The actual physical process of making cider is much more a problem solving exercise than an art. Every year we aim to move the process forward, investing in new equipment and up-scaling production, but each great-leap-forward brings with it new and unforeseen problems.
Our terrific new Voran Press has been instrumental in doubling our efficiency this year, by both speeding up the process, and increasing juice yield significantly. The press delivers over 24 tons of pressure through the 8 layers of the cheese, effortlessly squeezing the apple pulp dry, and delivering around 13 gallons of juice each pressing. This sort of efficiency can of course lead to bottle-necks somewhere in the process, and it's in the washing and sorting of the fruit that we're now struggling to keep up. We may have to invest in a bigger bucket!
The huge pressure that the new press delivers can cause problems too. The dessert apples we've been pressing up to now have a tendency to squeeze out through the press cloths, making cleaning a very difficult task. This shouldn't be such a problem when we start pressing the more fibrous cider apples later in the month.
The Rotary Mill (or Scratter) which is attached to the press is also very efficient. It deals with bucket-loads of washed apples as quickly as we can pour them in, spitting out the finely milled pulp at such a high velocity that things could get very messy in the ciderhouse. Our ingenious solution involves a cheap storage tub, a Stanley Knife and a couple of Bungee's. The high-speed pomace is now directed straight down to the waiting tub, and another potential nightmare clean-up session has been avoided.
Talking of nightmare cleanup's, the Acacia Racks which separate the layers of cloth-wrapped pomace, are also a bit of a devil to get clean. Cleanliness in cidermaking is essential, and these racks will quickly develop a bloom of mould if not cleaned and dried properly after use. I've been searching long and hard for a reasonably priced container big enough to lay the racks in for a soak in sulphite solution. I finally found a tray in a garden centre which was the perfect size for the racks, though unfortunately not deep enough for all nine together. More cash spent, more problems solved.
The two larger pictures of the press were kindly sent to us by James, sometime resident of our village local the Red Lion, in Middleton.