Well the crown capper didn’t arrive until just before Christmas due to the weather and then we weren’t able to sort out a decent time to bottle it off until the New Year, so yesterday was bottling day.

We had 60 x 500ml bottles washed and cleaned from our “market research” around the cider world. To each of these, with the aid of a small funnel, we added a rounded teaspoon of sugar (a level teaspoon is 4.2g and we were looking for 5g per bottle).

As well as the capper we bought an attachment for the siphon which only lets liquid flow when pressed against the side of the bottle (a bit like the valve at the end of a wine thief) – this really helped with the bottling. Here’s Ally in action:

Next it was on to the capping. Our capper is adjustable so it can deal with different heights of bottle and it really worked a treat – very quick and easy:

We ended up with 49 bottles out of this fermeter but it was short filled compared to the one maturing in the garage. This lot is off in the garage too and we’re giving it until Easter to do its business before the tops come off and we have a bit of a cider party.

We’re very pleased with the outcome of all this, from building the processing kit to final bottling it’s been a lot of fun planning and doing it and I think it’s safe to say it’s turned out much better than either of us thought it would at the start.

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A first look at our Cider!

Okay, so the fermentation is done. The OG was 1045 and our final gravity is 998, so we’re looking at an alcohol content of something like:

(1045-998)/8 = 5.9

Not bad at all. The cider is lovely and pale and bright:

It tastes not a million miles away from some of the very dry ciders Ally and me were “researching” at this summer’s beer festivals. I am very pleased with the outcome.

The idea now is to rack it off into 2 new 30 gallon fermenters. Then we’re going to let one sit and mature over the winter and take the other and bottle it on in a week or so. We’re also going to add a teaspoon of sugar to each bottle to give it a little fizz. 30 bottles will stay in the garage to slowly carbonate and 30 will stay in the house to see if we can have some  cider for Christmas 🙂

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Making Cider.

On Cider Day 2010 (17th October) we had about 120-130Kg of apples from around the village…

…the scratter, the press and 4 x 30l fermenting buckets to work with.  One bucket of scratted apples weighed about 15Kg and we could get 2 buckets into the press for 1 pressing.

Here we are scratting. It took us around 5 minutes to scrat 2 buckets of apples:

And here we are building up the cheeses. You can see the consistency of the pomace and also the net and frame in action:

Here is our first pressing ready for some pressure to be applied. The run-off is apple juice already coming out under its own weight.

This was our first apple juice ever and it tasted fantastic!

Pressing was a fairly time-consuming process as we wanted to get as much juice out of the apples as possible. It went on well into the evening:

When we had finally finished we had 60 litres of apple juice, about a 50% return:

The apple juice was from a mixture of cookers and desert apples with a good sweetness and acidity and, from what we could taste, at least some tannin. OG was 1045 and PH was around 3.4, so we were pretty happy with that.

We added pectolase to the apple juice, though on reflection we could have got away without it and, as it took us all day and it was our first time, we added 2 campden tablets per gallon so it wouldn’t spoil. Maybe we’ll be a more confident about this next year.

We left it a day to clear down by which point it the juice had become very bright and then siphoned it off into 2 x 30 litre fermenters:

We pitched a sachet of champagne yeast into each fermenter and then sat back and waited for something to happen.

There were no volcanoes of frothing spume, however I’ve since read that sulphited juice can often not have an aggressive start to fermentation so we stopped worrying about that. Finally after a few days we topped the fermenters up to the neck with 10% sugar solution, put the airlocks on and left it to bubble away.

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The Press

Here’s Ally’s press. A real thing of beauty:

M12 threaded rod and 18mm ply boards. There was also a square frame that fitted over the rods for making cheeses from the pomace in place. The steps were put the frame on, put netting (net curtain cut into 48″ squares) into the frame, put pomace into the frame, fold the netting over, take frame off, put next board on and repeat. Finally a last double-thickness ply board went on and then some washers and a nut on each bar and the whole thing was tightened down with ratchet ring spanners.

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First Scrat

Our first use of the scratter in anger…

Amazingly it worked, without any extra tinkering apart from a real lid for the hopper (it’s like making popcorn without a lid on the pan otherwise). The pomace was around 5mm cubes with some bigger bits here and there and the throughput was impressive, dealing with large volumes of apples was not going to be an issue for it.

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Look before you…

…build an entire project 😦

So the only thing left to do is throw the switch and watch the thing start to rotate, right?

I did this with some trepidation, a little for my own health and safety vis a vis the electrics and a little around the general physics of spinning an extremely heavy, “nearly completely circular” wooden block embedded with 74 stainless steel screws at over 800rpm.

The switch threw, no one died, the motor started up, the belt drove the pulleys, the bearings held, the wooden block span like some evil dervish, the screws were an unsettling grey blur over its surface. I was feeling very pleased with myself and shut it all off.

As the scratter was slowing I noticed that it was spinning in the wrong direction… bugger. Now, I was under the impression that this would just be a simple case of reversing the live and neutral terminals on one side of my switch, but that just goes to underline that I’m living in blissful ignorance most of the time. I did this but the motor span in the same direction as before and it turned out that this assumption was one of the worst I’ve made on this project.

A little bit more research let me know that direction of spin can be overcome in a single phase motor by changing the internal wiring to reverse the start-up winding circuit of the motor. Again this isn’t beyond me so I took the back off the motor but there was very little in the way of accessible circuitry to alter and even more Googling let me know that on some single phase motors you can’t change it because the implication is it’s not to be changed. I had one of those motors. Clockwise only. Arse.

The short story is that yesterday afternoon I had to strip the whole thing down and rebuild the boxed in scratter the other way round as some of the mods I’d done (like drilling holes into the aluminium bar, wedging the drum etc) meant I couldn’t disassemble the thing without damaging the bearings etc. I basically had to pick up the bar/bearing/drum assembly and rotate it though 180° refit it, realign it and re-box it in before re-doing the work of mounting the motor on the other leg of the scratter. It turned a 2 day build into a 2-and-a-half day build and when I was looking at my once-fully-working machine in almost total bits again it was a very low point indeed.

The message from this is either “don’t be me” or “check which way your motor turns and if it is reversible before you decide which side to build out to”. Annoyingly I remember almost at the start of all this think that I wanted to mount the pulleys et al on that (now notoriously “wrong”) side because I thought it “looked better”. What a knob.

Still, it’s all back together again, a mirror image of its former self but no less lethal to the integrity of apples for all that. Switches flipped, the thing rotated in its now predictably frightening manner, this time towards the stainless steel scratting face.

Now it’s time for a road test.

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Before I start this entry I have to say that I am more comfortable with electrics than I am with woodwork but I am also not an electrician so that doesn’t say very much.

As the disclaimer goes “You should not attempt this if you have any doubts or reservations as to your competence to do a Safe Job. If in doubt use the services of a Competent and Accredited Electrician to advise and help with this project.

Please, please, please don’t use the stuff in this post here as anything more than the description of what I did. I trust myself just enough not to get me killed but I’d hate for you to get injured because you followed me off the edge of my particular cliff. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m too stupid to know what it is I don’t know.

Two wires out of the back of the motor into a dual pole single throw (DPST) switch. Live and Neutral from a 4m piece of 13A rated three core cable into the other side of the switch. Other end of the three core cable wired into a mains plug with a 3A fuse.

As you can see a DPST breaks live and neutral so it’s not easy to make a bugger of it.

Jury is out on earthing this at the moment. If I was to earth it I’d be earthing the case of the motor directly to the earth line on the 3 core cable. I’m not doing this just now as I believe that the case and business end of the motor are isolated from each other and as such the case should never become live. I may have this carved into my headstone at some point.

The DPST switch is from RS and is a splashproof type rocker switch. It is wired using crimp contacts and these are protected using insulating sheaths.

This assembly will be mounted in a plastic electronics project box and secured to the frame. Here’s the magic of the scratter from the back.

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