How to Build a Cider Press

Follow these step-by-step instructions to make this easy-to-build cider press, and start enjoying homemade apple cider and apple jack.

| September/October 1976

  • cider press 1
    Figure 1. A supporting frame made of 2 x 4's and 4 x 4's, nailed and bolted together.
    Illustrations by Jim Nowadnick
  • cider apples
    Check with a local orchard to find bruised or less than perfect apples for your cider making project.
    Photo by Fotolia/Anthony Hall
  • cider press 3
    Figure 3. A screw to deliver the press' squeezing force.
    Illustration by Jim Nowadnick
  • cider press 4
    Figure 4. A trough to collect the cider drippings.
    Illustrations by Jim Nowadnick
  • cider press 2
    Figure 2. An open-ended "basket"โ€”in which the apples are crushed (made of vertical wooden slats held in place by two horizontal metal hoops).
    Illustrations by Jim Nowadnick
  • cider press 5
    Figure 5.
    Illustration by Jim Nowadnick

  • cider press 1
  • cider apples
  • cider press 3
  • cider press 4
  • cider press 2
  • cider press 5

Click on the corresponding thumbnails in the Image Gallery (accessible on Page 1 of this article) for referenced figures and diagrams.  

Before the advent of the pop bottle and urban sprawl, just about every farm had a cider press. These machines were lovingly built by highly skilled craftsmen called coopers, who also constructed the casks and barrels in which families stored flour, sugar, corn, water, beer, pickles, nails and many other commodities.

Nowadays, it's well nigh impossible to come by an old-fashioned barrel press. The very few that still exist are either quietly handed down from one generation to another within families or sold at outrageous prices in antique shops. Which means that if there's an apple orchard in your back pasture and you'd rather high-grade all that fallen fruit into cider than let the cows eat it, you'll have to break out the carpentry tools.

Now, I'm not a cooper (heaven forbid!) and wouldn't know where to begin when it comes to bending barrel staves into compound curves, but I have built a cider press that—while not the world's prettiest or most sophisticated—gets the job done, and cost me only about $30 (1976 prices) to assemble. Besides that, the unit is so stout that I'll betcha someday a father will point his finger at the machine and proudly tell his son, "My grandpappy built that press."

You Can Build a Cider Press

My little cidermaker's not at all difficult to build. Take a look at the accompanying diagrams and photographs (Click on the corresponding thumbnail in the Image Gallery, above) to get a general idea of how the press is put together. There are essentially just four components: [Fig. 1] A supporting frame made of 2 x 4's and 4 x 4's, nailed and bolted together, [Fig. 2] an open-ended "basket"—in which the apples are crushed (made of vertical wooden slats held in place by two horizontal metal hoops), [Fig. 3] a screw to deliver the squeezing force, and [Fig. 4] a trough to collect the drippings. Since the basket is probably the most demanding of the four sub-assemblies to construct, I'll start the instructions with that item.

Use Hardwood for the Press

You'll notice that in the "List of Materials" (Page 6) I've specified hardwood for the basket's slats. This is because softwoods—pine or fir, for example—are likely to impart undesirable flavors to the cider. Thus, make a maximum effort to fabricate this part of your press from hardwood, preferably maple or oak, that has NEVER been soaked in a preservative. Scrounge a little. I cut my basket's slats from a pair of old breadboards that had been collecting dust in my garage.

10/30/2013 9:02:13 AM

Where is the converted washing machine that the heading of the page I clicked on referenced? Bait and switch?

9/20/2013 2:56:57 PM

Am I taking crazy pills? I see the pictures. I also have put together almost everything for this and has only cost me 75.00 so far.

8/21/2013 9:44:49 AM

as with most of these articles, i'm always intrigued by the subject but when i get to the article, the instructions are long and complicated. do ya'll offer any easy projects for the less experienced? thanks.



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