Making Cider pt 4 – Cider Day

Well everything was ready for cider day, the equipment all made and the apples picked. There was only one day available for various reasons, so the cider would have to be pressed on that day, whatever the weather. Glad to say that, the late Autumn weather didn’t let me down – wet and windy, in fact when it rained, it came in sideways, deep joy. looked like I was going to get wet.

200 Kg of apples were collected. Not sure what varieties but some were red and some were red and yellow; they tasted quite nice.


The equipment was got into position and it was time to play and hope it all worked.


The first thing was to wash the apples.


Next, any bad bits of apple were cut out and very big apples cut into halves.After a while, we found out that mill  was able to handle whole apples so that saved a bit of time.

Apples being collected under the mill and the quality of the pulp.

The apple chunks in the pulp were a little too big but they would have to do. When a bucket of pulp had been collected, it was time to start making the ‘cheeses’

When enough cheeses had been made, it was time to press.Juice started to come out of the apples before any pressure was applied.


The screw thread was only 40 cm long, so blocks were put on top of the cheeses so it would be able to reach them and pressing started.

It worked. Here’s a photo of some one who thinks they’re a smurf using the press.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera





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Making Cider Pt 3 -The Pressing Racks

With the mill and the press made it was time to make the racks.Like the mill and press there are many styles and ways to make them but the most popular way seems to be to make a square lattice out of hardwood strips. This then has a square frame  placed on top into which a large cloth is placed and filled with apple pulp, then the edges of the cloth are folded inwards to make a block of apple, called a ‘cheese’.

The trouble of course was that ready made ones were a tadge expensive, up to £35 per rack. So they had to be homemade,although it was still going to be expensive. Another problem was that the time to get everything made, gather the apples and press the cider was running out, having to fit it in between work, a holiday and other projects.

To save money and time I had another cunning plan. The rack would be part strips of wood and part plywood boards with holes in. Reading various forums this was far from ideal but it would have to do.

So the wood was bought and work started. First long strips of redwood were cut to the required size.

Then the boards were cut out, the strips placed on one side and screwed on the other.

Then drainage holes for the juice to run through were drilled.

Quite a lot of holes had to be drilled and the reverse side came out quite ragged and needed to be sanded.

Then a frame was made for the for the apple ‘cheeses’, and a bottom tray to catch the juice, all of which were given a coat of food grade varnish. Then the cloths were cut to size.

Now all that was needed was a day to make the cider.

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Making Cider pt 2 The Cider Press

After the apple mill the next thing was the cider press. Again the type I wanted was too expensive, so the tools couldn’t be put away just yet – at least the power tools that usually sit in the shed gathering dust were earning their keep at last.

There are various sorts of presses out there but the two main types are barrel and what’s called rack and cloth, which is layers of apple pulp wrapped in cloth, in between wooden racks, inside a frame.

Barrel Type:

Rack and Cloth:


So this this was what I had planned.


C. Lawrence’s Cider

Yeeeah right, like I could built that – but I did have a design in mind.

Here it is, hope it’s not too complicated for you all.


It was going to need wood, big bits of wood, sleepers in fact, which are pretty big bits of wood. So after visiting several wood-yards I managed to get some wood fairly cheap but the price of wood – OY VEY!

The next thing that I needed to work out was a mechanism for actually pressing down on the racks to squeeze out the apple juice. Lots of examples of presses on line used some sort of car-jack  as in the two photo’s above but when used with a wooden top bar the wood could be damaged. Another method that can be utilized is to use a large screw thread. Unfortunately it was not so easy to find the style or size I wanted or to find one cheaply. In the end I managed to get one but it was expensive.


So I had the wood, screw thread and other fittings – time to build. The top and bottom bars were going to sit in recces s in the side bars, so these needed to be cut out.

Then the rest of the wood was cut and a dry run assembly was made to see how the parts fitted together.


Then it had to be screwed and bolted together,long threaded rods were used for some sections and then cut down. Even though the screws were supposed to be trade quality, some of them still sheared and that was fun and games trying to get them out of the wood.

When that was done the screw thread was added.


Finally stabilizing legs were added and the frame was given several coats of wood preserve.


Next the pressing racks would need to be made.

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Making Cider pt 1 Making an Apple Mill


To make cider you need apple juice, to get apple juice you need to press apples and to press apples they need to be made into small pieces, either by being crushed or chopped up.Crushing the apples is the simplest way. In centuries past,the apples would have been put in a tub or large bucket and bashed down with a piece of wood, a method that can still be used by home brewers today with small quantities of apples to press,(unfortunately  the pieces are fairly large with this method but smaller pieces give more juice when pressed, so its not very efficient).


Some Olden day people bashing apples in a tub

Chopping the apple into small pieces is the best way to go for large quantities. This needs a mill of some sort , which can take various forms, from a device like a meat mincer, to something that looks like a garden wood chipper to a blade attached to a drill.

The year before last (2015), I had a go at making cider in large quantities for the first time. I gathered the apples, hired a press from the local home brew shop and bought a blade attachment for the drill. Visions of building a cider empire to rival Magners or Bulmers ensued. Hmmmm yes, things didn’t quite go as planned. The blade attached to the drill was absolute s*** at chopping and put a hole in the side of the bucket, resulting in Timmy Tantrum making an appearance, the bucket going one way and the blade another – which I think is still merrily rusting away in a flower border. So it was out with another bucket and a piece of 4×2. Then the press turned out to be way too small and fiddly, disaster was looming. Luckily she who must be obeyed is a lot cleverer than me and suggested trying the kitchen juicer of which we had two. Well it got the job done but it was hard work shifting 100 kg of apples through a juicer.

So for 2016 cider season an upgrade was needed. Unfortunately all the kit I wanted was rather expensive. Never mind, Mr DIY would solve it, time to build my own. This resulted in trawling the internet for ideas and the oh soooo arduous task of having to visit cider farms, lots of cider farms, to get even more ideas. After a while a cunning plan evolved.

First off the apple mill had to be sorted. The trouble was, all the plans on the internet were way above my skill level, so a mill had to be bought. The wood chipper types were just too expensive and so it would need to be a meat mincer type. These were still expensive but good old E-Bay turned up trumps and I got a cheapish one from eastern Europe.

So far so good but the mill was designed to just sit on top of a bucket, hmmm not so good for shifting large quantities of apples, therefore an apple delivery system had to be devised, luckily I had something in mind.

A quick trip to the wood yard and I had some shuttering timber and a sheet of plywood. The mill was going to sit in one end of a table type thingy.

Time to start building.

First the timber was cut to the required lengths, then a hole cut in the plywood.

This was then roughly assembled.


Then the mill was placed in position and a problem arose. The hole was cut centrally but it needed to be off centre because the handle wouldn’t turn, so a bit of adjusting was needed.


Next a cradle was made for the mill to sit in and guides were added to get the apples to the hole.

The mill was put in place to make sure it all fitted and worked, then the wood was given a few coats of food grade varnish.


So that was finished, next it would be fun and games making a cider press.

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The Brew Shed

So apparently,  if I was going to do this brewing M’larkey,  I need to get my s**t together and get the brew shed sorted out.

Now I couldn’t see a problem with how it was, I knew exactly where everything was and could always find what I was looking for – eventually..

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So a lot of guff was dumped in the garden and a lot taken to the dump.IMG-20160819-WA0000

This left a nice empty shed.Think I’ve been to the back twice in sixteen years.

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Then the lower wall was treated, had some vapour membrane applied and boxed in and the window wall and floor were painted.


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Then all the guff was put back in.



I’ll never be able to find anything with it looking like that.

The most important bit of kit in the brew shed.



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Turbo Cider

Here’s a quick way to make a gallon of cheap cider.

All you need is 5l of supermarket apple juice, pectolase, wine yeast, yeast nutrient, sugar and tannin, which can come from some strong black tea.

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For the first part of the ferment it’s  best to start it of in a fermentation bucket as it can get lively. So put the apple juice , 5 teaspoons of sugar, yeast nutrient, black tea and pectolase in the fermenter and stir, then add the yeast.

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24 hrs later, this would have been a bit messy in a demi-john.

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Next siphon off into a demi-john. It will still be a bit lively (the air lock was changed three times before I took this photo).

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This should be ready in about six weeks.


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Mickey Moonbeams Ltd

What ho chums

Just formed a company and registered with Companies House, Mickey Moonbeams Ltd. Now have a domain name too,

Whoop whoop.

Better put me serious head on now when it comes to brewing.

‘This time next year Rodney we’ll be millionaires’ 

(Don’t hold your breath on that last bit though.)


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Micky Moonbeams – Nettle Ale

Think stinging nettle and you think weed,well nettles are much more than just a weed. From ancient times, nettles have been used as a source of  fiber – in Denmark, burial shrouds made of nettle fabrics have been discovered that date back to the Bronze Age (3000-2000 BC), in medicinal preparations, it can be used for the relief of arthritis,lumbago,rheumatism, lethargy, coma, paralysis, and even typhus and cholera. They can also be used as a food source.Of course, the best use for nettles is in making ale.

Like mead recipes,there are hundreds to choose from, so like the mead, I mixed and matched and made my own recipe, although what it’s going to taste like remains to be seen (or tasted even).

The first thing that’s needed of obviously, is nettles. There’s several different types in the countryside, there’s what’s called dead nettles and stinging nettles. Stinging nettles are the ones needed for ale.

When the nettles are in flower it’s easier to tell them apart.

White Dead Nettle.


Purple Dead Nettle

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Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle- adaptations- ugly flowers

If there’s no flowers, run your fingers over the leaves, you’ll soon know if you’ve got stingers or not. However, having just said this you don’t want to collect stinging nettles that are in flower, you just need the top four or five leaves of the new growth.


Most of the recipes don’t give a weight requirement, they just say a carrier bag full to make 1 gallon.


It didn’t take too long to fill a bag, I filled two in about a half hour, each one weighed about 640 gms.

You’ll also need

Sugar 1kg



Cream of Tartar


I’ve also got a bag of hops in the pic,(more later).

First step, boil the nettles and let simmer for 20 mins.

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While they’re simmering put the sugar and cream of tartar in the fementing vessels.

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Cream of Tartar (is not the stuff you put on fish, that’s tartar sauce) has many applications in baking and cake making. It comes from potassium hydrogen tartrate or potassium bitartrate and is a fine, white, odorless powder. It is a by-product of wine production and is formed from the sediment left over in barrels after the wine making process. I’ve not been able to find out much about what it does in brewing, the best I’ve found is that it helps keep the head on the beer, makes the drink more syrupy and gives it“mouth feel”, whatever that is, (seems to be an American phrase).

When the nettles have simmered for 20 mins, strain the liquid off into the fermenter

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to dissolve the sugar and cream of tartar. Then add the juice of two and a half lemons, the acid in the lemons help regulate the acidity of the brew.

When the liquid had cooled to 23 deg C the yeast was added and the fermenter covered, to be left for a week, then racked off into demi-johns. I want to try something different so after three day I added some hops to one of the brews.

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This is a process called ‘dry-hopping’ and adds aroma to the brew as opposed to taste which is what adding hops at the boiling stage does and to be honest as the nettles were simmering they didn’t smell too good.

Well in three weeks I find out what the smell and taste are like.


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Mickey Moonbeam’s Marvelous Mead

Hægl Freond!

(That’s old English for What Ho Chums).

We always tend to think of mead as being a part of ‘Merry Olde England’  – Anglo-Saxons, Robin Hood, ‘Good Queen Bess’ and other things like that from England’s glorious past but apparently that’s not quite how it was. Mead is in fact the world’s oldest alcoholic drink – going back 40,000 years to early African bushmen, with wine being a mere 6000 years old. About 35,000 years ago  those African Johnnies got a bit fed up being chased up hill and down dale by lions and decided to find somewhere a bit safer to live so they had a wander around the Med. They  spread out across Europe and Mesopotamia, spreading their mead as they went.

Now, I thought I’d make some, after-all, how hard can it be? People running around stark bollock naked 40,00 years ago could do it, so I should be able to breeze it.

Well, I soon found out when I googled some recipes – there’s thousands,form nearly every region of the world. It was all a bit confusing,  there’s dry, semi-dry, sweet, very sweet, fruit, herb, spiced the list is endless; so I thought I’d make my own recipe up based on what’s called a melomel mead, that is a mead made with fruit.

Most recipes called for between 8 – 18 lbs of honey. I thought I would make it using local Kent honey and looked up some local apiaries and found one that was quite close. unfortunately it was £8 a jar for the honey, which made that idea a non-starter, although I did buy a jar. So it was off to the Swan for a pint and to ponder what to do. Now on the way home I had to pop into the Co-Op and on the shelves was honey for £1.75, a bit of a no-brainer then.

Here’s a list of the ingredients.

8lbs of honey.


Yeast nutient

1 lemon

25gm raisins



First the honey was poured into the fermentor with some warm water added and stirred, then topped up to the 23 l mark with cold water.Lemon juice was added to help regulate the acidity and also the raisins were added, to help give a bit more sugar for the yeast.



Then a gravity reading was taken.



While this was being done, the yeast was started in a cup of hot water at 40f which is a lot hotter than normal.

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The yeast nutrient was also started.


Me wee yeasties go made for this stuff.

It was all added to the fermentor.


This was covered and allowed to ferment for two weeks. Then it was transferred to a glass car-boy.


Now all that’s needed is to leave to continue fermenting for eight months then bottle it.



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Chateau Moonbeam’s Van Plonk

Salut. Bonjour et Ca Va.

That’s Frenchie speak for What Ho Chums.

Well the alcoholic grape juice has brewed and been bottled. Just had a bottle and haven’t got heartburn so it must be ok.

So here’s the label for the bottles.


Well chin chin for now chaps or should that be Au revoir

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