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Old 10-26-2012, 06:14 PM   #1
fastenova
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Default Rebuilding press, have lots of apples, need help making fresh cider

Hey everyone! I've been making mead for several years, beer for about a year, and have a pretty strong understanding of fermentation in general. I recently acquired a press that was mostly rotted out on the bottom and have started repairing it - it's freestanding again and just needs a couple more 2x6s replaced to be in good working order. I am planning to finish the repairs tonight and use it tomorrow!

I have several large containers of apples, and need some help in figuring out the easiest way to make cider. I've got carboys and buckets, and am leaning towards a carboy for this hard cider. I will be kegging most of the finished product and possibly bottling a little bit of it from the keg.

I anticipate only having enough for a 5-gallon batch but since I haven't done this before, I've no idea what the yield is like.

My plan is to cut the apples into thin slices before I wrap them in cheesecloth and throw them in the pressing bucket. Then press until juice stops flowing. Next I'll add to the carboy and toss in a campden tablet to kill any bacteria and seal it up with an airlock. Then a day or so later add some yeast - haven't figured out what I want to use, yet... would like a semi-sweet cider but I'm not afraid to backsweeten if I need to.

I'll let it ferment out all the way, rack it, let it condition for a short time (2-3 weeks?), backsweeten with honey or dextrose most likely, then keg and chill.

So, what's wrong with my plan? Never done cider from fresh apples before, I made a malted & hopped cider and it came out fine.

What's common practice for sanitizing the press itself? Star-san? Should I not worry about it?

Thanks for the input!

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Old 10-26-2012, 08:29 PM   #2
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If you are going to add campden tab, I wouldnt worry about sanitizing the press. If its an oldie but goodie it's got more years than you of accumulated flora deep in its pores. So you'll probably never get it sanitized. but years of adding apple juice and the inherent yeasts will start to build a new colony of life in your press.

Plan seems simple enough. Often too complicated is just that...too complicated. After all its not rocket surgery. Search around, and read the sticky on different yeast types, and take a stab at what cider you want. Good luck, let us know how it turns out.

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Old 10-26-2012, 08:58 PM   #3
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Is there a need to filter the juice before it goes into the fermenter, or does the cheesecloth handle that for you? Also ideas on the type of store to get a piece of cheesecloth large enough, or can I use a paint strainer bag or something similar?

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Old 10-26-2012, 09:24 PM   #4
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No need, solids will settle with the trub at the bottom and get tossed with first racking. I've always used press bags. Should be able to get them from your local homebrew, or via the interwebs.

I'd think the paint strainer would clog up fairly easy.

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Old 10-27-2012, 04:35 AM   #5
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Only fault I see is that your cider yield will be greatly reduced by slicing vs grinding.

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Old 10-30-2012, 09:37 PM   #6
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So I made cider this past weekend and it was a miserable failure, the press was at least. I'd like some input on my presssing process as I may have just done it wrong or something. Not sure what to say... I have two 2x6s as a bottom brace that hold the apple basket and tray, and two 2x6s as a top brace that act as a base for the screw to push against. I only got about a cup of juice out (this took ~5 min) before the pressure from the screw cracked the bottom 2x6s... And I feel like I had to put a lot of pressure into it, way more than I thought would be necessary. The apples were cut into small pieces (maybe 12-15 pieces from one apple) and put into a press bag, we used about a gallon bucket's worth or so of the pieces.

What did I do wrong? Should it really take that much force to get the juice out?

I used doug fir for the cross braces, I'm thinking I should have used a harder wood so when I rebuild it I'll probably seek out something a little beefier. Not sure on what yet but I'm on a bit of a budget so suggestions are very much welcome!

Thanks,
Aaron

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Old 10-30-2012, 09:51 PM   #7
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Check out the cheap press thread. I'm thinking pine plywood would be stronger than any hardwood. Hell, the home depot by my house even sells oak plywood, that stuff would definitely hold. Also, if you can, freezing the apples would give you a little better yield.

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Old 10-30-2012, 11:59 PM   #8
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Using a stronger wood is only addressing the symptoms of the problem, and not the underlying cause. As roadymi said, you need to grind up the apples into a pulp. Simply cutting them up will not do, although possibly cutting plus a couple of freeze/thaw cycles to help them mush up. Additionally, did you just fill up the bucket with apple? or did you use cheeses to even the pressure distribution?

Look at other homemade and commercial presses, and see what works for others. There is no need to re-invent the wheel.

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Old 10-31-2012, 12:12 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LeBreton View Post
Using a stronger wood is only addressing the symptoms of the problem, and not the underlying cause. As roadymi said, you need to grind up the apples into a pulp. Simply cutting them up will not do, although possibly cutting plus a couple of freeze/thaw cycles to help them mush up. Additionally, did you just fill up the bucket with apple? or did you use cheeses to even the pressure distribution?

Look at other homemade and commercial presses, and see what works for others. There is no need to re-invent the wheel.
Understood that the apples need to be in a smaller/weaker form. I do not know what you mean by 'cheeses', but the apples were in a nylon mesh bag (meant for fruit pressing) and there was not a very large quantity in there (at least large in my mind).

I understood that I probably did something "wrong" and that's why I was asking for input on the pressing process. I didn't think that the 2x6s would break. I also had a friend there who had claimed to have done this before several times, and was relying on his suggestion of "just use more pressure!"

So I do need to replace those broken 2x6s, if fir is strong enough, that's fine by me as it's super cheap and easy to work with. I just figured if it broke the first time I used it, then it may break again, even if I do improve my processes... Then again, if you engineer something for certain conditions then operate far outside those conditions it can't possibly be considered reliable, nor does it necessarily need to be improved.

I wasn't trying to reinvent the wheel, the press was rotting apart when I got it but I'm pretty sure they used a hardwood of some sort in the original construction. I just wanted to see if it would hold up with fir, since as I mentioned budget for this project is pretty tight. So I had just assumed I had made a bad choice and should have used hardwood from the get go.

Thanks for the info and keep it coming! Should the threads of the screw be oiled at all? Both the 'auger' and the plate are stainless. They were in pretty bad shape when I got the press but I used a wire brush and some elbow grease and got them cleaned up pretty well, they turn reasonably well now. But a little oil wouldn't hurt. I just don't want any to end up in the apples!
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Old 10-31-2012, 12:20 AM   #10
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PS - I dosed it with a smashed up campden tablet, then went with Safale S-04 and because the press broke during initial use, we ended up just using our awesome juicer to get the juice outta the apples before they got too brown. A large amount of pulp ended up in the fermenter (which we are fine with, I have filters and could have strained it on its way in but the popular vote among the friends helping was to put it all in) and so had a clogged airlock and a slight explosion... but that's just part of the fun! My garage smells awesome and I'm excited to see how this turns out.

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