RG 2005 July

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8289401_8cd6453906_s.jpg This page is part of The Cidermaking Year by Rose Grant

July, 2005


Bramley cider

Glad to hear that I am not the only one who enjoys Bramley cider! It does have a fine flavour and is a refreshing accompaniment to any meal. One of my neighbours has an ancient Bramley in his front garden and insists that he gives me all the apples from it every year. The apples are beautiful, very large and are a lot more flushed than is usual for Bramley . It would be a shame not to make use of them. I wonder if their unusual redness means they are actually the Bramley derivative, Crimson King.

I always make cider from this tree as a single variety so that I can add it sparingly to my blend at a later stage, as I think fit. It can be a big mistake to put it all in at once, as it is so acidic. Last year I made 20 galls from this tree and I kept 5 galls back, as a single. It has proved to be a pleasant drink for warm summer evenings.


First year, sold out

My first year as a commercial producer has been more of a success than I dared to hope. My cider is sold out. This is a pity, just as we are getting some real cider drinking weather! The local pubs that have been selling it want more of the same next year and a further three have asked if they can sell it. Cider drinking seems to be on the Up, hereabouts!

I want to increase production up to the 1500 gallon ceiling and have been investing in stainless vats and better equipment. Last year I used a 16 inch rack & cloth press that produced 6-7 gallons from a cwt of apples. It will be a battle to get more than 600 gallons out of this in the pressing season. I really need to obtain something like one of those old farm presses with the stone base that I've often seen used in Herefordshire.

If anyone knows where one of these may be for sale, please email me. It does not matter what the wood is like as I can rebuild it. I am prepared to collect from almost anywhere with my Landrover and trailer.


Speed of throughput

Q What is the limiting factor on throughput?

I have given some thought to alternating two presses. Ergonomically it makes a lot of sense and would allow me to double my output from 300 to 600 gallons. However I think that would be the production limit. It would cost me £ 350 to make another 16 inch press the same as the one I have now and I would still be wanting a bigger press to go up to 1500 galls, in due course. Logistically it works out like this: The apple pressing season is, say 12 weeks. That is 60 pressing days, assuming that the weekends are reserved for collecting more apples and praising the Lord. It is inefficient to download a press too soon, as a few hours more can give an extra gallon or so. This really limits the operation to one pressing per day. The 16 inch press gives 6 gallons, so over the 60 days this is 360 gallons at best. To make 1500 galls in a season the press must deliver 25 galls per day. A big press with say a 3 ft x 3ft x 2ft high cheese, would give 50 gallons or more. It would only be necessary to press every other day. The intervening days could be used for apple washing and milling followed by overnight maceration prior to the pressing. I think this is the way I've got to go, even if I end up having to make the thing myself! The problem is I have not got time to do it because I am busy extending the cidery to make room for the new vats. The pressing season will soon be here again, so the ideal solution would be to find a large press that I could buy, assuming that the price is reasonable. Surely there must be one going begging near Glastonbury! I could bring your bottles back, if so. Rose.

Q What percentage extra do you get by waiting for a day?

20 - 25 %. It depends on the apple variety being pressed, but I suppose the first hour gives 5 galls. There is another 1 to 2 galls if I leave it for another couple of hours, whilst periodically giving the jack a few extra pumps. That is as far as I go because even another 4 hrs will only add about half a gallon. I have sometimes done two pressings a day but it gets tedious. I always rinse and sterilise the racks and cloths before reuse so it is a bit of a rigmarole, going through the process twice. However this is what I will be doing, if I do not manage to get a bigger press.

As for Vigo's 3 pressings per hour, they have to be joking! I know that sub contract pressing works well for Roy, but there is something special about doing the whole job oneself. I wouldn't want it to be otherwise, but just need bigger equipment to make it less fiddling.

Q but is it near the limit of size for getting cloths?

Vigo will sew their cloths together to make larger ones, to order, but the price is crazy. I would stick to net curtains and sew them together myself. Net curtain material (as recommended by Andrew) is excellent. Surely the reason for interleaving racks in the cheese, apart from stability, is so that the juice can be released from the centre of the stack.


Dick, that was an incredible quantity to make from such a small press in one day. there must have been a lot of keen volunteers! I am not so blessed as I usually do it all myself. I have had the occasional volunteer amongst my friends in the village who find the idea of such a rustic activity appealing. However once they have helped and realise what messy hard work it is, they do not offer again! I am looking for a strong young lad who wants to earn some pocket money this year.

Actually from all that I have read, it is best not to try and press too quickly, as quality is impaired. My bedtime reading at the moment is dear old Professor Warcollier's Principles and Practice of Cider Making (thanks Gary). Warcollier states that "a slow pressing is essential to provide facilities for the juice to oxidise slightly, for the pectin substances to be released and for the oxidised form of tannin to combine with part of the pectin which is present in a flocculent state in the juice". He goes on to say that this assists subsequent keeving and formation of a brown head. In his view pressing should extend over at least 45 minutes and should be preceded by maceration. Of course this is the council of perfection, should one be trying to make an award winning naturally sweet cider. Probably for standard fully fermented dry cider these complexities are not so important, but I do just get the impression that a good cider should not have a hurried inception.