The traditional English art of cider making
Recipes are only as good as the ingredients that go into them which is why we grow top quality cider apples and perry pears.
Because the cider apples are traditionally shaken from the tree and harvested from the ground they can sometimes be accompanied by grass and leaves and are often muddy. To overcome this, apples are conveyed from the apple pit down a canal onto the apple washer in a flume of water. The apples are fed onto a continuously moving slatted belt that allows the water to pass through along with any leaves, twigs, grass or mud.
The apples pass under a fresh water spray and are fed out of the side of the washer into an auger. The water flows out of the bottom of the washer onto a screen where the solids are removed, it is then recirculated back up the canals to convey more fruit down into the mill. The resulting waste is then recycled.
After washing, the fruit is moved by the auger into a hopper above the mill. The hopper holds 10 tonnes of fruit which falls under gravity into a Bucher mill. The mill is a set of stainless steel knives spinning at high speed that chop the fruit into a pulp at a rate of up to 16 tonnes per hour!
The pulp is then transferred by a mash pump to a buffer tank to ensure that pulp is always available to feed the press. During the time that the pulp remains in the tank, enzymes in the fruit skin start to act on the juice causing beneficial changes in flavour.
A mash pump transfers the pulp to the Bucher press where the juice is extracted. Batches of around 1 tonne of pulp are pumped into the void of the press which has many star shaped plastic cores covered with filter cloths. As the barrel of the press is squeezed up against the fixed end the barrel slowly rotates and juice is forced through the cloths and runs down the channels in the star shaped profile of filter cores into the juice collection tank. The computer controls reverse the hydraulics causing the barrel of the press to move back allowing space for the next fill of pulp. This continues until the press is full, at which time the pulp is given a prolonged final squeeze. It takes one and a half hours to process 10 tonnes of pulp generating 175 gallons of juice per tonne of fruit, leaving 1½ tonnes of pomace. The juice in the collection tank is then pumped away to fermentation on a float switch.
When the press cycle is complete the barrel of the press is withdrawn and the outer sleeve is retracted opening the void of the press allowing the pressed pomace to fall down onto an auger which conveys it to a bulk trailer to be taken away for processing into animal feed. Once emptied the press closes back up and the whole process begins again.