Make your own apple cider by following our do-it-yourself instructions on how to convert a washing machine into a cider press.
Photo by Fotolia/Nitr
MOTHER's readers have learned how to convert a washing machine into a cement mixer, a potter's wheel, and an outdoor shower. Well, here's another idea for recycling this appliance: a homemade cider press. See readers' adaptations of these plans — and watch washing-machine-cider-makers in operation — on YouTube at Apple Cider Making With a Washing Machine and Making Apple Cider With a Clothes Washer.
How to Convert a Washing Machine to Make Cider
I've long marveled at the ingenious workings of the countertop juicer my wife Sandie and I own. This particular model — made by Acme — uses centrifugal force to separate the liquid from the pulp after all the juicy material has been chewed to bits. Not only is the concept fascinating, but the machine is also very well made, and it's been more than satisfactory for making a few quarts of juice at a time.
Because we have access to large quantities of free apples, I decided to pay homage to the Acme's intriguing design by incorporating the same principles in a larger juice extractor. And (over Sandie's strenuous objections) I figured that the family washing machine was a prime candidate for conversion into a motorized homemade cider press — or, more accurately, a juice extractor.
After dang near having my marriage license revoked for asking, I was eventually given the privilege of tinkering with the machine. First, I opened the top of the metal cabinet and removed all the unneeded hardware, gaining access to the porcelain/steel tub. I also removed the agitator from its shaft. Then I began to build a shredder by using a jigsaw to cut a doughnut-shaped piece of three-quarters-inch exterior-grade plywood to fit the bottom of the washing machine's perforated basket. (To build a shredder that's easier to install inside the tub, you could make it collapsible by cutting the disk into two pieces along the circle's diameter and then hinging those pieces together.) With that done, I drove several hundred 1-inch panel nails through the plywood so their protruding points would serve as the apple-shredder's teeth. To give the newly fashioned shredder a firm foundation, I placed it on three feet, each cut from a 2-by-4 and glued and nailed in place. Finally, I fastened the assembly to the basket with three screws, one in each foot, through perforations in the bottom of the machine's tub.
To hold the apples while the nails shredded them, I made a bridge assembly to span the top of the machine and support the feed tube (pictured in the slide show). The bridge is formed of two 1-by-8 boards, which cross off-center on one side of the agitator shaft (adjust the board length to fit the surface of your machine). Board spacers should be added to the underside of the top crosspiece so that the bridge will sit level on the top of your machine. You should also add vertical boards at the ends to hold the bridge snugly in place. At the point on the bridge where the two boards cross, I cut a hole just large enough to force in a piece of new 4-inch plastic pipe. I pushed the lower end of the pipe down to within a quarter-inch of the shredder's nail points and sealed it to the bridge with a liberal amount of epoxy. To stabilize the feed tube, you may need to add additional wooden blocks to the bottom of the crosspiece.
At this point, if you dropped an apple down the fruit chute with the basket spinning, the nails would chew it to bits and the washer's centrifugal force would throw those pieces through the holes in the basket and into the pump. To prevent this from happening, I lined my tub with a filter made of several yards of sheer nylon mesh, plus another layer of fiberglass screening.
Sandie and I scurried about gathering apples for the trial run. After we'd collected a hefty batch, I turned the washer selector to "spin/normal" and pulled the knob. The juicer worked perfectly, making 60 gallons of fresh cider in four hours. Two weeks later — with more containers, apples, and helpers — the machine made 120 gallons of apple squeezings in just six hours. We found that a bushel of 'McIntosh' apples can yield up to 3 1/2 gallons of tasty cider. A blend of several different apple varieties makes an even better thirst quencher.
Even though our cider extractor is a fairly small one, it can swallow about two bushels of fruit before we have to let it spin-dry so we can remove the accumulated pulp from the nylon and fiberglass filters. (We put the fruit fiber in our compost pile.) Be sure to wear eye protection when operating the machine. To feed apples down the tube to the shredder, use a short length of 2-by-4 with a shorter piece of 1-by-2 nailed crosswise to it as a stop to keep the "pusher" from going down too far and splintering in the shredder.
We've also tried using the press with pears, which have a very sweet juice. (Grapes aren't a good idea, though, because they make a terrible mess.)
My moonlighting Maytag juice extractor took about 16 hours and $20 worth of materials to make, but who can put a price on a frosted mug of tart, homemade apple cider on a brisk autumn night?
EDITOR'S NOTE: If you're uncertain as to your washing machine's true destiny, you might check out some of MOM's previous suggestions. You can — for instance — convert a washer into a potter's wheel (MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 64, page 114), a cement mixer (MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 65, page 100), or a shower (MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 76, page 72). Also, MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 71 (page 62) gives directions for building a more conventional cider mill and press.