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).
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.