building a cider press

flowing ciderHappy (belated) Thanksgiving!

When I married my hubby, I was instantly imported into a family that loves to tinker and build stuff. A few weeks ago my father-in-law helped me build a cider press, and this Thanksgiving when the extended family got together, we made cider! It was so much fun to have the kids and everyone involved and enjoying the cider afterwards too.

It was a fairly straightforward project, made easier with the help of someone more skilled with power tools than I. Although, if he had his way, we would’ve built it out of steel and welded it all together!

This is a work-in-progress. I will share it here as inspiration and provide a bit of a how-to, but know that it is not perfect and there are still things we’d like to improve. It is possible to get amazing cider from something that is not perfect, though. All the kids agree.

Building a Homemade Cider Press

bottle jackThe first thing I bought was a bottle jack. This provides 6 tons of pressure. Based on my casual online research, it seemed like a good amount to start with. I knew I wanted to use wood, so I didn’t want to get a bottle jack that could possibly break apart the press!

If I would’ve done the calculations that my engineer hubby wanted me to do, I probably could’ve figured out exactly how many tons of pressure the press could handle and bought a larger bottle jack. However, I told him if he was worried, HE could do the calculations, and probably in his sleep. I didn’t want to spent hours on something, only to confirm that all those cider-making guys on the internet were right about 6 tons being a good number. Risky, maybe, but if I was taking too big of a risk, hubby would save me. He’s good like that.

porcupine pailMaybe I’m too trusting of ‘all those cider-making guys on the internet’, but I figure I need to start somewhere, and waiting for perfection is going to kill me quicker than making a mistake or two.

The porcupine pail is another example of trust: a food-grade plastic pail, wrapped with tie-wraps to keep it from exploding due to the pressure. Holes are drilled in the bottom and along the bottom two inches of the sides. We did tweak this, though. Instructions said drill holes all the way to the top, but we didn’t like that idea.

I took a few snapshots of the press today after it was cleaned up so you can see how it’s put together.

First up: the picture that started it all, taken from

cider press plans

The image was very fuzzy so we couldn’t see the measurements. But it clearly gives the basic overview, so we went with it. Our press is 5 feet tall and 2 feet wide, because cedar 4×4 post lumber comes in 10 foot lengths. We made modifications on the feet, and we aren’t using the square pressboards, as you saw earlier.

Here’s our bottom side view. 

bottom side view
The piece of wood extending from the bottom of the shelf is for attaching the meat grinder that we used to process the apples.

Here’s a pic of the grinder in action:

apple musher
As you can see, the boys got tired of the hand cranking and decided to tweak the process just a bit.

I should also show a closeup of the top. Here it is:

top of the press
Hubby found some HUGE washers/metal plates, plus the C-channel (blue metal) to put on the top bar to keep the bottle jack from pressing a hole into the cedar.

All in all, I think it worked pretty well. Still more to tweak, though! Someone wants to incorporate more metal parts, like a drip tray with a spigot (awesome!). And replace the porcupine pail with a stainless steel tube (next year…). And…  there’s more, but I’ll save it for another post.

cider4 cheers