Brock and I pressed out the first batch of cider of the year, from the apples we picked last weekend. I spent most of Saturday and Sunday morning working on the pedal-powered grinder, and made good progress, but it’s not quite ready for showtime. I also refitted the press grates with extra strips of maple flooring to bring the width out to 13.5″ from 10″, and rewaxed the grates. I also had to resize the cheese frame to match the grates. It was 8.5 x 16; it’s now 12×12, so the pressure should be almost as good. Holly has the base grate, so I made a pine-and-plywood top grate/press plate that turned out quite serviceable, so once Holly widens the base grate we will have capacity for 5 cheeses.

Holly finally scored a 3/4″ hex broach on Ebay, so we now have a spiffy handwheel, which greatly eases the pressing. Anyway, we fired up the Insinkerator/compressor combination and let ‘er rip. The apples ground nicely, and we found that we could get almost two buckets (10 gallons) of pulp in one pressing. The wider grates made all the difference in the world in terms of stability – the stack pressed down nicely with scarcely any manual guidance. The vast majority of the cider could be expressed with the handwheel; only the last 20 percent or so required the 18″ breaker and 3/4″ socket. The new 316 stainless steel press pan worked brilliantly as well, with very little drippage.

We ended up with 125 lbs of juice and 50 lbs of pomace, for a 71% yield – very satisfying! We filled my 6 gallon and Brock’s bigger (7 gallon?) carboys, and ended up with 2 gallons of cider for fresh drinking as well. I took half a gallon to the potluck Sunday evening that kicked off this season’s contradance band class by Jeremiah McLane. Gravity was 1.044, or about 5.5-6% potential alcohol. I gave my jug 1/2 tsp of potassium metabisulfite and shook it up; tonight I’ll make up a starter and tomorrow morning I’ll pitch it. Brock ordered a tube of Whitelabs English Cider yeast; I’ll probably go with the Red Star champagne yeast since it has worked well for me in the past. It’s pretty much the same juice, so we’ll get a decent comparison between the strains.

Here’s the upgraded press in action:

upgraded press

Here’s Brock pouring the goodness into the jugs:

brock pours cider


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