I love cider. The ritual of pressing it, enjoying it straight, fermenting it, canning it, mulling it and quite frankly just smelling it.
At 25 I knew what I wanted for my 30th birthday, and I started saving. Double barreled cider presses don’t come cheap, and they’re not particularly easy to make either. Even if you do choose to make your own, there’s quite a bit of cast iron hardware that will set you back roughly 1/3 the cost of a finished model, and then you still have to come up with the wood.
To celebrate our press (and my birthday) we had a cider pressing party, and everyone brought empty carboys, mason jars and just about every other container in the house along with buckets and buckets of apples. We pressed around 100 gallons of cider that day and converted it into hard cider, cider vinegar, cider jelly, cider syrup and plain old canned cider to enjoy mulled in the wintertime.
In the years since we’re well on our way to getting our money’s worth, and it still has decades of life left. Around here, a gallon of fresh raw cider is about $8, meaning that first year’s party pressed out $800 worth of cider. Since then, we’ve made between 30 and 50 gallons a year, and at that more sustainable rate the press pays for itself in about 4 years. It’s then yours free for the next 40+.
In the years we’ve used it, we’re happy we went for the bigger double barreled version. Sometimes squeezing out every last bit of juice with the press can take time, and it’s much more efficient if you can use that time to grind you next batch. We’ve used a single barrel press, and the double barrel is more than twice as fast at getting cider out of the apples.
If you’re spending the money, the double barrel is the way to go unless…you plan on transporting it. A double barreled cider press is absurdly heavy, and even with wheels it’s hard to move with just one strong person. A smaller, single barreled version can easily be loaded into the back of a hatchback Subaru and hauled just about anywhere. The first time I used a single barrel version we hauled it that way, and it was easy to move, load and transport.
How to Use a Double Barrel Cider Press
Start by hosing the whole thing down with a pressure nozzle. Unless you have summer bearing apples (we do!) then it’s been sitting for a whole year and it’ll need it. Apply a bit of food safe lubricant to the press drill grooves. That’ll keep it moving smoothly, and prevent rust in the long term. Put your mesh apple pressing bags into the press barrels and get ready to start grinding!
It helps if you can have one person tossing apples into the grinder and the other spinning the flywheel. It generally runs without snags, but if it does snag up, just run it backwards for half a turn and then continue.
A friend who will remain nameless found that it actually runs much better if you actually throw the apples into the grinder with a bit of force. Maybe the impact helps them lock into the teeth. Regardless, he has a good throwing arm and loves to show it off, so everyone’s happy with the arrangement.
When the barrel is about 2/3 full, stop grinding and close up the bag around the apple pieces. You’ll need that extra bit of space to get the wooden press piece down on top of the apples for pressing. Slide the apples over under the press drill and add in the wooden press piece. Then get cranking!
Crank it down until it wont go any further. Then give it 2-3 minutes to think about it, before giving it a couple more turns.
We found that yields varied dramatically based on the type of apple. Since we collected them mostly in 5 gallon buckets, we’d measure at the end of each and generally saw between 1 gallon and 2.5 gallons of cider for every 5 gallons of apples.
Have you tried pressing your own cider? What type of press are you using? Leave a note in the comments below.