If you aren’t interested in geeking out about cidermaking equipment, this post probably isn’t for you…
I’ve been toying with the idea of opening a cidery of my own for some time, and as such have been keeping an eye on equipment suppliers.
So when I noticed that MoreWine Pro’s 2016 Pre-Sale has opened up, I quickly found a number of items along these lines that I thought would be worth mentioning, alongside alternatives, for those of you who want to scale up your home cidermaking operation or who are considering opening a small cidery. The pre-sale only runs to April 15th, and most of the items therein tend not to be available the rest of the year…at least in the U.S.
Full Disclosure: I’m a More Flavor Affiliate, so if you purchase through my links below I make a small commission. I’m also a More Flavor customer, and have found them to stand behind their products.
On a small scale, you could grind and press your own cider using a crank grinder and manual screw press like the units that Happy Valley sells. For small batches, this is a lot of fun–when I was running one of the Happy Valley presses last year, the neighbor kid noticed and came over–he was immediately fascinated by the process. Naturally, we let him help. It took about 2 hours including setup and cleanup to grind and press 5 gallons of cider.
But if you’re wanting to press more than, say, 25 gallons, and don’t want to spend an entire day or more doing so, it’s time to look at the less romantic–but more effective–options.
Enter the motorized grinder and the bladder or hydraulic press, which can process far more cider, quickly, without as much manpower. Options along these lines:
- The Speidel Motorized Apple and Pear Crusher which, according to the manufacturer, can grind 2200 lb of fruit per hour. (More Wine Pre-Sale)
- The OESCO Apple Grinder
- Your own home-made rig
I’ve had my eye on the Speidel crusher for a while, since learning of its use by Jennifer Seiwald of Scrumpy’s Hard Cider Bar in Fort Collins, CO.
On the press front, the commercial cidermakers generally use hydraulic presses. These extract more juice than any other option, but can be very expensive. Bladder presses are less efficient, but also less expensive and can be purchased in smaller form factors that fit a smaller space. Some options:
- Speidel 90-liter Bladder Press (More Wine Pre-Sale)
- Screw Press (see Happy Valley link above)
- #25 Fruit Press–also used for wine
- Your own home-made rig (see Reverend Nat’s presentation along these lines for some ideas)
- A full-blown OESCO hydraulic press (if you don’t mind dropping enough cash to buy a new car with)
Cider can be fermented in either the standard, jacketed conical beer fermenters or, as cider fermentation is so similar to winemaking, in wine fermenters. The latter can be jacked or not, conical or not, and each has its own pros and cons just as the fermenters used by brewers do. Small-scale home fermentation of 5 gallon batches can be handily managed by using glass carboys or plastic fermentation buckets from suppliers such as Adventures in Homebrewing or MoreBeer.
Commercial fermenters–particularly stainless steel fermenters–can be harder to source with demand and prices being high (there’s a new microbrewery opening on every corner these days and they all need fermentation gear) and lag times for orders being quite long. Used fermenters are particularly hard to find, as they are snapped up very quickly (try following the ProBrewer forums on used equipment for a taste of this experience).
Various larger suppliers, like JV Northwest and Glacier Tanks on the beer front and GW Kent on the wine front, can be engaged to provide commercial-sized, stainless steel tanks. Some, like JV Northwest, will need to speak with you to work up a quote, while others may have prices posted.
In my case, I’m looking for something larger than the 5-7 gallon fermenters used at the home brewing scale, but not a monster tank that I can’t move while empty and is too big for me to store. In addition, with cider, since the quantity of the various types of apples you’re seeking for a blend may vary, it helps to be able to accommodate varying quantities of juice. That’s why I was excited to see these variable volume fermenters:
- Speidel Variable Volume Conical Fermenter (300L/79 gal)
- Speidel Variable Volume Conical Fermenter (530L/140 gal)
- Speidel Variable Volume Flat Bottom Fermenter (290L/77 gal)
- Speidel Variable Volume Flat Bottom Fermenter (650L/172 gal)
These will ferment variable volumes of cider or wine at a much higher capacity and for a lot less cost than the Blichman Fermenators I was considering previously, while still offering the benefits of stainless steel. If stainless isn’t a necessity, another option is the Speidel Plastic Fermenters.
For larger-scale options, please see my Cidery In A Box post on Ciderschool.
There are a number of decent options out there for cidery gear, provided you keep an eye out for deals or if you’re very handy and invest the time and energy to learning how to source and assemble the materials yourself
If you’re interested in cider equipment–hobbyist or cidery-scale–I’m building a new site that will more heavily feature cidermaking techniques, resources, and equipment: ciderschool. There’s not much to see there yet, but feel free to sign up for the newsletter for announcements as I add new content.