mmm... cider

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Cider 2006
Cider: Year II 2006-09

Snapshots from 2006

After great success last year, Ben and I had many plans for how to improve process, equipment, and volume for this year. We didn't get around to all the areas we contemplated, but were actually more ambitious in some respects. In particular, Ben is planting an apple orchard in Maine!!

Check out his orchard blog here:

You can see an incomplete record of our 2006 activities below.

Equipment Design
While last year's equipment served us well and had a certain old world charm, we felt that we needed to take it up a notch. In particular, we thought the apple grinder needed to grind finer and the press needed to be easier to load and unload. Also the throughput of both operations needed to increase. It would also be ideal if we didn't have to fix the machines several times during each use.

This led us to contemplate a frame and tray type press and a human powered grinder.


For the grinder, Ben suggested a two cylinder with blades bolted on approach. Here is a drawing I made in autocad while farting around with the idea:

I need to learn Solid Works...

There were a few ideas on how to build this including stacking up lasercut acrylic disks. I even bought a chunk of 6 inch round HDPE, some pillow blocks, shafting, and a flywheel, but thats as far as I got. Ben actually made something up involving flat head screws on wooden drums, but he said it loaded up too easily. Maybe next year.

In the name of expediency, Ben went with the garbage disposal solution, which turns out to kick so much ass that it will be difficult to go back to a less effective grinding method (which a drum grinder would certainly be). The disposal pulverizes the apples at top speed with very little effort:

Insinkerator mounted in a piece of countertop

Note compressed air for cooling

Apples are obliterated


For the press, I was thinking of something built like furniture out of nice old wood:

Yeah... in my dreams!

However, it is lucky that Ben is more practical and doesn't get hung up on silly ideas like that. We mulled a few options for critical dimensions and parts and came out with a 1-1/2 diameter steel acme thread screw 3' long with two square brass nuts, and a food service stainless pan to catch juice. These were all bought from McMaster.

Here is Ben's design that he whipped up:

Simple and effective

He then actually built this, and it ended up looking nice and it works very well.

Later on, Ben, JD, and I used the machine shop at E Ink to mill a hex on the end of the screw to fit a 10 inch diameter cast aluminum handwheel. That didn't quite work out, so for this year we turned the screw with a hex socket with breaker bar and a piece of aluminum pipe.

Fun in the ol' machine shop

Ready to rip into it with Wilbah

Picking 2006-09
Becky and I got the zipcar and went picking with my dad and my stepmom Mary at Red Apple Farms in Philipston, MA. We got about 260 pounds of 7 varieties of apples. We used some of these for cooking and apple sauce, but most of them went to cider.

A beautiful day, but a bit warm

Hope this goat doesn't go crazy and attack the pregnant lady...

Meanwhile, Ben and Alexis did their usual picking at Poverty Lane orchard in Lebanon, NH for the real cider apples.

Powerful heirloom cider apples

Processing 2006-10
Ben got a head start by running one carboy full of juice in NH from Poverty Lane apples.

Loading pomace into the cheese mold

Four cheeses of pomace getting the squeeze

A few weeks later, Ben and I ran three carboys worth on my front porch in Somerville. Then a week later, JD, Ben, and I, did another two carboys on my front porch. Surprisingly none of the many passerbys on the sidewalk inquired as to what was going on.

JD and Ben at the grinding station

Squeeze it JD

Lots of juice

In general our yields were quite good, 70% and up. Last year we were at about 50%. Ben did another carboy in NH, as well as some apple-cranberry wine that was pretty good.

Ben used champagne yeast with a starter in the NH carboys, while I used White Labs English Cider Yeast for the four carboys we fermented in my cellar.

Bottling/Labeling 2006-12
After racking and aging for a number of weeks, we were ready to blend, bottle, and label. We decided to bottle some of the early, milder carboys by themselves. We ended up with two very acid carboys, and one very bitter. One acid and one bitter made a balanced blend, though still very strong. We blended and carbonated in cornelius kegs.

Washing and sanitizing the corny kegs

Ben works the counterpressure bottling rig

For labels, we wanted something themed around the new person in the mix (our daughter Ultraviolet). So we went with Ultraviolet Revolution for the blended batch, with a science-y themed label graphic and a reference to the peaceful revolutions in former soviet republics in recent years.

We also wanted to make some generic labels so we won't always feel pressured to design and print a custom letterpress label every time we do a new batch. So we made a generic label for 'Hard Times' cider, with a nice crimson apple that I drew last year and got turned into a plate.

Mostly we used plates from Owosso Graphics, and Lux textured cream colored cover weight paper from Paper Source.

The chase setup for the Ultraviolet Revolution label

Finished labels

Design partially original and partially ripped off from other websites
by Holly Gates