You have a bountiful source of apples and a love of apple cider, and have decided it's time to start pressing your own. All you need is the equipment. Affordable equipment, if possible. (Smaller hydraulic presses start at $2000, and apparently the European ratchet-style presses are no longer available in this country.) For today's home cider maker, the hand screw apple cider press is that affordable option. Three press makes are available, two of which share the same manufacturing facility. Happy Valley Ranch and Jaffrey presses are both made in Kansas; the Phoenix Foundry in Marcus, Washington, crafts their line on a custom-order basis. All three report sales on the rise, pointing again to the renewed interest in cider making.
Single-tub presses are by far the most popular, a choice generally based on lower cost and acceptance of a one bushel pace. The double-tub American Harvesters allow one family member to continue grinding apples while the alternating tubful is pressed. A joyous cider crew can expect to crank out one and a half to two and a half gallons of cider per bushel batch, depending on the juiciness of the apple varieties pressed.
A good grinder is integral to any pressing operation. Cider makers long ago discovered that apples first grated to a juicy pulp yield 60 percent more juice than whole apples. Jaffrey has upgraded to an all-metal grinder to match the quality of its "Apple Eater" counterpart at Happy Valley Ranch. These come with 12-18 pound flywheels respectively, that, once set in motion, require less effort to keep the grinder turning than a continuous crank handle. The Phoenix Foundry adds a 1:3 gear ratio on its double-tub models to improve the flywheel conversion effort that much again.Any of the Happy Valley Ranch and Phoenix Foundry presses are more durable than the single-tub Jaffrey. They offer a rugged 1.5' Acme threaded screw topped with a cast-iron cross arm or nut, compared to the 1" Acme thread of the Jaffrey topped with a 20" T-bar handle. More pressing leverage can be gotten with the 4-pronged cross arms, but using a bar longer than three feet needlessly risks damaging the press frame. The Jaffrey frame is made of 3" X 2" sturdy maple; both Happy Valley Ranch and the Phoenix Foundry use 3" X 3" laminated hardwoods that are less likely to twist or crack with age. The beveled tub staves on these prove easier to clean than the square-edged Jaffrey.
The Jaffrey Cider and Wine Press is distributed through various farm supply catalogs, and the best price I've found, $362.50 plus freight, is through Orchard Supply. One nylon press bag is included, but add another $39.50 if you want the wood hopper attachment for the grinder and $18 for a juice-gaining tray rack. The Happy Valley Ranch single-tub Homesteader comes with the tray rack (but no press bag or hopper) for $399 plus freight; the HVR double-tub American Harvester sells for $549 plus freight similarly equipped.All three of these presses come with an unconditional one-year guarantee. Bill Courtis at the Phoenix Foundry feels particularly sure about his work and ups the warranty period to five years. His single-tub Villager cider press with a flywheel handle sells for $423 plus freight; the four-legged American Harvester press with gear handle sells for $683 plus freight. Knock off $60 if you opt for the HVR flywheel equivalent. The Phoenix Foundry hand rubs in the final linseed oil coat before shipping, and includes the wooden hopper but no tray rack.
All three companies sell the hardware for their presses if you choose to do your own woodwork. Craftier folk can rig a more-traditional rack and cloth press, using either an antique house screw or an auto hydraulic jack, and order only a grinder.
The Phoenix Foundry
Box 68, Marcus,WA 99151
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