Grinding and Pressing Equipment
Whether you’re a home cidermaker or a commercial cidery, if you’re working with apples, you’ll need to process them into juice. Solutions for this are varied, from home-built grinders made from garbage disposals up to multi-horsepower electric grinders and commercial cider presses. I cover some of that spectrum below.
It does bear mentioning here that it’s not strictly necessary to work with apples to make cider–there are many hobbyist cidermakers and commercial operations alike which source juice directly rather than growing or sourcing apples. But if your goal is to start from apples, read on. And if your goal is to start by growing your own apples, sign up for updates and check the orcharding box to hear announcements of new content.
The equipment below can also be used for pears, in case you happen to be working with pears instead of apples.
Hand Crank Grinders
Your basic, entry-level apple grinder is a hand-crank grinder, often affixed to a basket press. These are typically made of steel or cast iron and consist of a collecting area (hopper), a crank, and a rotating cylinder with embedded teeth which grinds up the apples as they are fed into the hopper.
Hobbyist-scale options available for purchase include:
- Morewine Pro’s Apple Crusher (typically available during their Spring Pro Sale)
- Adventures in Homebrewing’s Apple Crusher
- Adventures in Hombrewing’s Mini Apple Crusher
- Various grinder/press combinations from Happy Valley Ranch
- I use one of these in my hobby-scale cidermaking operation–it’s heavy, effective, and a lot of fun to use
- Maximizer Fruit Grinder/Press Options from Pleasant Hill Grain
For the do-it-yourself crowd, there are various sources of grinder/press plans available, such as:
- The New Cider Maker’s Handbook, which discusses press plans in addition to being a great overall resource for cidermaking
- The Whizbang Apple Grinder and Cider Press
While effective for small-scale cidermaking–and quite a lot of fun–anyone who’s used a hand-crank press to grind multiple bushels of apples can tell you that it’s quite labor intensive. So, for large hobbyist projects or for commercial production, you’ll need to at least consider an electric grinder.
Electric grinders aren’t cheap, and you’ll need to be mindful of the electrical service available to you–for instance, in the U.S., the availability of three-phase vs. one-phase power when it comes to 220 volt and 230 volt supplies–before purchasing one, but doing so will vastly increase the speed at which you can grind/crush apples.
Options along these lines include:
- Speidel’s Motorized Apple and Pear Crusher (220 volt, 1 phase) (discounted during the annual MoreWine Pro Sale (2/15-4/15))
- OESCO’s motorized grinder (110 volt)
The most common hobbyist apple press is the basket press. Comprised of a wooden or steel frame with a crossbar, a steel screw (typically, an Acme screw), and a basket, the basket press relies on the screw to incrementally add pressure to the crushed apples (pomace) in the basket. Juice runs out of the sides of the basket and into a collection vessel below.
Basket Presses on eBay:
As with hand-cranked grinders, a small, manually-operated basket press is perfectly fine for home cidermaking (though even that can be labor-intensive if you happen to have a productive, seedling apple tree on your hands), the commercial cidery that works with apples will need to consider larger options.
The bladder press uses hydraulic pressure to press pomace against the outer ring of a cylinder with holes in it for the juice to drain out. Commonly used in the wine industry, they can also be used to press cider or pear cider (perry). They have the advantage of coming in larger sizes than the typical basket presses, though that comes with a larger price tag as well.
- Speidel 40 liter bladder press
- Speidel 90 liter bladder press
- Speidel 180 liter bladder press
- Speidel 300 liter bladder press
Hydraulic Presses come in several forms, generally come from niche manufacturers, and are very expensive. They are necessary as a cidery scales up, however, as the press tends to be the bottleneck in a cider operation–electric grinders and automated washers move much, much faster than a mediocre press does, so investing in a good press is often critical in cideries wanting to increase their speed of juice production.