Cider Press 1.0

We have been kicking around the idea of making a cider press. Looked online and in our various books and they all say “start with your cider press and mulch your apples before pressing….” as if no one ever attempts to build a press, they all go and just buy one.

Now granted, the old antique ones are fantastic and expensive. $800-$1200 easy for a complete grinder and press.

Well, here at the farm, we just don’t have that kind of cash for a old press. So I began to look for new versions. Well, they can be really pricey too! Depending on the size and such, it was easy $100 to $300 for a very basic press. Craig’s List produced no luck… apparently, once you buy a press for your family, you never sell it.

So I began to search through some of the websites that had ideas and plans for making your own. Many were very complicated, and I’m just not that good a woodworker yet to be able to pull them off. But I did begin to see a pattern. You basically need a frame in which you can use a good car jack and press some boards together and smush your apples. Seemed pretty simple to me.

So, using some scrap 2 x 4s and a few pieces of good hard wood planks, we decided to give it a whirl and create the first WIndhaven cider press for under $10.

We basically made a little frame for the jack to set within. Knowing that mere screws would not hold up to the pressure of the jack, we bought a couple little L brackets to screw into the top. Now why I didn’t think to get a pair for the bottom, I don’t know, but I didn’t and that would have really helped a LOT! Shesh. In the end, the top held but the bottom cracked. Cider Press 2.0 will most definately have double bracing up and down!

I believe too, that a heavier, thicker wood flattening boards would have better. In fact, I think it would have been good to use two or three boards, with the grain turned one way and the other, glued down and drilled together, so that they would not crack. Maybe even strapped with a metal strap like a bow around a present!

But you don’t want a whole lot of metal in your press. So… perhaps we will be saving up a little Christmas cash for a press for next year! Because we had a whole lot of fun making cider this year!

If you do anything with apples, you need an apple peeler and corer! They are fantastic! We got ours on Ebaya few years ago for under $20. They are cast iron and heavy duty, and will last forever, I believe. And they are so fun and easy to use. You can go through a ton of apples in no time. Now we left the skin on, because we wanted to get a complete pressing of our cider. And we used a variety of apples. Winesap, red and yellow delicious, Gala, MacIntosh, and Honeycrisp. I bought 4 pecks in all. I’m not sure if that is a bushel or not… I’ll have to check on that. Okay… 4 pecks in a bushel! Thanks Google.

Now, in the end, we got a gallon of fresh cider. We got a homemade pie too.. I stole out a handful of apples for a pie. We got a huge gallon bag of the dried, apple pulp chunks that we are going to freeze and use for things like apple muffins and apple fritters and to add to waffle batter! Jessy thinks it might be good for stirring into oatmeal… and I think she’s right. And we also got a 5 gallon pail full of the dried apple pulp for our livestock. Some went to the pony and goats and chickens, but about 3 gallons of it went over to the piggies and I’m certain they enjoyed it greatly!

We set up a little assembly line with the process. I was in charge of whirling the apples and coring them. That apple corer is so cool… so easy. Just skewer the apple and turn the little crank. It will spiral cut and core that thing in 20 seconds! I think if you tried hard you could load, core, unload and process at least 2 apples a minute. We guesstimated that we had about 80 apples in our bushel and the whole process only took 2 hours. Of course, I wasn’t coring them non-stop, but stopping and watching the pressing and tasting our product and cleaning jars, etc. Jessy was the chopper girl… she had a cutting board and would cut them down the middle once and pop into our ancient food processor. If she didn’t slice it in half, it would not fit well and we could only do like one or two at a time. Slicing made it easier for 4 or 5 to go in there. Once she pulped them up, they would go into our holding bowl, waiting for Maggie to scoop up a few big spoonfuls into her pressing bag.

Now, we did not spend much money on our adventure. But the one thing I’m glad we did buy was a pressing bag. We got it off Ebay. It was like $4 or $5 total. The style we got was for a 5 gallon pail. It’s deep enough to set in the pail and had a little elastic rim that you could pull over the top of the bucket to securely hang the ground fruit. The bucket did catch a wee bit of dripping juice, but those apples held on to most of their delicious cider.

Once Maggie had a nice little bag of pulp, she would take it and twirl the top of the bag shut with a few twists. We found that you needed to be careful not to overload the bag, because the pulp would just squeeze out the sides of the pressing boards. And you didn’t need a very tight twirling knot on the top, as that made the pressure uneven. Just a twist or two and then she would lay it over the top, flat, without a huge twist of the fine mesh fabric.

And then she would lay in the top board and start pressing.

Now, yes, we washed the press and the jack and the pressing boards and such in super hot water and soap and kept everything as clean as we could. The jack never touched the cider, but we cleaned it anyway. I suppose a brand new jack would be a great idea but we thought Blue wouldn’t mind if we borrowed hers for an afternoon.

I was originally going to have a hole in the clean, new tote bucket, but I’m glad we didn’t. It would have been hard to keep the cider hole over another bucket and press as well. As it happened, we would press out a good amount, oh, about a quart at a time, and then pour it into our jars with a bit of straining cloth over the jar opening. A little bit of pulp would squeeze from the bag and we didn’t want that in the cider.

Towards the end, however, our bottom boards cracked and the top bar was starting to pull away from the frame, even with the metal straps! That is a LOT of pressure for sure from that jack. I suppose it’s only so, since it can easily lift a 2 ton car… what is a bushel of apples?

Now, we did not process our cider. Because we only got about a gallon from our first pressing, we knew that we would drink it up pretty quickly. Cider will last in the frig for nearly 2 weeks. We’ve already drank a half gallon in two days! (Well, we shared some with our friends too! It’s yummy!) Now as I understand it, if you were to process it in a hot water bath, it would clear up and become apple juice! And if you were to get a Campdon tablet to clear out the wild yeast and add some sugar and an airlock to your carboy of fresh cider, you would get hard cider in a few weeks! I would love to try that… I have an interest in home made spirits! (My beer is very tolerable!) But I have neither the tablet or a airlock yet, so I think that will have to wait another season! (I’m not sure if you can use pasteurized cider for homegrown hard cider… I’ll have to check on that… sounds interesting… )

Now, I’m not sure if we got a good return on a bushel of apples to one gallon of cider, but I still figure we did pretty well. A pie, a gallon of cider, a 5 gallon pail of pulp… not too bad. The apples cost me $15 at a local roadside stand. The pail, metal strap, mesh bag and all, less than $10. We used scrap wood for our building frame. I suppose it would have been cheaper to just buy a gallon of the stuff, but it was a really fun experiment in self-processing and I know exactly what was in it. And it was very rewarding and fun. Now, if only our OWN trees had produced those apples, that would have been fantastic! But alas, our poor little transplanted trees barely survived this first year on the farm and our existing trees did not produce well at all. We only had one little crab apple tree that set fruit. I think it’s because we heavily pruned all the various fruit trees on the property as they were all way overgrown and nasty looking. I hope that next spring we will be rewarded with a great crop of apples and pears! We’ll see…

I guess what is really fun about these projects, is not how cheap you can produce something, but that you CAN produce that said thing. Whether it’s cider or beer or soap or a quilt or raising a pig or a hen… it’s the pride in cultivating and creating a thing that is rewarding. It’s not being afraid to try things that our forefathers took for granted. I love sharing with my girls the sense of discovery and contentment that it brings from doing these things by hand. Anyone can walk into the supermarket and buy a jug of cider for $6 or whatever and you’re done. Big deal. But spend 2 hours cutting and peeling and pressing that cider? Laughing and learning and watching it happen? Oh yeah, that cider tastes so wonderful, sweet and full of memories! Just like eating a fresh farm omelet from your own hens or snuggling under your own quilt or afghan! Hard to describe how good that feels. It’s a good thing….

Related Posts with ThumbnailsPin It
Posted in Featured permalink

About Mobymom

the banjo player for Deepwater Bluegrass, and the editor of as well as the main graphic designer of the Westvon Publishing empire. She is a renaissance woman of many talents and has two lovely daughters and a rehab mobile home homestead to raise.


Cider Press 1.0 — 1 Comment

  1. I really don’t see how your press stayed together 5 minutes with that flat bottom on it. It looks like the force of the jack would have separated the top and bottom, even with the metal brackets. Did you ever make another press?