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Hot off the press

Posted 5/9/2011

What a great start to the season. Three quarters of a tonne of hand-picked apples from nine different orchards and, 6 hours later, 500 litres of glorious juice. Everything didn't quite go according to plan though and, at 9.30am I was wondering whether there would be any juice at all!

The day started with an unusual lie-in, and a second cup of tea, before the realisation at 8.45am that my Chief Crusher (Tony) was due to arrive at 9am... and he's always early. I hurriedly dressed and managed to get the crusher set up as Tony pulled up outside. Hot on his heels was Rich, from the Woughton Orchard partnership (you'll hear more about that on future posts), who had offered his services for the day. Rich was also keen to see my hydro-press in action.

I'm really pleased with the hydro-press, a very neat bit of German engineering and an efficiency to match. For those who don't know, it is basically a perforated tube of steel mounted vertically on a light steel base (which catches the juice and funnels it via a lip into a juice bucket). The clever bit is the long rubber bladder which rises up centrally from the base and which, when filled with water, presses the apple pomace to the sides of the perforated steel tube producing the juice. The bladder connects to the garden hose and only needs 3 bar of pressure to operate. In full production it is easy to achieve 4 pressings an hour, which will yield around 80 litres of juice.
 
Anyway, everything was going well as I talked Rich through the setting up process. We mounted the steel tube onto the base, arranged the nylon sack cloth, and carefully filled to the brim with freshly crushed apple pulp. The lid went on next, securely held down with an oversized wing-nut, and the garden hose was attached...  we were already for our first press.  With great aplomb I turned on the tap and opened the valve. Nothing! We waited a few minutes, “It’ll be flooding out soon.” I said, now starting to feel a bit concerned.

I checked the hose, I rechecked the hose, I disconnected and reconnected the hose. A sinking feeling started to ensue; surely the bladder hadn’t split during the winter months? I took a deep breath and started to apply a more methodical troubleshooting approach, tracing the flow of water at the point of hosepipe connection to the bladder itself. And then I found it! On the valve assembly there was a knob that I had not previously spotted, but which I must have accidentally turned as I rushed to setup. This knob, in effect, closed off the pipe preventing water entering the bladder. Problem solved. Phew!

With hydro-press returned to normal working order the juice started flowing out and, within half an hour, the production was progressing like any well-oiled machine. Tony kept the pulp coming, and Rich manned the press for most of the day, whilst I pottered: racking the 2010 vintage and cleaning the vats ready to accept the 2011 nectar. By lunchtime we had 300 litres already pressed and our target of 500 litres was looking good.

As the fourth vat began to fill it looked like our apple supply may run out before hitting or target, so Senior Scrumper (Carol) and my wife Hannah went out to forage for more supplies. They returned with 80kg, still 20kg short of what we needed to press to get to 500 litres. Luckily we have two full trees in the garden and it was not long before the last of the required fruit was pulped and pressed and our target was reached. It was 3.30pm.

By 4.30pm everything was hosed down and put away. It had been a very successful day’s pressing. The only thing left to do now was to have a shower and head down to the 6th Cock & Bull beer festival in Stony Stratford starring, of course, Hard Core cider ;-) 

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