Terry Bradshaw Vermont Calais, VT Orchard-Crafted Hard Cider in the New American Tradition

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Considerations for Operating a Commercial, Non-HACCP Cider Mill in Vermont

 


The Cider Mill

Note:  I have updated the mill quite a bit since writing the page below in 2005. While I now have a lot more stainless steel (press pans, bottling tank), mechanization (juice pump), and general hygienic amenities (epoxied walls and floor, running hot water), the concept is pretty much the same.

The cider mill is a custom-built design.  I knew that I could come up with the squeezing mechanism pretty easily, but making a suitable grinder that was efficient and food-grade was out of my ability.  I lucked into an Orchard Equipment commercial grinder with stainless knives and a 5 hp motor from an orchard that was going out of business in the summer of 2002.   Without the grinder, I couldn't have built this unit.grinder001.JPG (66068 bytes)

I was looking for a rack and cloth press that would squeeze about 15 gallons of juice per run.  With the grinder came a set of hardwood racks that I chopped down to fit the press, and sized to fit one bushel of fruit per 'cheese', or rack.  The press does five cheeses per squeeze. I built two white oak press boxes to fit the cheeses and two rolling steel carts which hold the squeezing fruit.  This way I can build or break down a load while the other is being squeezed.

 

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The press itself is a simple H-frame shop press with two 20 ton hydraulic jacks, one above the racks and one below.  With twenty inch racks this gives me 100 psi pressure at the racks which is ideal for a good, efficient squeeze. With this setup I can press three gallons of juice, sometimes more, per bushel of fruit, which is on par with most commercial units.

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Fruit are loaded into the grinder's hopper and sorted for bruises, decay, and other defects.  Presently I have to load the boxes overhead by hand, which gets a little tough on the back. Pomace comes out of the bottom of the grinder and drops into buckets which I use to transfer to the racks. I plan to set up a fruit elevator to load the fruit up and drop the pomace (ground up fruit) into the cheeses, getting rid of my pommy buckets altogether.

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Loading the cheeses for a squeeze. A rack is laid in the press box, the cheese form laid over it, and a cheese cloth laid on top of that.  The cloth is filled with pomace, the cloth folded over, and a new rack started.  The racks allow juice to flow out of the system when under pressure.

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The hydraulics are operated when the setup is in place.  I have to be careful to keep everything aligned so that the stack doesn't shift during pressing.   Juice is caught in a clean food-grade bucket and put into new, clean jugs.

In the future I  plan to switch over to food-grade HDPE plastic racks and poly press cloths as the ones I have need replacing.

The press is set up in one bay of my garage, and can make quite a mess.    I use a pressure washer to clean all surfaces and parts before and after a squeezing session and a shop-vac to dry the floors.  The whole mill is sanitized before and after squeezes with Star-San, a food-grade acid wash. Sorry, the mill is not open to the public during operation.

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All material Copyright Terence Bradshaw 2006-2013

terryb at lostmeadowvt dot com