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.
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.
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.
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!
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.