It’s apple season here in NSW!
As the name would suggest, we love milk crates here at milkcrate events. This love stems from their versatility, stackable design, and structural strength. We love finding new ways of using milk crates. A few weeks ago we were looking for a barrel of some kind to use in the construction of our cider press. We had picked about 50 kg of delicious apples from the side of the road in the Southern Highlands of NSW, and had seen designs online for a home made cider press using a car jack. It wasn’t long before the humble milk crate was suggested, and construction began!
Using some hardwood timber and quality birch plywood we had lying around, Tim and Angus designed and constructed this very simple Milk Crate Apple Press. Possibly the first of it’s kind, and judging by our success, it won’t be the last!
This was our first time brewing cider from scratch. Using our new book about the making of proper english cider, fittingly entitled Booze. We learned that the process of smashing up the apples before pressing is called ‘scratting’ and the tool you do it with is called a ‘scratter‘. It follows that the sack you smash the apples in is called a scratt sack. We dubbed ours the ‘scratum’. After we had scratted the apples in a large rubber tub, using our primative scratter (sledge hammer) we transferred the pulverised apples (still in the scratum) to the milk crate. We stacked a few pieces of perfectly cut wood on the top, and cranked up the car jack. Then the delicious juice began to flow. When the flow eases after a few minutes, we gave it another crank, and then another 5 mins later. A bit of a shuffle of the sack, and then another crank.
From our original haul of apples we were able to juice 25 litres on the first press, which we reserved for the cider ferment. We then re-hydrated and re-pressed the apples and juiced another 10 litres for us to drink fresh over the next week. Delicious. It took longer than anticipated to complete the process of washing the apples individually and then soaking in campden tablets to regulate the ph of the cider, and the scratting was HARD work. We attached some triangle braces to the press after it started creaked concerningly, to provide additional strength for the jack to press against.
The apples were joyfully harvested for free, and the press was made from items we had lying around the studio. The local brew shop The Hop and Grain provided us with the cider yeast, pectinaize (for clarifying) and campdon tablets for about $15. For 25 litres of home brewed cider, the reward in 4 months time will be well worth the energy.