Making a Press

The following information is taken from the out-of-print Agriculture Canada booklet # 1406 which was scanned by Bill at the Squeeze Cider Press (now closed) on Vancouver Island.  You can read the entire leaflet here. The full leaflet also contains details of how to make a mill at home, how to make and sterilise juices, and how to make straightforward fermented fruit wines and ciders.

Here are the details of the press:

A, Hydraulic jack, 1 1/2 tons capacity, 8-in, lift.
B, Jack support, a 14 x 14-in, piece of 3/4-in, fir plywood or hardwood with 6 slats 1/4 x 1 in. nailed on one side.
C, Racks. Five racks 14 x 14 in. are made from 1/4 x 1-in, slats of hardwood nailed to 1/4 x 1 1/2-in, slats at the edges. The center slat is 18 in. long and serves as a guide between the uprights, I. It is 2 in. wide and has a center slot. The nails are stainless steel.
D, Press cloths of medium factory cotton are about 36 in. square.
E, Press base is a 17 x 17-in, piece of 3/4-in, plywood fastened to supports G. A 14 x 14-in, piece of 1/2-in, plywood is centered on the larger piece to channel the juice to the outlet, F. Four slats 1/4 x 1 1/2 in. on edge form the sides around the base.
F, Juice outlet made of 3/4-in., acid- resistant or plastic pipe.
G, Supports for press base.
H, Press top is of hardwood or fir plywood with a metal plate at the point of contact of the jack.
I, Uprights are reinforced with 1/4 x 4-in, metal strapping across the press top and 20 in. down two sides. All uprights and cross pieces are made of 4 x 4-in, fir.
J Cheese form is 2 x 14 x 14 in. and is made from 3/4-in, hardwood. All wooden parts of the press that come in direct contact with the juice are coated with hot paraffin.

Boil new cotton cloths in water for 5 min and rinse. Dampen them before use. After each use, wash the cloths thoroughly by changing the water often and dry them well before you store them. To use the press, place a rack on the press base. Put the cheese form on the rack and cover both with a press cloth.

Pour the product to be pressed on the cloth, as shown, to make a cheese 2 in. thick. Fold the cloth neatly into the center of the cheese and remove the

cheese form. Place another rack above this cheese and repeat the procedure until there is only space for the jack support, B, and the jack. Center the jack on the jack support and apply pressure evenly.

Note there's a similar set of plans and a clearer diagram given in the Proulx and Nichols book

My own press was virtually identical to this except that it's somewhat scaled up.  I used 6" square ash timbers, an 18" square set of racks and cheese form (to give a 16" square press area) and an 8 tonne jack.   Here's the press in action.


People often ask about the pressures and yields associated with these sorts of pack presses.  A rough guide from calculation and my own experience is as follows:

Yield is not a linear function with pressure and only increases by about 5% with each doubling of the pressure.  If possible it's worth aiming for a minimum 70% juice yield and hence a minimum pressure of about 70 psi.  When you get to double that (like the commercial press at 138 psi) you can get adverse effects like pulp oozing through the press cloth if you're working with soft dessert fruit . So excessive  pressure is not necessarily a good thing.  The other thing that influences yield is time. Most of the juice comes out fairly quickly but if you can maintain the pressure for several hours you can get a useful extra few % of juice. It all depends on how desperate you are and how much fruit you have!

Making a Mill

Commercial mills vary quite a lot around the same basic idea. Click here to see the internals of various types.

I've never made a mill - it seems to call for abilities in metal working which I don't possess.  But the Ag-Canada leaflet gives details of how to make one.  An alternative very neat idea using a garbage disposal unit was posted by Donald Yellman in # 789 of the Cider Digest, and is reproduced below.

Subject: Applegrinding with Garbage Disposal
From: Donald Yellman
Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 00:06:16 -0500

The following idea was submitted to "Pomona", the quarterly journal
of the North American Fruit Explorers Association, Chapin, Ill..  While
I have not yet received the winter 1999 edition of that journal, I have
been informed by cidermaker Bob Capshew of Indiana that the article
appears there.  Bob suggested that I share the idea with Cider Digest.
I also contacted Andrew Lea of Oxford, England, a well known hobby
cidermaker who thought the idea worth sharing.

     For several years, I have been using a kitchen garbage disposal to
grind large quantities (12-15 bushels) of cider apples from my orchard,
having found the hand-cranked barrel grinder that came with my cider
press to be slow, wasteful, and generally inefficient.   Because the
concept of using a garbage disposal seemed so simple, it did not occur
to me until recently that I might be the only one doing this.  I can
only apologize for not having shared this as soon as I discovered that
it worked so well.  And it does.  It works and it's cheap.

     All that is required is a table frame constructed of 2x4's or any
scrap lumber, about 36" tall, with a plywood or formica top about 2 feet
square.  At least one side must be completely open to insert and remove
a 5 gallon plastic bucket.  Use a sabre saw to cut out the appropriate
size hole in the center of the top, and install the (preferably new)
garbage disposal.  The 90 degree plastic fitting that accompanies the
disposal is perfect for discharging directly to the bucket below.  No
additional tubing is required.  A metal switchbox and an ordinary light
switch may be installed in a handy location on the side of the table.
Three-wire cord must be used, since both the disposal and the switchbox
must be grounded.  Otherwise, you may light up unexpectedly while
standing on a damp surface.

     When I built my unit, I was not at all sure the concept would work,
and I opted for the cheapest garbage disposal available --- a $30.00,
1/3 horsepower model.  In retrospect, I wish I had gone a little further
up the scale, perhaps to a 1/2 horsepower model.  I would also look for
the one with the largest throat, as we sometimes have to cut large
apples in half to fit them in.  Garbage disposals are essentially
miniature attrition mills, which operate with small hammers, not knives.
The apple (or pear, or anything) slurry is expelled by centrifugal
force, and is absolutely perfect for pressing, but use of a large,
fine-mesh nylon bag to line the bucket is essential.  When you lift the
bag out of the bucket to your press, you will find a substantial amount
of clear cider already in the bucket.  Fortunately, the nylon bags are
inexpensive, widely available, and tough enough to last for several
years.  The volume of dry pomace that remains after pressing is quite
small, indicating that juice yield is close to maximum.

     The internal parts of even the cheaper garbage disposals are all
stainless steel, so a thorough cleaup with the hose is quick and easy.

     I wish I could say that is all there is to the story, but I cannot.
Garbage disposal motors rely on the liquid they process for cooling, and
they are not really built for continuous duty.  While you can feed in
apples at an amazing clip, after 25-30 minutes the motor will overheat
and trip the internal circuit breaker.  Then you must wait 10-15 minutes
before you can reset the breaker.  Eventually I may burn up my little
motor, but so far, so good.  Even with these occasional breaks, I can
still grind 3-4 times faster than the hand grinder, and turn out a much
better product.  Now I wonder whether a larger, more powerful disposal
might be more inclined to take the continuous use.  I have also given
some thought to wrapping cooling fins around the motor, installing a
small fan under the table, or drilling ventilation holes in the motor
case itself.  But, since these are induction motors, with the windings
right there under the case, I am loath to drill.  A good motor man with
a machine shop could probably figure out some way to solve the
overheating problem.

     Meanwhile, if you are willing to take an occasional break to let
the motor cool down, you can grind a lot of apples in an afternoon with
the disposal grinder.

Don Yellman
Great Falls, Virginia

Further Cider Digest correspondence on this topic then followed, exploring the concept in a bit more detail:

Subject: re: Applegrinding with Garbage Disposal
From: (Dick Dunn)
Date: 31 Jan 99 17:54:24 MST (Sun)

Donald Yellman described his very clever disposal-
grinder setup.  I'm certainly game to try it myself since I've not been
happy with the texture I've been getting from the grinder on my press (too
coarse) nor the yield (almost always under 50% in terms of juice-weight:
original-apple-weight).  I've got some questions, which I'll post in hopes
the answers (from Donald or anyone else who's tried this) will be of
general interest.

  * The SS interior is an obvious Good Thing for sanitation, but do you
    find that there are little corners, holes, crevices that are hard to
    clean of apple pulp and bits?  Are we talking here about a device that
    can be kept clean enough to produce food-quality output?  I don't ask
    this in the sense of formal regulations so much as I want to know if
    you can get it clean enough to produce fresh juice for short-term con-
    sumption or freezing (as opposed to relying on the fermentation step
    for dealing with pathogens).

  * What is your processing rate?  You mention having to stop periodically
    to cool the motor, but you were also talking in terms of a dozen
    bushels (say five hundred pounds) or so.  For a lot of us, this isn't
    going to be an issue since we just don't press that much at a time.
    For me, even if I did that much in one day, it would still be cyclic
    since I'd grind-and-press, repeat.  I wouldn't grind everything at
    once.  So, how fast can you grind a bushel of apples?

  * Do you notice any heating of the pomace after you've been running for
    a while?

  * Is there any problem with clogging?  One of the characteristics of the
    design of a disposal is that it's meant to run with a lot of water
    flow, which you won't have.  Have you tried pears?  That might be my
    reference point for possible clogging.

  * Most disposals come with a flexible shield for the top, intended in
    normal use to keep debris from being ejected back out of the disposal.
    (These shields also narrow the effective opening.)  Do you use the
    shield, and if not, do you have any trouble with blow-back?

  * How is it with seeds?  Does it tend to break/cut a lot of seeds?

> The apple (or pear, or anything) slurry is expelled by centrifugal
> force, and is absolutely perfect for pressing, but use of a large,
> fine-mesh nylon bag to line the bucket is essential.  When you lift the
> bag out of the bucket to your press, you will find a substantial amount
> of clear cider already in the bucket...

Any thought about mounting the disposal so that it will feed directly into
the press basket of a small press?  That would require a downward
discharge, of course.

One other little note:
>      The internal parts of even the cheaper garbage disposals are all
> stainless steel...

Looking around at lumber/home-improvement store stuff (a lot of which is
low-end), I saw several with galvanized interiors.  Don't think I'd want
that...zinc and apple juice sounds like a bad idea.  Caveat emptor--be sure
it's stainless before you buy.

Donald's reply was:

Subject: hygienic applegrinding
From: Donald Yellman
Date: Mon, 01 Feb 1999 14:05:06 -0500

Dick Dunn raises a very good point in digest #790, concerning use of a
kitchen disposal for grinding fruit, and that is: be discriminating in
the type of disposal you buy.

1.  All disposals are not created equal.  The original disposal I have
used for grinding, the $30.00 model, is a "Grind All".  After some
disassembly and close inspection, I am now not at all certain that all
the internal parts are stainless steel, although the hammers clearly
are.  The internal basket shows no sign of corrosion, but it may well be
galvanized, that is, zinc coated.  As long as it is not cadmium plated
(which has a yellowish color), I don't know that zinc is a problem.
Some apparently believe that zinc pills ward off colds. Zinc has been
used to line food-grade containers for years, but I understand that lead
is now out of favor.  In any event, I don't think the apples could pick
up much zinc on the way through, since they travel at pretty high speed.

2.  I also inspected the dispoal in our kitchen sink, a much better
"ISE" model, which probably cost about $75.00.  This one clearly has a
stainless steel throat, and I also noticed that the throat is deeper,
that is, the distance from the surface to the hammers is greater by at
least two inches.  That is an advantage in increasing the size of the
grinding chamber, and minimizing any blowback.  On the discharge side,
all disposals come equipped with a 90 degree plastic fitting that
changes the discharge angle from horizontal to vertical, that is,
straight down.  I originally thought I might have some problems there,
and had purchased some additional tubing to direct flow into the bucket,
but found I did not need it.  Not a drop goes outside the bucket.

3.  I have left the rubber blowback guard in place on the "Grind All",
not least because it is a structural part of the suspension, and if it
is removed the grinder falls out.  That is not true of the 'ISE'
disposal, which has a rubber guard that can be inserted and removed from
above.  I agree that operating without the rubber guard is preferable
for hygienic reasons, and for marginally increasing the size of the
throat.  I doubt that this would provoke apple blowback, since the
apples move through there so fast, and there is no backpressure in the

4.  One of my original concerns when I built the prototype, and the
reason I started with a cheap disposal, was whether ground apples would
pass through without additional liquid.  I am happy to report that they
do, and that clogging is not an issue.

5.  I don't know what happens to the seeds.  I never really checked for
them, and assume they are ground up with everything else.  They don't
seem to add any off flavors, and as long as apple and pear seeds are
non-toxic, I will continue not to worry about them.

5.  We do our apple grinding outdoors, and are able to able to use a
hose for rinsing when required.  I have also run the hose through there
to try to speed up cooldown of the motor, though I don't know that did
much good.  If you really wanted to clean up the dispoal to USDA
standards, I guess you could put a rubber stopper in the discharge, add
a little liquid and a non-foaming cleanser, and throw the switch.  I
think there might be some backpressure generated with this procedure,
and I would stand back a bit until I was sure.  Once again, it's not
something I would do in the kitchen, or my wife would crown me, but it's
fine for the backyard.

6.  We never really timed our processing rate with a stopwatch, since we
were just having fun, but I would estimate you could grind a bushel in
ten minutes or less, especially if you cut the fruit in half first.  A
larger, more powerful disposal would obviously be faster.  The pomace
does not pick up enough heat in its pass-through to be noticeable, but,
again, I have not checked it with a thermometer.  I have tried pears,
and it works as well as for apples.  I think even grapes would work, if
you wanted to increase the juice yield.

7.  I guess you could design your unit to discharge directly to your
press, as long as you can fit the press under the table.  I wouldn't
recommend trying to route the slurry with plastic tubing or such, since
that might lead to some clogging and backpressure.   The height of my
table, 36 inches, is merely a convenient working height, which
discharges nicely into my bucket.  Some disposals may be longer than
others, reducing the clearance below, but the height of the table
surface is up to you.  Cidermaker Bob Capshew plans to use an old sink
to mount his disposal.  That will work fine as long as long as he can
still get a bucket under the unit.  I originally considered using a sink
myself, but didn't happen to have one around, and did have a piece of
countertop.  It goes without saying that one side of the table must be
completely open to insert and remove the bucket.

8.  I say again, my experience is with use of fine-mesh nylon pressing
bags, which are readily available at winemaking shops.  I don't know
what your pressing basket looks like Dick, but if it is lined with a
nylon bag it should work fine.  The slurry that emerges from the
disposal grinder is quite different from a hand grinder, and therein
lies its juicemaking efficiency.

And then he added:

Subject: cider grinder redux
From: Donald Yellman
Date: Tue, 02 Feb 1999 00:14:55 -0500

I have had a few second thoughts since sending off a msg in response to
Dick Dunn's queries.   I understand the risks of
beating a fairly good idea to death here, and I may have to eat a few of
my words, but be it so.  I've been eating them all my life.  It is
important that others avoid repeating the mistakes I have made.

1.  I further disassembled my "Grind All" disposal, and indeed, the
upper body is an aluminum casting, but there was no evidence of
corrosion.  Beneath the grinding plate, which is galvanized steel, is a
reinforcing bar that holds the two riveted hammers.  That bar is
apparently uncoated carbon steel.  It should be visible through the
discharge hole, before the plastic elbow is installed.  The upper body,
which is sealed to the lower body with a large o-ring, comes off quite
easily by removing the nuts from the four long bolts that run through
the unit.  The reinforcing bar did have a light coating of rust.  The
discharge chamber, below the grinding plate, is also an aluminum
casting, but again, there was no sign of corrosion.  I did find an apple
seed in there.

2.  The motor of the "Grind All" is not designed to be further
disassembled.  It is staked at several strategic points, and I cannot
even get the bottom plate off.  Probably just as well.  It might be
difficult to get the lower bearing properly realigned.  However, I could
see up to the ring electromagnet through the hookup hole, and there is
1/2 inch clearance between the steel motor case and the windings.  I may
try to drill a series of cooling holes in the lower part of the motor,
using a drill stop to prevent going too far.  I don't know whether that
will have a significant effect on motor cooling.  Frankly, I think a
larger motor is the answer.

3.  I may have misunderstood Dick Dunn's query about discharging
directly to his press.  I was thinking only in terms of a table or sink
mount, and could not figure out how Dick would get his cider press under
a small table.  My press is as high as an elephant's eye.  Dick may be
thinking of mounting the disposal directly to the frame of his press.
That might work, but a disposal is a pretty heavy object, and the
mounting would have to be quite rigid.  It is also easier to work, that
is to feed in apples, on a flat surface or a sink at convenient height.
When I lift my full pressing bags to the press, I bring the whole bucket
over to minimize drippage and loss.  I don't lose much.

4.  A comeback from faithful cidermaker John A. MacLaughlin suggested
using a ground fault outlet for the grinder, in addition to proper
grounding.  That is an idea that I will implement, since I always use
the same outlet from the garage, and a gfci should probably be installed
there anyway.  John also suggested a fine spray of water for cooling the
motor case.  I am not certain I want to spray an active electrical
appliance with water, although with the gfci I could probably get away
with it.  I might spray it down when the power is off.

5.  One other small thing.  Disposals have a knockout for installation
of a dishwasher drain.  Don't knock it out.

6.  In sum, look over the disposals carefully before buying, and choose
the one with fewest corrosive internal parts, the largest throat, and
the most profound grinding chamber.  I have to confess I never gave
these things much thought before getting all this feedback.  Although I
am a fiscally conservative, not to say cheap, consumer, I may even buy a
better disposal myself.

Regards, Don Yellman

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Last updated 23 September 2000