Pressing Times: Cider and Perry
The end of 2016 saw a flurry of activity at FAoI as I finally got my arse into gear and addressed the ever growing mountain of apples and pears. The original plan was to split them and produce cider and perry, but as is typical of plans around here, it soon crashed and burned! Instead of cider and perry we have ciderry or perrider! I prefer the latter as it sounds like pariah, which would have been a good name for the drink had I not already opted for one!
While the idea of having proper cider and perry might sound good in theory, it did mean that I’d have to split the fruits and manage two lots of pressing and fermentation. As i was already well behind schedule I deemed perrider to be the experiment needed to retain the idiot approach.
I had apples and pears. I had fermentation vessels. I had yeast. All that was required was turning the fruits into must (that’s what proper people making cider and perry call juice; I’m fucked if I know why they don’t just call it juice, but they don’t). There are two processes in must extraction: scratting and pressing. Scratting is basically milling the fruit into a pulp so it’s more giving in the juice department, and pressing is pressing. It’s easy, that last bit.
Time is a fickle mistress, so I had time to either make a scratter or a press, but not both. The idea of scratting is to break down the fruit. I was aware that freezing and thawing tears the cellular structure of fruit because of the expansion when freezing and the secondary and greater expansion when thawing, and a quick search of the interweb identified that a freeze/thaw cycle would indeed enhance must extraction.
So I built a press. It’s simple in design. It’s a wooden frame held together with threaded rod, with a wide base unit which allows a collection vessel to be placed under the workings on the press. A sliding wooden piston sort of thing and a collection of spacing blocks (they’re really just off-cuts of wood) are used to apply pressure from a five tonne bottle jack.
The frame has a piece of cold steel plate attached to the top to spread the load from the jack. If you don’t do this the wood will deform under high pressure loads and might crack.
Once the apples have been frozen and thawed, they are cut in half and dumped into muslin bags. The bags are than placed between pressure plates (these are simply LDPE cutting boards) and the whole shotting match gets jacked up (so to speak). The juice then falls into the collection vessel (an old stainless steel catering gastronorm with a hole cut into it) which in turn fills the fermenter.
A word of caution to anyone attempting using a gastronorm (or for that matter any other stainless steel collection vessel): with a round hole cut in the vessel, escaping liquids will, when slow flowing, create rivulets across the base of the pan and drip everywhere. It’s fucking messy. The cure is simple! Take a bolster chisel (don’t use a sharp one) and place it on the lower edge of the hole. A swift twat or two with a lump hammer will create a crease that serves as a spout. This prevents liquid from flowing back on the external surface. It’s proper science, you motherlovers!
For those brew-minded, I varied the yeasts for each fermenter; as it’s the first year of FAoI Perrider I wanted to try a few options. The following have been used: Generic Champagne yeast; Safale S-04; Safale S-04 plus Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois; Wyeast 4766 (Cider); Mango Jack M02; Mango Jack M02 plus Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois; Yeast Bay Brettanomyces Melange.
The plan is to age the Perrider until the apple and pear trees blossom in Spring, when it will be bottled and kegged. The eagle-eyed will have spotted a Gruffalo on one of the fermenters. This is not an essential bit of kit, but serves to remind me which one in a line of fermenters holds the oldest still fermenting brew.