After having our apples sit around for a few weeks, it was time to press. They all seemed good and ripe the basement smelled amazing. I also thought if we waited much longer those ripe apples might turn into rotten apples. It was a chilly and gloomy November day and was becoming apparent that winter was coming. It just seemed like the right time.
We don’t own a juice press (yet) and rented one for the weekend. I had only juiced apples in a kitchen juicer before so the process of crushing and pressing them was new, but exciting. We rinsed the apples and set everything up in the garage.
We rented a basic fruit mill and a medium-small basket press from a local supplier of wine and beer making equipment. I got the impression that most people used this equipment for wine, but it was about right for our scale of work.
We realized quickly that it was much easier to crush the apples if cut them up first. It was possible to get the apples through the mill whole if we made sure to really jam them in, but it didn’t seem worth the time and effort. This added one more step to the process, but quickly slicing apples into quarters wasn’t too bad.
It was also a hand cranked mill, so it did take some effort to run, but with the amount of apples we had it wasn’t backbreaking work. I do think that we will definitely be looking into alternatives if we want to process larger volumes of apples in the future.
We had gotten a pretty good system down with crushing the apples and had a few buckets of juicy pulp ready to go. It was time to try out the press. The press was pretty simple to operate and the juice started flowing right away. It was gratifying to see the bucket start to fill with potential cider.
While the press worked, it wasn’t particularly quick. This is partially because of the style of press and also because I really wanted to get as much juice as I could. Pressing apples is a game of diminishing returns. You can always apply a bit more pressure and squeeze a bit more out. At some point, though, the amount you get out isn’t really worth the time and effort.
It took about two full days to get through all of our apples. There was lots of leaving the press for a while, coming back, adjusting, increasing the pressure and leaving it again. Next time I would probably stop a bit sooner. I started to learn when its just not worth it to keep going. Also, hopefully next time we will be able to collect enough apples that we won’t have to worry as much about squeezing out every last drop to get enough to make decent batches of cider.
It does take effort, but there is definitely some personal reward in pressing your own apples. We’re already scheming about how to do it better next year!