Tag Archives: diy

Crabapple Cider Pressing

My friend John makes cider every fall, and I’ve had the opportunity to taste some of his vintages over the past couple of years. I asked if he could help me make cider this year, and he kindly obliged. I went south last Friday to grind crabapples and press some cider.

01-crabapples

Crabapples are an important part of cider making, they contribute a nice apple flavor as well as tannins. They come along early in the fall, which is why they were pressed first.

The first step was to wash the apples, and then to grind them. John took inspiration from a post on homebrewtalk.com where a press was made using a garbage disposal and hydraulic bottle jack. As we laid out the apples to prepare for grinding, we sorted the apples and composted any mushy apples in the nearby woods.

02-grinding-crabapples

The resulting pulp ejected by the garbage disposal was collected in a 5-gallon bucket.

03-pulp

Once all the apples were ground up, we took the resulting pulp and poured it into a clean pillowcase, using a wooden frame to help shape the form. This bag is placed onto a plastic mesh that was made by routing out a cutting board.

04-bagged-pulp

05-bagged-pulp-02

Once all the pulp was bagged and shaped, a large block was placed on top of the pulp in a level fashion, the hydraulic bottle jack was set up, and the pressing began.

06-pulp-pressing

From 30 lbs of crabapples, we pressed just over 2 gallons of cider with a gravity of 1.064

07-gravity-reading

Fermentis (Red Star)’s Côte des Blancs dry yeast was pitched, and the cider will be racked to secondary in a few weeks. This will age for roughly a year to clarify and mature, and will be blended with a second batch of cider made from a blend of other apples.

Homemade stirplate

stirplateI recently made a stirplate (with massive help from my good friend Nate) for yeast propagation using a computer fan, magnets from an old hard drive, an A/C power supply from a cell phone, a combo switch/potentiometer from Radio Shack, bolts and a washer from Home Depot, and a plastic container from Target. The whole thing cost me maybe $8.

The single hardest part of this project was cracking into an old hard drive. This required lots of small screws to be removed, and some serious prying.

Once you get the magnets, you can start to test your wiring. Take the fan, and glue the washer to the fan, and once the glue sets, stick one of the magnets to it. Take the A/C power supply, and cut the power cord so that you have the wall plug and the wire. Strip the wire ends, and do some (careful) testing with the fan to make sure that it spins in the right direction.

Next, put the potentiometer inline, between the fan and the power supply, and get your connections set so that you can adjust the speed of the fan with the potentiometer. This is important so that you don’t throw the stirbar when you start up the stirplate. Once you know where all your wires go, you can start to assemble.

Take your plastic container, and set the fan in it, with your bolts put through the fan. Adjust the height of the fan by using the nuts on the bolts to raise the height of the fan. Ideally, you want the fan right up next to the lid, without actually touching the lid. Give it some space, as the lid will come down with your sample sitting on it. This will take some testing. Fill your planned sample jar (erlenmeyer flask) with as much water as you think you might use, and put it on the lid, and plug in your power. If your fan can spin freely with your flask sitting on top of the lid, you’re all set. Take off the flask and lid, and glue the fan in place. I also glues the bolts at each corner just to minimize movement.

Drill a hole in the side of your container for the power to come in, and drill a hole on the opposite side for your potentiometer. Run your wires in through what will be the back, and put your potentiometer in the front opening. Re-test all your connections to make sure that the fan still spins the way you expect when you turn on the potentiometer, then glue, sauter and glue some more until nothing moves.

Close the lid, put on your flask, and turn it on with a stirbar inside. It should look like this:

Stirplate vortex