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[nafex] Cider Press

In December of last year, I posted asking for some guidance on 
purchasing a cider press.   Don Yellman gave me a very kind and 
elaborate reply which in turn was followed by his now famous post on 
the kitchen-disposal-apple-chomper-device-type-thing.  I am pasting a 
copy of his original post to this post because it was so well thought 
out and there are no doubt members who were not subscribing at that 
time. I hope some will find it enjoyable.


                 1. The Happy Valley press is a fine unit, carefully 
cut from hard maple. But this kind of quality doesn't come cheap. The 
presses are now around $400. If you throw in a grinder at $100 plus, 
and add shipping costs, you will be over $600. For that kind of money 
you could buy cider for 10 years, or, if you put the money in CD's, 
buy cider for a lifetime just with the interest. Of course, if you
find a good used one on the net at a reasonable price, buy it. If
continue reading.

                 2. My press is a screw-type, built by a fellow in 
West Virginia. I always say if they can do it in West Virginia, we
do it just as well in East Virginia, with the possible exception of 
whiskeymaking. With ordinary shop tools and a little time, you can 
build a press that is actually better and stronger than the
units, throw in a grinder, and still come in under $200.

                 3. The main objective in building a press is
and structural rigidity of the frame. It will be subjected to intense 
pressures. You need to start with a pair of 4" heavy steel U-beams or 
I-beams, cut to 24", linked near their outer edges by 1/2 inch 
threaded steel rods. The length of these rods will depend on the type 
of pressing system you choose (i.e. screw type or hydraulic). Build 
the wooden parts of your press around and under this steel framework. 
It is not easy to find dimensional hardwood lumber, but it can be 
done. First choice would be hard maple, but red or white oak would 
also work. Treated lumber should be avoided. You might try building 
without the steel frame, and good hardwood would last for a while,
the fasteners would start to fail after a few years of use, and that 
won't happen with a steel skeleton.Spray the whole thing with epoxy 
paint while it is still new.
                4. My press uses a long, 1" steel acme screw, but if
were building a press today, I would use a hydraulic cylinder. You
looking for a hydraulic jack with a very long stroke. Northern Tool
                 (www.northerntool.com) sells a 3-ton jack with 17" 
stroke for $39.99. You will have to design a bracket to hang the jack 
upside down from the  upper frame member. Here, you run into an 
engineering problem ---  keeping the jack aimed straight down when 
pressure is applied. But if  you install an additional cross-member 
drilled to the dimension of the top of the jack you can keep it 
pointed in the right direction. Bolt a good strong piece of hardwood, 
at least 2" thick, inside the lower steel beam, wide enough to
your cider receiving tray. You probably won't find 2" hardwood wider 
than 18", but the wider the better. If you decide to go hydraulic,
the jack before beginning any other construction, since the jack will 
determine your vertical dimensions.
                 5. Next, turn to your pressing basket (or bucket), 
and the pressing plate (or platen). My pressing basket is made from 
heavy hardwood strips linked with copper. It is 15" high. But I think 
you could use a stainless steel bucket perforated with many small 
holes, and I am going to experiment next season with a perforated 
plastic bucket. I am not sure that plastic can withstand the abuse. 
Any bucket must have straight sides, or the platen will get pressed 
down into it, never to return, and the inside surface must be sanded 
perfectly smooth to avoid tearing the nylon pressing bag. The platen 
should be a disc of 2"  hardwood that slips easily into the bucket, 
and it should be backed with a steel or iron plate, with finger hooks 
installed to lift it up after pressing. The pressing bucket/basket 
need not be a full 15" tall, since you won't want to put more than
bags of slurry in it or you will start to lose juicing efficiency. 12 
inches might be more like it.
                6. My press was equipped with a plywood receiving 
tray, but I have  since switched to a plastic beehive cover, drilled 
at one end and fitted with a 1/2 inch plastic pipe, angled downward
discharge into a   pitcher. Remember to design your lower press
with sufficient  height to easily slip a pitcher under the discharge 
of the receiving tray. The beehive covers are available from the 
Walter T. Kelley Co., Clarkson, KY (1-800-233-2899), Cat. No. 49, at 
$12 each. They are a lot tougher than wood, and easy to clean.

                 7. Now for the grinder. I used a hand-crank "apple 
eater" for one season, and was disappointed. The apple pieces were 
often large andirregular. About half went into the bucket; the other 
half was  scattered around the yard. It was slow business, and I felt 
I was losing much of my juice yield due to the chunky nature of the 
grind. So I rigged up a new garbage disposal on a small stand, and 
have been using  it ever since. The disposal produces a perfect apple 
slurry, breaking up the juice cells, and I have nearly doubled my 
juice yield per bushel. The disposal grinder requires the use of 5-6 
gallon nylon pressing bags lining a 5-gallon bucket to make the
work. There  are two drawbacks to the disposal grinder: First, large 
apples must be  cut in half or even quarters to get them into the 
disposal throat.  Second, the disposal motor will operate only about 
30 continuous minutes before it will overheat and shut down. It must 
then be allowed to cool before resetting the internal breaker. The 
ambient temperature and the  speed with which apples (or pears) are 
fed through obviously affect the  length of time the motor will run 
without overheating. The faster the better. However, these apparent 
drawbacks are not issues for me, since  I scrub all my apples anyway 
to remove sooty blotch and flyspeck, and it is a small additional
to slice them into halves or quarters. When I find moldy core, I take 
that out, and that can appear even in a perfect apple. Then I throw 
the cleaned apples into a large tub of water to retard oxidation, 
processing about 1 bushel at a time. Washing  the apples takes more 
time than anything else, since a bushel of apples goes through the 
disposal grinder in less than 15 minutes. You may not want to be
so concerned about cleanliness if you don't mind a little sooty 
blotch, flyspeck, or moldy core in your cider. I know of no one who 
has died from moldy core. I regularly get 3 gallons of cider from
bushel of apples (54 pounds), and more if the apples are particularly 
juicy or I throw in some of those juicy asian pears. This season we 
made over 40 gallons of cider, and arranged our washing, grinding and 
pressing in such a way that the disposal motor never once overheated. 
I wrote an article on the disposal grinder for the summer 99 issue of 
"Pomona", and also posted it on a cidermaker's board called 
cider-request". I know some people have tried it, and some have
pooh-poohed it, but no one has simultaneously tried it and pooh-poohed
it. It works.

                 8. If you decide you have the time and inclination
try such a project, and have any technical or design questions, I 
would be happy to try to advise you. As you can see, I am full of it. 
Advice, that is.
                 Rgds, Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA 

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