DIY: Cider Press

I started making cider—and homebrewing, really—in 2015 when a friend moved to a new house the year before and wanted to do something more with her apple tree. Leading up to the apple season, I found some recipes to give me the basics on how to actually make cider, and more importantly, how to turn these apples into juice.

Our initial process and press were actually based off an episode of one of Jamie Oliver’s shows where they made cider. The design evolved after a couple years of use – not pretty, but it got the job done. The basics of the design has a jack to provide pressure, apple mash in fabric parcels separated by pressing plates. Over the few years we used this design, we upgraded from a scissor jack to a bottle jack, and added holes to the pressure plates.

The first press Brown built. Photo courtesy of Aaron Brown.

On the grinding side of things, we started off with cut up apples in a pail, and used a drill attached paint mixer to attempt to get a useable mash. This turned out to be a lot of effort for a very poor end result. In the second year, we upgraded to a ¾ HP kitchen garburator, which basically reduced the apples to the consistency of applesauce!

Before the apple season of 2018, I wanted to make some changes to our setup to overcome some issues. There was a lot of wood parts that were difficult to clean. The frame of the press wasn’t overly sturdy and had some pressure cracks. The pressing plates were difficult to centre forcing us to stop several times during a press to reposition things. I did the usual online searches and on HomeBrewTalk, and eventually came across a design called the Whizbang Cider press, which seemed to tick all the boxes for us. Unfortunately, the apple tree didn’t produce in 2018, so I never got around to building until 2019.

The Whizbang cider press that Brown built. Photo courtesy of Aaron Brown.
The cider press in action. Photo courtesy of Aaron Brown.

This design is much better overall. It adds a tub to keep things centred, and incorporates high-density polyethylene (HDPE) for easier cleaning and significant resistance to cracking. The designer of the press also offers a few more tips such as using the bottom of a 5 gallon pail as a form to build your parcels—makes life a lot easier!

We were also able to realize an increased yield as well from the higher pressures, which resulted in a very dry pulp.

The pulp from the pressings. Photo courtesy of Aaron Brown.

This year’s season resulted in about 125 L of juice to go into cider, cyser, and jelly, with more than enough to try a few new yeasts including a brett blend and some Voss kviek!

The 2019 batch of apples to be juiced. Photo courtesy of Aaron Brown.
The various different fermenting batches from this year’s pressings. Photo courtesy of Aaron Brown.

Aaron Brown is a geologist/photographer based out of Saskatoon, SK. He’s been homebrewing since 2014, making beer, cider, mead, and wine with a focus on home grown ingredients.

2 thoughts on “DIY: Cider Press

  1. Hello everyone,

    I recommend you try my method of freezing the apples. Make sure they’re frozen like rock but then fully thawed before pressing
    I have about four to six hundred pounds of apples frozen solid and when I thawed one out it just turned to juice mostly, it was like a cold pudding. So when I press them thawed out, they should be easy to press and produce some good results.
    Certainly won’t need a crusher/grinder at all, just the press.
    I plan on using the press format that I saw in this article but with some up-dates.
    I will likely use the same ideas but also include a good heavy duty automotive spring with an adjustable tensioner.
    I might even buy a big steel pasta pot and have a machinist drill some 1/8th or 3/16th holes, we’ll see.
    That will require a custom pressure plate but that’s not too hard to make.
    That way, the spring works steady for me and I can just keep an eye on it and add more tension as required.
    I will also add some strength at joints and other points where galvanized plates won’t be in contact with the juice.
    I’ll use those thin galvanized plates with the many nail/screw holes, they can be found in most hardware stores in different sizes. If they don’t have the thicker ones just use two doubled up, during the install.

    Best of luck to you all… this is gonna be fun ;))

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