RG 2007 August
| This page is part of The Cidermaking Year by Rose Grant
15th August 2007
An evening of packaging and now all tanks are dry! All 7000 litres have been sold. (don't worry Charles your boxes are stashed). I've been waiting for this moment, to celebrate by opening Roy's bottle of Old Berkshire Perry. Nice it is too, clear and dry with just the perfect little amount of sparkle! A pleasant end to the annual cycle in the ciderhouse. Now all must be made ready to start again.
I was thinking wistfully about Vigo's new B-in-B filler during this last lap of packaging. I realised that wonderful though it would be to own one of those shiny machines, it would not make that much difference to the throughput rate. I find that the time taken by the Europump to fill my measuring tank to 20 litres is easily occupied by the time it takes me to make up and glue the box, load the previously filled bag and then seal it in the box. The box part of the job is always going to be manual and therefore the main determinant of packaging time. Of course, speed improves with practice. I timed this evening's session and was pleased to find I'm now doing 15 boxes per hour. The use of a glue gun has made a huge improvement to the process.
The weakest part of the packaging process is the Europump. These little pumps overheat and cut out. This was happening after only 3 or 4 boxes, so at one time I was forever stopping for enforced tea breaks to allow the pump to cool down. This has been overcome by means of a small cooling fan ( from an old electronics cabinet) . This runs continuously, blasting air through the vents of the europump and has meant that packaging is no longer hindered by the pump's overheat cutout. My wish for Alex is that he will find another little food grade pump to put in his next catalogue. There is a need for one thats about twice as fast and can run continuously. It would be snapped up by me and also by people who pump into and out of barrels. There is a big hole in the present range between the Europump and the larger pumps like the Okoflow.
Another possible source of pumps
See http://www.brouwland.com and go via 'bottling' then 'pumps'.
The Browland SS60 L at £128 pumps 60 l/min and compares very favourably against Vigo's JESM5 at £215 Which only pumps 40 l/min. Both are centrifugal and have to be primed but this is no disadvantage even when compared with the more expensive impeller pumps like the Okoflow at £395 for 50 l/min ( all prices pre-tax ). In theory impeller pumps are self priming, in practice they are not. This is because they have to have liquid in them at startup to ensure lubrication of the impeller. All in all the Browland looks a very good buy for transfers between tanks and barrels,
For my 20 litre B-in-B filling I need something gentler. The Europump at 5 l/min takes 4 mins. It's Ok but rather long winded. Ideally I think a pump giving 15 -20 l/min would be ideal. The problem with using anything more powerful is that it becomes too difficult to fill accurately to a defined level. I.e. it is difficult not to overshoot the level mark on the measuring tank. Even with automatic level sensing the cut off point becomes more critical to adjust.
Cider by Rosie management team
The sales manager is happy and disgustingly complacent about having met the target. The production manager is relieved that packaging is finished before the Europump gave up altogether. The marketing director is bemused, several landlords having expressed surprise to discover that cider is a seasonal product. The technical director is quietly going mad trying to devise a more labour efficient process before the mid September deadline! The financial director is fearful of seeing the profits spent on yet more equipment.
Thank you for your application for the post of quality control manager. I have taken due note of your impressive quaffications but regret to inform you that no vacancy exists at present.
It has been insinuated by someone who has a close view of our major competitor in Magnerland that the structure of my company is somewhat top heavy. I have already found it expedient to address this problem and decided to combine the post of quality manager with my own as managing director. This concurs with my view that the quality of our product is of the utmost importance and the necessity for frequent and diligent sampling throughout the production process.
Indeed as quality manager I attended a visit to our works yesterday by HM Trading Standards inspector. I am pleased to tell you that he complimented this company on the inclusion of the batch date, best before date and sulphite allergy warning on our standard 20 litre bag in box package. However he also noted the lack of date coding and product duration information on our minor range of bottled product. I enquired as to an appropriate best before date for bottled cider and was told that this is discretionary, say 2 years or whatever. The important thing is to make sure that the batch code (or bottling date) and the BBD is there. Bottle cap printing was suggested, as practiced by Weston's Cider.
The inspector noted that the bottles were filled beyond the 75 cl imaginary mark 77 mm from the top. I explained that is not merely generosity on our part but more importantly a quality matter in reducing the air in the bottle to a minimum. To provide 80 cl when the label says 75 cl would seem to be acceptable, since it invited no further comment.
He turned his attention to our patent Grant Mk 1 bag in box filler. I explained the technology of this machine with some trepidation especially when asked about the calibration of the level mark on the measuring tank. This had been accurately determined by 4 fillings of a 5 litre measuring jug, the process being repeated several times so as to average the measurement tolerances. I added that, in use the machine is always filled to just above the level mark and that the bags, being designed to hold 20 litres, can be seen to be absolutely full in every case.
To my surprise and considerable relief, the inspector was satisfied with the B-in-B filling. An important point was made which will give comfort to other cider makers who are unable to invest in hi-tech machinery. As far as wholesale quantities are concerned the onus is agreement between the seller and the purchaser. ( Think of all those 5 gallon poly barrels at beer festivals ). The full weights and measures legislation comes into play at the retail stage, ie a pint glass must give a measured pint.
A bottle of Cider by Rosie was taken for lab testing to check the stated alcohol percentage. Further trepidation as results are awaited! An extra bottle was donated for the inspector's personal evaluation.
Square and Compass
Cider By Rosie sold out!
It grieves me that I can no longer supply the Square & Compass this year. It is my all time favourite cider pub (could be just a bit biased, I suppose!). I do so enjoy my delivery trips, whereupon I can sample a different cider each time, always accompanied by one of their excellent pasties. I enjoyed a glass of Charlie's last time I was there and I wish him well with his proposed ciderhouse. There used to be a battered old screw press along with a number of other old relics outside the front of the pub. I used to joke with Charlie and Kevin the bar manager that it was about time they got it all going again! Well Charlie has done much better than that with lots of good stuff from Vigo and a clever homemade hydraulic press. I made mention of it here last November when I had been to the Square's cider festival and seen it used in Charlie's cider making demonstration.
If you are this way again and want to try Cider by Rosie, go to the Anchor at Shapwick ( between Wimborne and Blandford ). Mark the landlord had the foresight to order 10 boxes just before I ran out. It has gone very well there, largely I think because Mark keeps it in a cool cellar. To save all the to-ing and fro-ing he has now piped it to a pump on the bar. Charles May also ordered ahead so there will be a plentiful supply for his 'take outs' from Abbey Stores, Salisbury, for quite a while.
Talking of favourite cider pubs, I do still have a fond memory of the Crown Inn at Churchill in Somerset. It was where I had my first ever taste of real cider. I remember the Crown as being of similar character to the Square. I hope it is still noted for good cider and has not had its fabric destroyed by a makeover. Anyone been there recently?
I have been admiring the much awaited and colourful new catalogue from Vigo. There is still one thing about their catalogue that annoys me. It seems that whenever I come across a piece of equipment that I'm really interested in, I find the price is not quoted. The awesome POA leers from the price list! I think it means something like 'the price will shock you when you phone' or 'there's no chance you are going to be able to afford this, Rose. So don't bother!' Now Mr. Vigo, there are times when even the humblest of us cidermakers decide to save the shekels for a much wanted piece of kit. It is then nice to know what to aim for in the savings department. I do not like to have the shock of enquiring by phone. I like to be able to adjust myself to the outlay whilst cogitating the pros and cons.
The much sought after item for me lately has been a pomace pump. I need to reduce the labour and time involved with cider making this year and had even steeled myself to get a Schneider pump from Vigo. The price of the entry level version was actually listed in the old black and white catalogue, so I'd developed a fairly warm feel for getting one before making the phone call. When I did, it transpired that I could not get a single phase version, so that was that. Today I noticed those same pumps in glorious colour in the new cat, but guess what? Now they've all been promoted to the higher echelon of POA!
My next move was to get a quote from Monopump, a UK maker of progressing cavity pumps. They gave me a fine detailed proposal but I could not get a warm feeling about spending £3600!
Now there is some good news, I've located just the thing, a stainless, large throated Mono pump, second hand and at a reasonable price. The bad news is, it has no motor and that it currently resides in Manchester. As ever, there will be some engineering to do when it eventually arrives here. I hope that, as Andrew remarked, it should not be too difficult to add a single phase motor. Famous last words?
Nothing is ever straightforward In engineering. There always seems to be the need for further refinement. Every 'one off' item ever made has the snags that bedevil a prototype. I was reminded of this truism last week when I took my new tipper trailer to the engineering shop to have its sides fitted. The welder had done an excellent job. The 1 inch mesh had been generously welded to the strong box-section tubular frames. The frames gleamed from their recent galvanising and fitted the trailer to perfection... individually. Then alas it was realised they would not fit together to make a complete box. The connecting pins on the end frames had been welded in different positions to the eye plates on the side frames. Oh bother! Why did I have to endure the problems of a 'one off', when the trailer manufacturer has 'mesh sides off the shelf'? Unfortunately these only come with 2 inch mesh. I had had this mental picture of Stembridge Clusters and Cider Lady's Fingers popping out all over the roads of Somerset and Dorset. Perhaps the loss would have been minimal, but I did not want to take the risk.
The sides of the trailer have now been made to fit together. The trailer should now be able to contain 2 tons of apples, reliably. Now for that pomace pump!
More about the pump
The pump is rated at 1.6 m3/hr at 9 bar, 350 rpm max. Its efficiency and input power requirement are not known. There will inevitably be some trial and error to match it to my needs, but as a starting point I have a 1.5 kw motor/gearbox with an output of 100 rpm. Since the pump output is directly proportional to its speed, this should give a rate of around 0.45 m3/hr. I reckon this is a reasonable match to my washing and milling capability but the only way with something like this, is to try it and see. As for the power requirement, this is an even greater guess. Only a fraction of the 9 bar pressure capability is needed since I only need to pump to a head of 3.5 metres. I've a feeling that 1.5 kw will be adequate, but I could be way out. Like you Dick, I also have no previous experience with this type of pump. There will be a learning curve, as they say.
One potential problem is that these pumps must not be allowed to run dry, or the stator tube ( costing £100 or so ) becomes seriously worn. The stator is made of nitrile rubber whereas the rotor screw is of stainless steel. The output of an apple mill is intermittent, so the pump hopper must somehow be kept full of pomace. This could be tricky at times. A thing that puzzled me when I saw Julian's in operation was the little pipe that continually trickled a tiny amount of water into the hopper. I can see now it was all to do with the essential lubrication.
Another possibility is to mill into a large hopper attached to the throat of the pump ( like the hopper I have above St. Em). When this is full, pomace can then be pumped directly to the cheese as it is being built on the press. The pump would be turned on and off, as needed, by means of a switch near the press or a remote control.
This reminds me to say that there are some super little wireless remote switches available in hardware stores for about £8. The switching unit simply plugs into the 13 amp socket used by the pump and the pump is then plugged into it. You can wander off and have control of the pump by means of a small handheld unit. I've been using one with the Okoflow pump when transferring cider from the tank room to the smaller vats in the packaging area. It is perfect for preventing those awful, cider swishing, accidental overflows.. Better still, you don't need to spend £411 for a Vigo unit that does the same thing!
Response from Vigo
Like Andrew, I also 'drooled' over the attractive new catalogue from Vigo, but then silly me had a little outburst here, about the number of items that were POA. I had raced through the pages to find the goodies top of my wish list, namely Schneider pumps and B-in-B fillers, only to find they were all POA. I was baffled as to why this should be for seemingly 'off the shelf' items and in my irritation I think I went over the top in the posting.
I was therefore not unduly surprised when I received an email from Alex a few days later! He has permitted me to copy his response here. Alex explains Vigo's catalogue pricing policy and also gives an interesting insight into the use of Schneider 'Mono' pumps, no doubt based on his extensive experience. I am grateful for this information and I know it will be of interest to other producers, who like me, may be interested in transferring pomace with this type of pump.
I quote :
I have seen your emails send to the UK Cider forum and feel I should respond.
Published price lists pose a problem. We deal with a very wide range of customers, from the hobby enthusiast to quite large concerns. Our 'hobby' list gives prices for everything, including VAT and delivery, as is usual for a retail business. When we get to larger equipment the picture is more complicated: as a general rule, the larger the item the more difficult it is to be specific about price. This is not because we wish to be peverse or conceal anything but because nearly all machines have to be modified to specific applications and it is not possible to quote a fixed price. We will happily quote prices for a particular specification to anyone who asks. Another danger of quoting fixed prices for goods is that customers order equipment without entering into a dialogue with us and run the risk of buying something that is not right for their particular application.
This situation is well illustrated by your particular requirement for a pump to handle apple pulp. It is unlikely that a standard pump will perform this task. You will require a pump with a minimum 60 mm bore, but preferably 80 mm. With a 60 mm pump you may have to feed juice back into to pulp when pressing some drier varieties, just to keep the system moving. The pump will need to be fed from a hopper with a stainless steel auger coupled in line with the pump rotor, to feed the pulp into the pump. When a pump is fitted directly to the bottom of a tank or hopper there is a risk of 'cavitation', where a gap forms under he pulp and the pump runs dry and may be damaged as a result. When fitting your pump to a tank or hopper you will need to take care to ensure that the shape of the hopper allows the pulp to get to the pump. You will also need to gear your pump to run slowly. The Schneider pumps we supply for this application are fitted with an inverter to regulate the speed. This is one reason that these pumps are not offered with single phase motors - the size of the motor would require a prohibitively expensive inverter. You may be able to achieve your speed control with gearing.
I hope that this helps to explain things! I would be happy for you to copy this to the UK Cider list - I am not connected from my Vigo address as I already receive too many emails.
I have said sorry to Alex for my outburst and also asked him the price of the new Volumetric B-in-B filler, that has appeared in the Catalogue (code 96043). It looked like just the sort of thing to grace my ciderhouse, as nearly all my output is in 20 litre B-in-Bs. Alas at £4450 + VAT, it is not a proposition for three hundred or so, boxes per year. I will be continuing with the Grant Mk.1 machine, based on the ubiquitous Vigo Europump ( at only £77 + VAT!) I see this now comes in gorgeous red. I will be down there for a new one soon, Alex. I've nearly worn out the first one, the motor is self lubricated with cider when I use it these days!