Cider Making 2006
(Introducing My New Apple Crusher)

Last year around this time I borrowed my friend Ken’s cider press and we made apple cider. I posted about the experience in my blog entry titled, Cider Pressin’ 2005.

Ken’s press is a Happy Valley kit that he bought a few years ago and assembled himself. It has an attached hand-crank apple grinder. Last year, in an effort to make the process of grinding apples easier and faster, I bought a garbage disposal.

The garbage-disposal-for-an apple-crusher was an experimental thing and it worked exceptionally well. While hand cranking an apple grinder is laborious and slow, machine grinding is fast and fun. What’s more, the disposal-grinder rendered a much finer apple pulp (it is the consistency of applesauce), than the hand grinder. The finer the grind, the more juice you get from a given amount of apples.

But the disposal grinder had one big drawback. Continuous feeding of apples into the unit put a strain on the motor and caused it to overheat. When that happened, the internal breaker tripped off. We had to wait for the motor to cool down then push the reset button. But after it heated up and tripped off once, and we waited for the motor to cool down, it would trip off again relatively soon. So the grinding action was beautiful but the motor just didn’t have enough uumph to do the job.

As this year’s cider season was approaching, I decided to try modifying the disposal to get better performance. And, instead of mounting the disposal in a scrap of ½” plywood clamped to the work bench in my shop, I built the grinder as a freestanding unit with a tabletop.

Last week, on Thanksgiving Day in the morning, my sons and I made cider. We put the new, improved apple grinder prototype through the paces and, to my great delight, it worked perfectly. Fact is, the machine worked so remarkably well that there is absolutely nothing more that I can think of to make it any better. It is, unquestionably, a Whizbang Apple Crusher!

Whizbang is a dictionary word that means conspicuous for speed, excellence, or startling effect. It is a word I’ve awarded to the Whizbang Chicken Plucker, the Whizbang Chicken Scalder, and the Whizbang Bar Soap Display—three products I’ve developed and then put together how-to plans for.

I do not give the Whizbang title to every idea I get and bring to fruition. I’ve had my share of bad ideas and some partial successes that have not been worthy of being called a Whizbang. For example, I developed what I hoped would be a homemade Whizbang Powerflush Lung Remover to help remove chicken lungs when processing. The idea has merit but it isn’t a Whizbang. Nevertheless, I hope to share the Almost-A-Whizbang idea with you here one day soon.

The point is, when one of my homestead experiments actually works like I dream that it will, that is a very satisfying thing, and very satisfied is how I feel about my new apple grinder. I’ve told you all of this as an introduction to telling you about Thanksgiving morning when we made cider. And I’ve got some pictures to show you……

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The picture above is of my friend Ken’s Happy Valley cider press. You can see the hand-crank grinder with a hopper attached to the top of the press frame. I sure do appreciate Ken letting me use his press but I will not be borrowing it again. That’s because I don’t need the grinder and I’m currently working on what I hope will eventually be a Whizbang cider press. It will be much different from the Happy Valley press.

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The photo above shows a top-down view into the Happy Valley apple crusher. The mechanism consists of a hardwood cylinder with several rows of stainless steel teeth. Crank the handle. The toothed cylinder turns. Apples are crushed. They fall into the press basket below.

If the handle had a weighted flywheel, it would be easier to crank. Even still, hand cranking is the weakest link in any home cider making system. Now here’s where I’ll introduce you to the Whizbang Apple Grinder…..

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The grinder is shown in my kitchen. I put drop cloths on the floor in case the grinding was messy. But there was absolutely no mess at all. Bits of apple did not fly out of the grinder as happens with a typical hand-crank apple grinder. And, as you will see shortly, the ground apple pulp exits the grinder without any mess. The square frame visible on the bench in the background fits on top of the grinder stand and acts as a curb to corral a supply of apples as they are being fed down into the grinder.

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The above picture shows several elements of the grinding operation. On the table in the background are washed apples. I washed three bushels at the kitchen sink and piled them on the table before we started grinding.

The apples have to be halved or quartered in order to fit into the mouth of the grinder. A cutting board and a big knife makes short work of the apple-cutting process.

Then the apples are fed into the grinder, which will take the fruit as fast as you can feed it in. Occasionally, the apple chunks will get jammed in the grinding chamber. When that happens, a stick is used to poke the apples down. The poking action will easily dislodge the jam and the grinding action will gobble the apples right down. I believe we could have fed apples into the grinder all day without any problem.

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They say the proof is in the pudding. In this case, the proof is in the pulp, as the above photo shows. Quartered apple pieces are easily and quickly macerated to applesauce consistency. It’s a beautiful sight to behold.

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With our bucket full of apple pulp, we headed outside to the press. The slatted press basket is lined with a tough nylon filter fabric. The pulp (notice that it has oxidized and darkened from the previous picture) is scooped into the basket and the juice begins to flow immediately, even without pressing.

My son James is holding a glass under the tray. He is getting a first taste of cider, straight from the press. It is a smooth, pure, wholesome, liquid-apple drink. Unlike the store-bought cider, this juice is not pasteurized. No chemicals have been added to “preserve freshness.” And there is no soapy residue flavor like I often taste in store-bought cider. Homemade is always better than store-bought and apple cider is no exception. Our own home-pressed cider was a special treat with our Thanksgiving meal later in the day.

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Once the pressing tub is full of pulp, the fabric is folded and the pressing plate is set on top.

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When the 1” diameter Acme pressing screw is turned down, the juice really flows. This is when everyone stands around, watching and waiting while the press does its work. As the pressure under the screw eases off, the screw is tightened down more. That tighten, wait, and tighten again procedure is repeated until the juice is squeezed out.

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The above photo provides a down-view showing the parts of Ken’s press. Unfortunately, the Happy Valley press is not, in my opinion a Whizbang cider press. It has several flaws but the biggest drawback (aside from the difficult and inefficient hand-crank grinder) is the traditional-style pressing tub.

I love the look of a traditional cider press but I’ve come to the conclusion that a slatted pressing tub is not the most efficient way to squeeze juice out of ground apples. It just doesn’t squeeze the pulp as dry as I’d like to see.

So my efforts are now being directed towards building a small (homestead size) cider press that uses alternating layers of filter-cloth-wrapped pulp (known as “cheeses”) separated by racks. This is the pressing method utilized by many large pressing operations.

I am close to achieving my goal of developing a complete Whizbang cidermaking system. The grinder is done. The press is almost done and needs testing. I may need to do some tweaking to fine-tune everything. When I reach my goal, a Whizbang planbook will follow. Stay tuned….

~~~~~

P.S. I will not, at this time, share specific details about how I built the Whizbang Apple Grinder. It isn’t rocket science, and it isn’t a patentable idea, but it is somewhat proprietary and, considering the time and investment I have in developing the machine, I have decided to guard the details until the planbook comes out.

~~~~~

UPDATED INFORMATION....March 2009
A lot has happened since this essay was first posted. I experimented with a rack & cloth "cheese" instead of the slatted pressing tub and decided that the tub was a better approach, primarily because the stacked cheese can be "tippy" when pressure is put to it. That is not a problem with the slatted pressing tub. But the tub can be more complicated and expensive to make. It can also be argued that the cloth-wrapped cheese layers squeeze out better than a tub with all those slats in the way. In any event, three years after this essay was originally posted, I have published the "Whizbang Cider" plan book. I invite you to go to www.Whizbang Cider.com for details about my book and lots of other useful home cidermaking information.

31 comments:

Dave said...

Herrick,
I would like to be the first to officially order one of your cider press books when you get it put togather. We have a old press and it works ok and gets the job done but not nearly as good as what you are describing. By the way, how many gallons of cider did you get per bushel? We got about two gallons with a very coarse pomace.Did you get more with the more ''fluid'' grinding? Lastly, one thing we have done is save/freeze some cider and blend in some strawberries or blueberries or banannas. Fantastic flavor! Take care.
Dave in GA

Anonymous said...

I notice you didn't take the seeds out of the apples. Aren't you worried about cyanide from the seeds, or is that an old wive's tale?

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Dave,

It's nice to know I've sold one copy already!

I 'm sure I got at least two gallons per bushel BUT the ground apples had a lot of juice still in them after pressing. That's why I'm focusing on a pressing system that uses the racks instead of a tub. I'm expecting a better yield of juice and will make it a point to keep track of just how much juice I do get.

I'll be pressing more this weekend and we will be freezing most of it. What do you freeze your cider in? We used gallon ziplock bags last year and they leaked a bit due to the expansion of freezing.

Anonymous-

Grinding apple seeds with the cider does not do any harm that I know of. All storebought cider and apple juice was made from crushed apples and I don't think they removed the seeds. I have heard of someone eating a half cup of just apple seeds and dying from the cyanide content.

Dave said...

Herrick,
We use one gallon plastic jugs. We have a spring water factory near us and he sold me new jugs with lids for .25 each. A good deal. Before that though we saved and had friends save their milk jugs for us. We washed them very good and added a splash of bleach before the final rinse and they worked out well. Dont forget to save the caps and never fill them past 3/4 full to allow for expansion. Then into the chest freezer they go. We have even had two year old cider that we defrosted and it was fantastic.
Hope it goes well for you.

Dave in GA

Doug said...

Herrick,

thanks for another enjoyable article.

What do you do with the pomace after is has been squeezed? Is it good for anything besides the compost pile?

Anonymous said...

Is it apple juice you are making as cider is fermented apple juice and has quite a high alcoholic content
Pete

Herrick Kimball said...

doug--
I put it on my compost pile which is my chicken yard now (and will be a compost pile next year). Perhaps pigs would eat the wrung-out apples?

anonymous--
Yes, you are correct. It seems we in the U.S. are accustomed to calling the juice of fresh-squeezed apples cider, but cider is traditionally known to be alcoholic. I discuss that in the links I provide to other articles about cider making. Check them out.

Anonymous said...

I bought and used a cider press last year and I used the leftover pomace for making applesauce. I got 8-11 pints of applesauce per gallon of cider I got.
Marti in Ohio

Herrick Kimball said...

Marti--
That's great! Can you provide more details on how you did that.Must be you peeled and cored the apples prior to grinding?

A good cider press will leave the pulp quite dry. That was my experience this last weekend (yesterday) as I pressed using racks instead of the tub. The pulp was a fairly dry cake.

dave said...

I have a super-modified garbage disposal grinder that has worked exceptionally well this season, I also have built a rack and cloth press using ordinary materials(mostly). we pressed 100 gal of cider this season without much effort. I don't live far away (Skaneateles) and would be happy to compare notes and share information.

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi David,

I'd love to see your grinder & press and compare notes. Can you e-mail me at: hckimball@bci.net ?

I tried to get to your web site but with my dial-up service it was taking forever to load.

By the way, I think we once met at a BOCES building trades consultant committee meeting.

Gail M said...

Herrick,
I'm glad the grinder worked, we used juice from Ownes and Grismore when we couldn't grind fine enough to press here, but the hard cider we made is great!
Gail

bobnotbob said...

Did you do anything different the second time to keep it from overheating?

Anonymous said...

Herrick,
you indicated you had a big problem with the disposal overheating. Did you go to a larger hp disposal or do something else to prevent overheating?

Lucas said...

Herrick,

Are you any closer to releasing your whizbang apple crusher plans and the plans for your top secret cider press? I want to be prepared for next year...

Also are you going to publish plans for your compost sifter?

Lucas in Vermont

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Lucas,

I will be trying out some modifications on my cider press this fall and doing some experimenting. I think I'll be satisfied with it enough to proceed with putting together some good plans. I would love to have plans together by next summer. But there is no guarantee.
I havee other irons in the fire and time seems to go so fast.

The compost sifter plans are on hold. I have several other ideas I want to bring to market first (cider press is one).

Thanks for asking.

Dave said...

I'm being pressed (no pun intended) into service to build an apple grinder for my children's school, and I very much like your idea of a disposal-based grinder. I can put all the bits together, but the key thing you left (intentionally?) unclear was the nature of the modification to the disposal that allows it to run continuously without overheating. A couple of ideas occur to me, and I wonder if you can give me a gentle prod in the "right" direction:
- reduce the diameter of the disposal input, thereby reducing the rate at which apple can be added. Disposal does less work per unit of time, and is happier as a result.
- increase size of "cutter" openings in the circumference of the disposal chamber, providing better apple outflow. Disposal doesn't have to grind as fine and does less work.
- perhaps some contour or shaping change to the weighted cutter heads that spin madly inside the disposal chamber. Just guessing here.

Any help you might want to post would be appreciated. I understand you don't want to release information that would reduce future plan sales. I would gladly buy a copy of your plans if they were available, but I'm under a bit of pressure from the school to get this going soon.

Thanks for the great post,
David

Anonymous said...

I am prepping for next season and would also like to buy plans this winter. I regret that I will have to start with or without your plans, so please publish sooner than later!

Al Yelvington
alany@semparpac.org

Anonymous said...

Perhaps another way to keep the disposal from overheating would be to run it with a fan type speed control, causing the motor to run slower. I would think running it at maybe 80% power might help it to run at continuous speed. Just a thought.

Emily said...

I was wondering if this would work for crushing root veggies like carrots and beets for chickens? I read in one of your posts that you grow beets for your chickens how do you prepare them for the birds? We cook them which takes a fair amount of electricity.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post!
I've heard of the dispose-all approach before, but your photos and description are by far the best. Can you specify the disposal unit? Even a horsepower rating (and the throat size of the disposer)would help.

Julie G said...

Hello from Michigan.
We have pressed cider for over 7 years now using a 100 yo antique ratchet press, slightly larger than the Happy Valley. They seem to be everywhere on Ebay...
We usually make between 100-200 gallons from 1-2 tons of apples (2nds picked, washed in Basic H, bad parts cut off, etc. by volunteers- friends and family.)
We bought the grinder from Happy Valley, had an electrical friend hook up an old motor to it with a huge wheel for the belt and welded it to a metal cart. Best invention. We attach a square bucket for a chute over the top (well washed out kitty litter bucket works well.) Plug it in, flip the switch, and away the apples go.
The clothe really makes a difference in how much cider you get out.
I buy 3 new nylon cider bags every year at 12.00 each for a days worth of pressing. The press holds two bags at a time.
I buy the gallon plastic jugs at the local natural foods co-op for about 15-20 cents a piece with pop on lids.
We fill the containers only to 1/2 3/4 full for the freezer. We keep about 40 gallons for ourselves and the rest is given away to the workers, and drunk throughout the day. Every October it is a great party and the children love to take turns making cider, as well as playing in the straw bales, games, and for hay rides thru the neighbors field.
Feel free to contact me for more info. The garbage disposal idea is too small for us.
We would love to move into an orchard some day, buy a small industrial size mill and really go at it...

Anonymous said...

where can I find the kind of nylon bags you use?

Is there a specific way to tell which are tough enough for pressing?

Thank you.

Herrick Kimball said...

Anonymous-
Lehmans in Ohio sells the pressing bags. HOWEVER, you don't need the bags. You can use inexpensive sheer curtain material squares to make your own bags.

THIS LINK has full details and lots of how-to pictures for an improved cider pressing technique.

Anonymous said...

I'm upgrading an old press, and would like to use the HDPE plastic you mention for a new tray (which collects the juice and drains it into the bucket) and pressing discs. But I can't find this stuff anywhere except in very expensive large sheets on the web.

Where can I find a few square feet of HDPE?

Tiffany said...

I LOVE the idea of the disposal grinder. Hubby looked at it and said... another project.. grin.
We have an OLD cast iron sausage press. this is what we make our cider in. it has a large basket with holes in it, specifically made for making cider. put the apples in, set the presser plate, close it up and crank. It has a large gear assembly on the top that is VERY easy to create pressure with. On the front near the bottom, there is a hole and our pours the cider.
I have found this a very very useful item to have. We make our own sausage and stuff it with this, make cider and I use it to press my home made cheeses. Im sure if I thought about it, I could probably find a million other things to use it for. Im thinking when I get more garlic, it will be a fantastic cold press for the garlic! Thanks for such a wonderful site. I have one with similar information but different. http://woodsprytefarm.blogspot.com/Tiffany
WoodSpryte Farm

Anonymous said...

HDPE - USPlastic.com
I got a Sweet 2ft by 4ft piece 1/4 thick. Used it for the base and sides of my base plate for the tub I built. 30 bucks well worth it! cuts on a table saw nice and easy

Anonymous said...

Hey...I think the Whizbang is awesome...I was just wondering how much all the supplies cost you to make the whole thing?

SeattlePioneer said...

I use the shredder attachment on my Kitchen Aid Mixer to grind the fruit. That does the job quite easily and might be a good solution for those who already have a Kitchen Aid mixer.

I line my press with a clean pillow case and ladle the crushed fruit into the pillow case. That does a good job.

I typically use about eight pounds of apples to get a quart of cider

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R A Power solution said...

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