the scene while tub after tub of apples met their fate:
The post-crushers eject finely shaved and mashed apple guts. Except for a few loose set screws, the grinder worked well this year – note for next year: LOCTITE!
Rhonda and Nelle load apple pulp into the press. The overwhelming power of the hydraulic press resulted in some ruptured herniations last year, so we double-bagged this year and didn’t have any further blowout problems.
Holly and buster pedal the press:
Joshua and Jo run the press:
New this year was a bottling/drinking station. We bottled about 20 gallons of hard cider (minus some for the operators and assembled crowd) using the twin counterpressure bottling setup:
There were more kids than ever. There was a play tent set up in the middle of the field with a brand new air mattress for jumping on, which was promptly popped. 3/5 of the Gates family:
Just got back from Five Islands; a full report will follow when I can get some pictures, but Cider Weekend was fantastic. The weather was great, light overcast and still on Saturday with just a few sprinkles in the afternoon, then beautifully sunny today. Things were a bit chaotic, but as best we can tell we made about 183 gallons of cider on Saturday. The equipment ran smoothly for the most part; we got the upgrade to the hydraulic return line done, the kids pedaled the press (till they got tired of it), and the only issues with the grinder were when set screws came loose or a key fell out. We also bottled four tanks of 2010 cider which had been sitting in carboys in the root cellar all year, ate like royalty thanks to the efforts of the entire crew – especially Stroudwater South (homemade puff pastry, breakfast burritos, coffee cake) and Summer Street (wood-fired pizza in the Glenwood C) – and the and the increasing large flock of kids ran around like banshees. Our cups, jugs, and carboys runneth over. Thanks to everyone for making it the best cidering ever!
Somebody named Steve writes to report that he has built a pedal grinder and bike-hydraulic cider press setup. See his video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bs2DcvCuS0k
It looks solidly built and effective. It’s not clear how the cutter drum was made, but it looks like a nicely made rig over all. If he sends more detail I’ll post it here. Well done!
AC and I made the annual pilgrimage to the upper valley to get cider apples. It was a beautiful day and a nice trip, but the haul was a bit disappointing. Where last year the bittersweet fruit was the only thing that didn’t get nailed by the early frost that decimated most of the apple harvest, this year for some reason there was a lot of regular stuff but basically no cider fruit. Steve didn’t even have a spare bin of anything to sell me. We ended up with a couple hundred pounds of Dabinet, Wickson, and Golden Russet. Here’s Alexis in a tree:
There were a lot of big watersprouts – what the trees didn’t do in fruit the last couple years, they seem to have done in greenery instead.
The previous weekend, we used the second-string cider equipment (garbage disposal and screw press) at home to make cider with apples from the tree in Keith’s yard and the wild trees on the north side. We did about 25 gallons in an afternoon; not too bad but nothing like the pedal equipment productivity.
There’s a 4′ PTO rear deck rotary mower and a 2′ walk-behind rotary mower (‘the whippah’) in Five Islands, but we need a mower for Gorham, and I’ve never been really happy with the performance of the rotary mowers – they tend to clump up and tangle the grass, making it basically not worth it to rake it up and use it for mulch. So we’ve had our eye out for a sickle bar mower, and Dave finally found a moderately old (maybe 10-20 years) Jari on craigslist, a ways upcountry. They don’t come up too often, so I took a chance and made the trip up there. The guy who advertised it wasn’t the most accurate; on the phone he said the bar was between 3 and 4 feet, while it was actually 32″, and while it was advertised ‘as is’ he said the only thing wrong with it was a broken pullcord on the engine, while in reality the cutter bar was all rusted up and the drive system was in several pieces and decidedly not functional. But all the pieces were there, and I got it for $125, so I’m not complaining (much). A new walk-behind sickle mower (new, better quality, and with swappable attachments) is well over $2000.
Anyway, I pieced the drive system back together to where I think it will work OK, tore apart and wirebrushed the cutter bar, reassembled, and lubed everything up. The only remaining problem is the fuel tank – it had supposedly been drained, but it was absolutely filthy inside with dime-sized chunks of rust. We took it off and tried brushing out the little float bowl on the underside of the top with a toothbrush, but it became obvious that it was shot – the metal was perforated so badly that it wouldn’t hold gas. Surprisingly, the pullcord mechanism just needed a bit of cleaning out and it actually worked fine, and even more amazingly it started right up with a squirt of ether in the carb. We demonstrated that the fuel feed system was working by holding a shot glass of gas under the intake tube (don’t try this at home, folks), which gave us enough confidence to go ahead and order a replacement fuel tank (which will cost about as much as the mower). It needs an oil change in a serious way, and probably some other things will rattle loose and require loctite, but hopefully we’ll have a nice tool for orchard mowing and microscale hay making.
A gent name of Kevin Redpath showed up in the comments introducing a video about an orchard called Sheppy’s in western England, available at this link: http://vimeo.com/22562045
In pre-industrial times, “Farmers paid attention to producing good cider, because without it they could not attract a steady workforce. The ration for a strong man was 4-6 pints a day, and half again as much at harvest time.”
40 acres produce 700 tons of apples – that’s 35000 lb or about 875 bushels per acre. Named varieties include Coates Jersey, Yarllington Mill, Tremletts Bitter, Kingston Black.
There’s interesting video of a PTO-mount tree shaking contraption that vibrates the apples out of the trees, and a collector that sweeps them up off the ground. They also show a belt press in operation – it’s different than I imagined it, and doable with bike power I think, but we’ve got a pretty sweet setup at this point with our bike hydraulic platen press, so I doubt we’ll go there anytime soon.
Primary fermentation takes place in giant oak tanks. They also show an automatic counterpressure filler, where the cider flows in along the outer surface, and there’s a central stainless dip tube that seems to tell the machine when to stop the flow. That’s the opposite of our design, where the cider enters through the central tube, and the gas escapes at the perimeter.