Rack & cloth pressing

Pressing season is upon us. We're currently about 2500 liters into our 6000 liter goal, and still working out the kinks in the new/old pressing system. The star of our setup is the hydraulic press, a "rack and cloth" or "rack and cheese" press--a modernized version of the kind of press that has been used in cidermaking regions for hundreds of years (post horse and mill stone, of course).  

How it works: the apples are dumped into a wooden hopper, where an auger rotates them up through a spray-wash system and up to the mill for grinding (photos 1 & 2). The resulting apple pomace (which looks like coarse applesauce at this point) falls down into another large wooden hopper where it collects until pumped over to the pressing table. Here a foot pedal is used by the folks building the rack and cloth layers to pump the pomace as-needed onto a pressing rack and "cheese" form draped with a diagonal cloth (photo 3). It is then neatly folded, topped with another pressing plate, and the process is repeated for six to seven layers. Jolicoeur's The New Cidermaker's Handbook informs us that those layers of folded pomace are referred to as the "hair", as the cloths were traditionally made of horse hair. Sadly, there are not enough horse tails on Pender to replicate this tradition, and anyway, I'm sure we would be the only cidery in production to do so. Finally, the stack is pressed at 2000 psi (photo 5), pumped over to an IBC container, and two happy cidermakers are the result (photo 6).

It's a simple and fun process but issues do occur, mainly because some apples are drier than others and do not run through our trusty pump very well. This results in someone holding the pump hose up very high while our friend George whacks it with a 2x4 as if he were batting in a game of cricket (not pictured). We'll tweak the system as we go and hopefully the last 3500 liters will be a breeze. For now it's been so great to have all the help we've received from our community of friends and family. Pressing on...