苹果酒-Cider: A Simple Cider Press

It’s November and a autumn is slipping past here in Qinghai. Riding my bike in the early morning with a fresh coat of snow layering the fallen leaves makes me think of cider. Cider translates into Mandarin as 苹果酒 (ping guo jiu) meaning apple alcohol or apple wine. 

Cider is delicious. I finally got around to pressing some apples. I haven’t made much cider. In fact, this is my fourth batch, previously, I used juice from the store. I am excited to see if there is a difference in pressing my own or not.

I used Fuji apples because they were the cheapest thing I could get. I’m sure there’s a thousand other varieties that are better but convenience won this time.

Apples to Juice Ratio

Apples (Fuji) 60 kg (132.3lbs)

Juice produced 25.3 liters (6.7 gallons)

*The amount of juice obtained is effected by two factors. How fine the pulp is and how well it is pressed. Finer is better as is more pressure. 

General Outline

  • Wash apples
  • Chop, blend, or smash into a pulp
  • Press it and collect the juice
  • Treat with Campden (1 tablet per 4 L)
  • Pitch yeast (with energizer) 24 hours after Campden treatment.

*This process assumes you want to provide and control the kind of yeast used for fermentation.

Equipment and Process 

While thinking about process and equipment I watched this video on cider making. This guy is goofy but there are a lot of basic concepts that I gleaned from watching it.

I was able to piece everything together from old brewing gear and only purchased the drill attachment mixer. I turned the mixer attachment into a blender.

Stuff for “Pulping”

  • A metal paint stirrer (modified)
  •  A heavy-duty drill
  • An old bucket fermentor (this one will get dinged) 

*You can skip all this and substitute any bludgeoning device and a bucket or kettle. The point is to end up with pulp.  

Stuff for Pressing

  • Three bucket fermentors
  • One 2″x4″x 4′ board (5cm x 10cm x 1.2 m) for constructing the pressing arm and making some blocks 
  • Two or three BIAB bags  
  • Plastic or wood to make the pressing discs (used some old laminate flooring scrap)
  • A jack (came from my car)
  • Something to press off of (I used a door frame)
  • A sturdy chair

I pressed off of a door frame. I advise against this however because most frames won’t take the force. If you look around long enough you’ll find something to press off of and won’t need to build a frame yourself. I reasoned against making a frame because I will likely be moving soon and wanted to avoid a hassle.

I did both two and three layers of “cheese”. The cheese consists of layers of pulp. I divided the pulp into separate bags and put a disc in between the bags. This purportedly give you more juice. It was easy enough to do so I went for it.

Fermentation

Yeast

  • Mangrove Jack’s French Saison (Slurry) 

Yeast Energizer

I used this staggered yeast energizer addition schedule from homecidermaking.com.  

  • 1 teaspoon with yeast pitch
  • 1 teaspoon at 24 hours into fermentation
  • 1 teaspoon at 48 hours into fermentation
  • 1 teaspoon when there is 30% of the remaining sugar present (I skipped this step because I missed the timing).

*One teaspoon equals 4.9289 ml

Fermentation Temperature Schedule 

  • 20° C for three days
  • 25° C till final gravity is stable (10-ish days) 

*I ended up bumping this one all the way to 27° C in order to get some ready for Thanksgiving. I kegged a few liters and back sweetened it. It tasted amazing. It only fermented for 6 days. 

Tasting the Juice

I was blown away how similar this was to “cider” that we buy in grocery stores in the states. There was a very pleasant spice to it. Kinda like a tiny kick of cinnamon. A friend that tried some actually thought I had added spices when I hadn’t. 

OG/FG/ABV

  • OG 1.055
  • FG 0.998
  • ABV 7.6%l

Tasting the Cider

The initial batch I turned around in 7 days. I pulled off a about 4 liters and back-sweetened it with a 750 ml of juice. I did not check the gravity after sweetening but it tasted great. Not too sweet but sweet enough for the average Joe (like me) to toss back. 

*Update: I kegged about 17 liters and back sweetened with 1 liter of juice I saved from pressing. 

Tart and full. Ever so slightly reminds me of apple cider vinegar. Not overwhelming at all. Tastes like cider! Not as “clean” or crisp and commercial examples I’ve had. 

I am considering dosing the keg with some Summer hops and Hisbiscus. Floral, slightly earthy, and apricot might be a nice addition. 

Overall Impressions

I was surprised how easily this project came together. I had help from my wife and a friend but it only took us about three hours total and that’s with a lot of standing around waiting for the juice while pressing.

If you brew beer and have some old buckets laying around and access to apples, consider making cider. 

Comments are welcome! 

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