I spent most of Saturday doing the annual cider-making run, which has now turned into something of an institution. (for institution, read day of covering everything in apples, juice and mess ). So I thought this time I'd take some pictures and do a quick tutorial for those who might be interested...
The apples were sourced from various places, mostly friends and friends-of-friends who have apple trees and nothing to do with all the apples. When juicing, its best to go with bigger apples such as bramleys or cooking apples than crab-apples, as they give you more juice per apple. Assume 5kg of fruit will give you around 0.5 to 1 litre of juice (1-2 pints) - sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on apples, press strength etc.
The first step is to wash the apples, clean off bugs, leaves, mud etc. To do this, fill a bath with slightly warm water (cold water causes the apples to draw in nastiness on the surface) and fill with apples, giving them a good mix up to remove the debris. Then lift the apples out, drain, unblock plughole, and clean the bath.
Next refill with a very dilute bleach solution (I used Milton Fluid - 1/2tsp per gallon) and wash again for 15 minutes to remove any bugs and yeasts on the surface of the apples. Traditionally, these would have been used for the fermentation process, but since this also increases the risk of the cider going off, I'm not taking any chances...
Next stage is the crushing. This can be done in many ways, including hitting apples with a mallet, or slicing with a spade, but a proper crusher works best:
Having crushed the apples, you'll end up with a big box of apple pulp, ready for pressing:
Tthe pulp is put into cloth bags (old pillowcases) with wooden racks between each bag, and placed into a large plastic box with a hole drilled in the corner. This is set up in the home-made press, which consists of a strong frame, some pressing plates (old shelves) and a 1.5 ton car jack. This setup costs around 30-40 quid, less if you can get the wood and other bits free.The jack is then operated to squeeze the juice out:
And the juice comes flowing out!
As soon as the juice starts running, add a campden tablet to the juice (1 per gallon) to stop further oxidising and prevent bugs starting to grow in it.
We juiced about 5 boxes of apples, to produce around 3.5 gallons of juice (about 15 litres).
Once the juicing is done, add an extra campden tablet for good luck, put a lid on and leave it for 24 hours to settle out.
The next day, check the specific gravity, and make sure it is over 1.040 (approx. 5% abv at end of ferment). (if not, add sugar or honey to bring it up). We added some sugar to ensure it ferments to a higher percentage and thus has less chance of going off. Around 50g sugar per gallon adds approximately 1% to the final alcohol percentage. Then we the yeast (a sparkling white wine yeast works well, such as a bordeaux or champagne) and leave for 2-4 weeks to ferment out. Make sure you leave space in your container as this will ferment quite vigorously! Rack, bottle and prime as for a beer, optionally adding a clearing agent if its very cloudy.
I'll post more pictures once I get on to the racking and bottling stages!