Introducing My Homemade Whizbang Cider Press

[Dateline: 4 November 2008]

I have been working over at least four cider seasons to develop a simple, efficient, homestead-size system for making apple cider. Now, finally, I have a complete system that I’m very happy with. In this essay, I’m going to tell and show you my cider press.

But first, I want to point out that the heart of any good cidermaking system is the apple grinder. I have yet to see a hand-crank apple grinder that grinds apples to a fine pulp, easily and quickly. If you rig a motor to a hand-crank grinder, you’ll get your pulp quick and easy but not really fine. The finer the pulp, the greater the juice you’ll get for your time and effort.

However, as I explain and show in a previous essay, I solved the apple grinder problem by modifying a kitchen garbage disposal to do the job. The disposal by itself is not well suited to continual grinding. But I found I could “tweak” the unit to create an incredible apple pulping machine. It turns apples into virtual applesauce as fast as you can feed the fruit in, and it can do this for long periods of time without jamming or overheating. So that problem was solved with the development of my Whizbang Apple Grinder [Upadte 2010: you can now see the Whizbang apple grinder (and press) AT THIS WEB LINK). Next I needed to come up with a Whizbang press.

Year before last, I was convinced that, for a homestead cider press, a commercial-style rack-and-cloth pressing system would be better than a slatted tub held together with hoops, and I pursued that option in 2007. I discovered that if the “cheese” (as the built-up layers of wood racks and cloth-wrapped apple pulp are called) is not built just so, and pressure is not applied just so, the cheese will tip out of balance as it is pressed. The whole thing can become a real hassle to work with.

It turns out that in days of old, it was a special craft to build a good cheese for pressing. I find that admirable and fascinating but the method is not as simple and user friendly as I was thinking it might be So, back to the slatted tub I went. But this time with a modification: What if I were to place “pressing discs” in the tub as I put the pulp in? These discs would act much like the racks in the rack and cloth system. Instead of putting pressure to a large mass of pulp, the pressure would be distributed more evenly and squeeze the pulp more thoroughly with the discs. And since it would all be contained within the confines of the tub, noting would get out of balance.

Then there was the matter of what to use to do the pressing. All the cider presses I had used in the past employed an acme screw that was screwed down on a pressing plate, on top of the pulp. I actually made a press with such a screw pictures are at the end of this essay). But I also made a press that employed a scissors jack from a car (or a hydraulic bottle jack)..

After comparing the two pressure sources, I had to conclude that I liked the car jack better. It was faster and just as easy to use, perhaps even easier. I paid somewhere around $140 for an acme screw, acme nut, and the welding to put the screw mechanism together. But the car jack was free. As much as I like the traditional appearance of the screw press, the jack press was more of a Whizbang method.

All of which brings me to this year’s cider press design. I have now developed a design for a press that is “conspicuous for speed, excellence, or startling effect,” which is the definition of Whizbang. The pictures that follow are an introduction to my non-traditional-looking but very simple, and very effective, homestead cider press....

The above picture shows the basic Whizbang cider press frame. It is made of 2x4 and 2x6 lumber and is modeled after the old Garden Way press I owned 30 years ago. The frame is light in weight (easily tipped on its side and carried with one hand) yet strong.

A pressing pan fits into the base of the frame. The pan catches the cider as it is squeezed and a drain hole channels the juice into your container. My pressing pan is made of HDPE plastic, which is strong, easy to clean, and food grade. A pan could just as easily be made of wood sealed with polyurethane. Stainless steel would be nice too. In any event, the pan slides in and out of place easily. It is convenient enough in size that you can take it right into your kitchen and wash it at the sink with hot water if you want. The lattice grid you see in the picture is the pressing platform. Here’s another view, showing the pressing platform up close....

The slatted tub rests on top of the pressing platform and it allows cider to flow from underneath the tub, out the drain hole.

My pressing platform is also made of HDPE plastic. It was originally a solid piece of 3/4” thick plastic. I made the grid with multiple passes over a dado blade in my table saw. It is a deluxe platform. A very adequate platform can also be made of pine. When I get the Whizbang Cider Press plan book together, there will be plans in it for a very simple wooded pressing platform.

The above photo shows the pressing tub in place on the pressing pan. The wood staves (maple) are my nod to traditional style and nostalgia. I do like the look of the natural wood staves. The tub hoops are 1/8” thick HDPE plastic and they are held on with stainless steel panhead screws. I would liked to have used stainless steel hoops but they would have been expensive, and stainless steel is very hard to drill so many holes in. The HDPE is inexpensive, and seems to do the job just fine.

The above picture shows a nice feature of the press. The whole press pan with the tub can be slid ahead for easier filling, then pushed back under the pressing shaft when it’s ready to squeeze.

Pressure is applied down on the apple pulp by means of a 2x6 pressing shaft. At the end of the shaft is a pressing plate. Again, I have made my pressing plate using HDPE plastic and it is sized to fit snugly inside the diameter of the hoop tub.

As the photo above shows, the end of the pressing shaft fits snugly into a square-box that is part of the pressing plug.

Above is another view of the pressing tub and pan, pulled ahead for filling.

Before putting apple mash into the tub, a nylon liner is fitted inside, as shown above.

The above-pictured pail of apple pulp was ground in my Whizbang Apple Grinder. A bushel of apples weighs 42 pounds. There is exactly 42 pounds of mash in that bucket. To be more specific, the bucket contains 20 pounds of Ida Red apples (Qty:35) and 22 pounds of Cortland apples (Qty: 64). I weighed and counted very carefully for this featured pressing. I also carefully measured the juice output from this one-bushel pressing.

By the way, using my Whizbang Apple Crusher, I was able to grind that bushel of apples by myself in less than 5 minutes. My arms did not ache from cranking a handle round and round. I just fed the apples down into the disposal opening as fast as I could.

The picture above shows ladled pulp in the pressing tub. Notice the juice is already dripping into the pot under the drain.

After scooping in three inches or so of pulp, I place a pressing disc down onto the apple slurry. Again, these discs are HDPE plastic. I layer on more of the apple mash and put another disc on top. The macerated apple pulp is so fluid that it self-levels as the discs are placed on top.

With the rest of the mash in the tub, I fold the nylon mesh down on top. Please note that one bushel of apple pulp fills the Whizbang tub only about half way. The tub will take at least another 3/4 bushel of apples. So this press has a 1-3/4 to 2 bushel capacity. That is a good homestead size!

The pressing pan with its tub of mash is positioned under the pressing plate. Then the dowels that hold the 2x6 pressing shaft up are removed and the press plate drops down onto the pulp. It is time to apply pressure.

The car jack I’m using is from the trunk of my reliable old Nissan Sentra. The jack rests on a small 2x6 platform screwed to the top end of the pressing shaft. Small blocks of scrap 2x6 are stacked on top of each other as needed to boost the jack up to the top cross bar. Since the tub is only half full, several more blocks are needed than would be the case if the tub were full.

The car jack is operated by turning the end. A pair of Vice Grip pliers gives me a nice handle. The top of the jack rests against a solid bearing surface made using three steel electrical box covers.

Crank the jack handle and the sweet cider pours out the drain hole. When it slows to a trickle, crank the jack some more. It’s a beautiful thing to see fresh-squeezed cider flowing into your collecting pan.

In time the juice flow will slow way down, even with a lot of jack pressure on it. You could leave the press to set another hour or so while yet more cider trickles out (and tighten the jack a bit more every ten or fifteen minutes) if you want to get as much juice as possible from the pulp. I stopped pressing in this series of photos because the sun was setting and I wanted to get everything cleaned up.

The above picture shows the pressing shaft on the pressing plate. Notice the little bit of cider around the end of the shaft/ That should not be. It is there because I drilled a small center home when making the pressing plate. I will have to plug the hole next time I make cider. And if I make another press, I will not drill that hole.

The easiest way to clean up (or get ready for another pressing) is to retract the pressing shaft and remove the tub from the bag of pomace (squeezed-out pulp is called pomace).

The above picture shows the layers of pomace and pressing discs. The pomace is dry, but I think I could have squeezed another pint of cider out of it if I took the time.

And there’s the beautiful finished product—sweet, full-bodied, pure, wholesome cider. That bushel of apples rendered three gallons and two cups of the liquid goodness. A full basket in the press would have produced at least six gallons.


So that, my friends, is my Whizbang cider press. As you can see, it is a very simple design, but very effective. It is also very inexpensive to make. Granted, the HDPE plastic parts can run up the cost, but basic plywood and pine with an ample coating of polyurethane would substitute just fine and keep the cost to a minimum.

Best of all, this simple press will reliably press cider for many, many years to come.


There are a lot of people who will find my Whizbang Cider Press as I’ve introduced it to you here to be sufficient inspiration and information to build their own press. There is nothing wrong with that. But most people will find the project a whole lot easier with some specific specifications and directions. With that in mind, I am in the process of putting together a set of drawings and construction notes for the Whizbang Apple Grinder and the Whizbang Car Jack Cider Press. If all goes well, these plans will be available early in 2009.

Stay tuned......

My book, Anyone Can Build A Whizbang Apple Grinder And Cider Press is now in print. You can get full details about the book and learn a lot more about cidermaking in general at this link: www.Whizbang


warren said...

Your system looks good. I like the plastic plunger especially. I made a press similar to what you have shown. If you are interested in a slightly different press, you can see my version here:

Anyhow, thanks for the post

Robert said...

My father-in-law comes from a big apple farming family and has told stories about how much money he made in high school by gleaning the drops from his uncles' orchards and taking them in to be made into cider. I'll pass this link along to him, and I'm eager to see the plans when they come available.

April said...

I can't WAIT for the plans!!

James said...

Whizbang Indeed!!

It reminds me of an old guy we used to know when I was a kid. Every fall, at the county fairs, he would be set up with his apple grinder and press. He would run the grinder, and press apples, and hand out free samples. People would sign up for his delivery route, and he would drive around in an old station wagon selling fruit from his orchard and the cider he pressed. We always bought a bunch of cider from him in the fall, and other fruit in the summer. He did this route for generations. A lot of the money he made went to support the Boy Scouts.

A fine old Scott, and I miss him.


Andy said...

Terrific! A way to have REAL non-cooked to save the kiddies cider! Kudos on the design!

Visit us at Bluebird Meadow Farms

Tracy said...

That is awesome!

Lynn said...

This looks wonderful! Have you considered publishing this as an e-book instead of a printed book? Less costs for you and cheaper for us.

Clint said...

I just cranked out 18 gallons with that much more to go on an old community-owned grinder-press. It seems like a lot of old cider mills had the press attached, presumably because you had to catch juice from the milling process too, so might as well have one catch pan and spout for the whole outfit. The problem is that you pretty much have to shut down the grinding operation to press. Well, there were actually several problems which are all solved by your two brilliant utilities.

Bruce Hopkins said...

Excellent design, pictures and description! Thanks for helping us save money!

Bruce Hopkins
Best Prices Storable Foods

Anonymous said...

Nice looking plans. I hope you get the book out soon.

I also read your vinegar articles. One traditional way to make vinegar was not to use "first pressing" cider, but to pour boiling water over the dry pumice cake after pressing. Stir it up and let it cool. After it has cooled to body temperature, add some fresh pomice or grapes to reitroduce the yeast and bacteria.

Also, if you add some of the mother from a good batch to help start a new batch, you'll be less likely to get a bad batch. That happens once in a while.

Now I'm of to read more of your blog. Thanks for all the good information


Anonymous said...

Hi Herrick,
GREAT Grinder and Press idea!
I tried to press apples a couple of years ago, but did not know they needed to be chopped or crushed first. Made mine out of 2x4's and with a 20 ton shop press, broke the 2x4's and NO JUICE! Well, a teaspoon or two!
Thanks for sharing your design!
God Bless,

Herrick Kimball said...

Thanks everyone for your feedback.

20 tons is a lot of pressure. A friend recently told us that she has frozen apples and pressed them whole after they thawed out. She says it works fine and the cider has a different (but good) flavor.

Anonymous said...

i love how you incorporated machine work to compliment the woodwork! looks good!

Robert said...

Any word yet on your book/plans?

Herrick Kimball said...

Hello Robert,

Thanks for asking about the book. I am currently on break for the month of December and am immersed in the work of writing and illustrating the plan book for the Whizbang apple grinder and press. I hope to have it together and to the printer before the end of January, next. Then I should have copies ready by the end of February. When the book goes to the printer, I will be announcing it here and offering it for a significantly reduced pre-publication price, as I have done with the last few Whizbang books I've published.

Best wishes,

Herrick Kimball

Richard said...

I have just built a trial cider press, using a pan to hold the cheese and a quickly constructed wooden pressing plate.

I am just about to build MK II. And i have a cople ofr questions.

Using a lattice built pressing pan, does the juice slip out of the sides as well as through the bottom?

How did you go about constructing the HDPE items? Did you buy a sheet and cut it all to size?

Thanks and well done.

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Richard,
Sorry but I'm not exactly sure what you mean by a lattice built pressing pan. The pressing pan is just a bottom with curb sides and a drain hole along one side. The lattice drain rack in the bottom of the pan does allow the sweet cider juice to squeeze and flow out the bottom, as well as the sides of the wood-slat pressing tub.

I did purchase a sheet of the HDPE and cut it to size as needed. The material works very well with woodworking tools. It is, however, fairly expensive. A lesser-priced option is to make the parts out of wood and coat them well with polyurethane, as I did with the slats of the pressing tub.

By the way, here is a link to my new Whizbang Cider web site: Whizbang Cider

Slayer said...

What a great site with lots of fantastic ideas.

One suggestion for HDPE rather than buying a sheet I bought several HDPE cutting boards great source when you dont need a lot.

I found them at Harbour Freight for a couple of bucks.

Anonymous said...

I would like to know how to cantact the author of the book to inform him of things that should have been in the book but were not.

Herrick Kimball said...

Just send him an e-mail at:

David said...

A herb grinder or spice grinder is a round contraption used for hand grinding herbs and spices. The two piece herb grinder has two halves (top and bottom) that separate and have sharp teeth or pegs aligned in such a way that when both are turned back and forth, material placed inside is ground up, shredded or pulverized.

herb grinder