A Slick Cider-Making Setup

Advisory Board members Kirsten and Christopher Shockey explain how to scale your cider-making setup from hobbyist to tailgate supplier.

Photograph by Carmen Troesser

To make cider, you only really need a few key pieces of equipment: a container with a lid to contain the fermenting sweet cider, and bottles with caps to store it once it’s fermented. Everything else helps with the process, either by making it safer or by making it easier on the cider-maker (you). We’ll suggest three setups, from the simplest, to get you started cheaply, to the sublime, in case you want to take your production to the next level.

Apples to Pomace to Juice

If you’re going to press apples, you may not need any special equipment — depending on how much cider you want to make. Six gallons of fresh­-pressed apple cider requires about 80 pounds of apples, or around two common apple boxes. You can pick a couple of boxes’ worth of apples pretty quickly, especially if the trees are on dwarf rootstock and easy to reach. You can also purchase a couple of boxes of different organic apple varieties. At this scale, you really don’t need any special picking equipment. Before investing in juicing equipment, check your local brew shop to see if you can rent a grinder (sometimes called a “mill”) and press, and then invite your friends over to help.

Photograph by Carmen Troesser

There are many options for grinders and presses. Usually they’re paired, meaning a press will include a hopper that feeds the apples through the grinder/mill and into the basket or racks. The biggest thing to consider is the size of the chop of the pomace (how coarsely the apples are ground) — it should match the ideal size for your press. If the chop is too big, you won’t get as much juice as you should; if the chop is too fine, it can gunk up your press, leading to frustration and lots of extra cleaning of the cloths between loads. If you’re handy in the shop and are looking for a project, you can find a whole host of instructions out there for building your own mill and press, though we believe the most complete reference is Claude Jolicoeur’s excellent The New Cider Maker’s Handbook, which devotes a chapter each to mill and press designs.

If you want to make more than 6 gallons of cider, you’re going to want to pick your own apples, and you’ll need to borrow the mill and press — or, you may become addicted to the fun, in which case it’ll be time to think about purchasing one of your own. Apples don’t all ripen at once, so if you’re lucky, this part of the process will be more manageable as a series of afternoon pressings as the apples ripen.



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