Turning Free Apples into Hard Apple Cider!

It all started when my neighbor's apple tree lost a limb and he didn't know what to do with all those apples.  It didn't take long for me to say, "I'll take them!"  Over the past few weeks I have scrambled to get a grinder and a press put together and press some apple juice.  So far five gallons have been made.

I may turn this into a how to article.  Let's start with a parts list...

  • wood for frame (was laying around)
  • bottle jack (I used a 6 ton from Harbor Freight)
  • 6.5 gallon food grade bucket (5 gal would work too, maybe better.  I drilled a bunch of holes in it for the juice to come out)
  • 5 gallon food grade bucket
  • a tin foil baking pan for under the bucket to catch the juice
  • disc of sturdy wood cut 1 inch in diameter less than the bottom of the bucket
  • pieces of wood to reinforce the disc (lots of pressure!)
  • a couple 5 gallon paint strainer bags
  • something for the top of the bottle jack to press into, a piece of hardwood
  • plastic wrap to wrap the disc
It didn't cost me much because I had most of the stuff.  Only had to buy the disposal ($80 sale on Amazon) and the bottle jack ($16?).  The setup works pretty well.  Here are the steps for a session.
  • drag stuff out of my garage and setup
  • sanitize equipment (I use Iodophor Sanitizer 32 oz.  It is biodegradable.  If you are going to pasteurize you don't have to worry about this step because you'll be killing any wild yeast and pathogens with the heat on the stove.)
  • wash apples (throw them in a big tub of water)
  • quarter apples with knife & cutting board (quartering helps the disposal deal with the apples, the skin kinda acts like a slick shield and the disposal doesn't like to bite.  Quarter helps this.)
  • turn on disposal
  • put apples in 2 quarters at a time
  • use a dowel or short board to push appls into disposal safely
  • apples come out the PVC into the bucket lined with paint strainer
  • two large bowels of apple quarters (I know very scientific) provide almost two gallons of juice
  • that's about the right amount for one pressing
  • put bucket with holes on the tin foil baking pan, on the press
  • transfer pulp in the paint strainer bag from bucket to the bucket with holes
  • fold the strainer back on itself
  • place disc press head on the pulp outside the bag
  • add the bottle jack
  • start pressing by jacking up the ....er...jack
  • wait for the pulp to compress and the jack to loosen a bit
  • repeat until it seems like you are reaching the point of diminishing returns
  • be careful because the jack is under lots of pressure, don't go too far
Fermenting a still cider (no bubbly)

NOTE: very simple method, there are tons of variations you can try
  • get some english ale yeast (English Ale Yeast - Safale S-04) 1 packet per 5 gal
  • find a container to ferment in, a fermenter (something with an airlock would be good)
  • sanitize it (no fragrance oxyclean, one step, iodophor, etc.)
  • pour juice into fermenter, close it up, add air lock
  • wait till the bubble stop (should be less than a week, perhaps a few days)
  • bottle (be careful not to bottle before it is done, you don't want to create bottle bombs)
  • drink


Get your orders in early. Bryan Kolesar's Beer Lover's Mid-Atlantic book is out!

Find it @ Amazon
Bryan Kolesar, friend and neighbor, just put a book out.  My copy hasn't come yet, but, I wouldn't hesitate to buy it without even reading a review.  He is one of the most thorough researching writers I know.  Check out his site The Brew Lounge for periodic and very carefully curated lists of events in the mid-atlantic region and other goodies.  And, yes he can homebrew.

Read more about it at Amazon, Beer Lover's Mid-Atlantic: Best Breweries, Brewpubs & Beer Bars (Beer Lovers Series).


Hotline: Gift Ideas for the Homebrewer...

Shoot me an email, I'll respond with some suggestions.


Looking for hop growing and drying info?

Look in the sidebar over there on the right for Quick Reference links.  
Shoot me an email at adam@nonconfermist.com.

On a separate note, I added local honey to a batch of English Style Ale I brewed over the summer.  Instead of boiling it and potentially losing some of the delicate honey flavors, I added it to the fermenter and well it started to show signs of acetobacteria growing in it.  Evidently this is a risk with unpasteurized honey and not boiling it with the wort.  In an effort to save it from turning to vinegar, I kegged it immediately, thus robbing it of its oxygen source and voila I had a nice slitghtly wild tasting brew on my hands.  Not bad for an accident.  Was a big hit at the family reunion too.


Homegrown Hops 2013

My hops are out there on the bine just drying up and blowing away.  They actually grew pretty well this year.  Didn't fertilize them or really care for them all that much.  So nothing ventured nothing gained.

My father on the other hand took just about the same approach and well his went crazy.  He lives at a higher elevation and planted them in a well drained soil.  Tons and tons of Cascade hops from one three year old plant.  So, we just chopped down a few bines and put them up in the garage attic to dry.

His success could be the soil and the climate.  Could also be the maturity of the plant.  Mine did well on the third year too.  We'll see next year.

I'm not worried about oxidation.  Not worried about anything really.  I figure I'll use them for dry hopping or late in the boil sometime.  The last few batches I did turned out great this way.

Share your homegrown hop stories with us.



Low risk brewing after the hiatus...

Started cleaning out the brew garage.  I'll wait while you recover from the shock of that statement.

Feeling better?  OK

Seriously, it looks like brewing is on the agenda again.  Every so many years I need a break, but, I have a few annual commitments I brew for and hopefully that will get me back in the swing of things.

I have plenty of ingredients.  I'm thinking of something quick and easy with low alchohol, but flavorful.  Back to the old english ale yeast I think.  Will have to dig into the freezer for those hops I bought last year or the ones from the year before.  The first brew after a hiatus always comes with some experimentation.  The hops may have faded a bit, I might be a bit rusty and I want it NOW!

In the back of my head I have some ideas about upcoming brews once I get dialed in again.
  • elderberries
  • my first sour beer
  • saison
  • lots of low ABV stuff
  • local honey
  • some braggot in the distant future with local unfiltered unpasteurized cider
  • my Dad's hops
  • my hops from last year
  • choke cherries


Hop Resources Updated

No this is not hops.  Just a a picture from a walk in the woods.

You can always find this over there on the right under Quick Reference.  I just fixed some broken links.  Looks like most of these sites are still up and running.

This link IS about hops.



I wish you all a wonderful new year.

and have fun brewing beer
growing hops
just being you


Bahl Hornin’

I'm drinkin' an Anderson Valley Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale and on the label there's a bear with horns which after all these years I finally noticed (I'm not very observant). It also says "Bahl Hornin' since 1987".  Pre-Internet I would have held that strange sayin' in my head for a long time wondering what the hell it meant.  Thanks to our Internet thingy which is almost like a Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy I can just look it up.  (BTW read the books)

I love this world.  Oh, and I like the beer.