Cider apples can be ready from as early as August so pressing time usually starts in September and can last through to late November. We use an electromechanical rack and cloth press as well as a mechanical straw press.
Apples are loaded onto the sorting table where any foreign bodies - mud and leaves, or very rotten apples are removed.
Bruised apples and a little rot is fine as this is generally as a result of natural fermentation already occurring. We're careful to keep apple varieties separate so we can monitor which orchards and combinations give the best flavour and character. We don't use any commercial yeast in our cyder so we rely on the apples producing their own natural yeast - nothing added, nothing taken away, then we let nature takes its course!
Apple Sorting and Washing
Once cleaned the apples are transferred to the feed box for the mill. The mill will chop the apples into small pieces so they may be pressed most efficiently, it batches the scratted apple to a preset weight to fill each cheese.
Building the cheeses is a hands-on process and friends and family often get involved. To make a cheese (one layer in the stack that will then be pressed in the rack and cloth press) a rack or plate, made of ridged wood, is placed on the mill table followed by a cloth. The mill is then swung into place and the pre-measured amount of scratted apple released onto the cloth. The cloth is then folded and the next rack placed on top - this is one cheese! A further 8 cheeses are added then the mill table is swung through 180 degrees into the press and we're ready to start pressing.
Making the Cheeses
The other end of the table now contains the last pressing which is now unpacked. The remaining tightly packed pumace is bagged up for cattle feed - nothing wasted! And so the process continues, whilst the current stack is in the press the next is built and so on until the pressing is complete.
The Big Squeeze!
The juice flows from the press into a filter box where any solids are strained out. It then flows into a storage fermentation tank where the magic occurs! The fermentation takes place in either 1520 litre food-safe low density polyethylene tanks or 3,500 litre stainless steel tanks. The juice will start to ferment between 12 hours and a few days. The fermentation will go on for between 7 days and a few months (depending on ambient temperature). We monitor progress every couple of days with a hydrometer and once all the sugar is used up the fermentation process will stop.
When the fermentation has ceased we rack all the cider off the yeast to start its maturing journey. Special vintages are racked off and matured in wooden barrels (Whisky Barrels - ex-Bourbon, Port or Sherry). Once matured the finished products are either bottled in 500ml beer bottles with crown caps or 75cl champagne style bottles corked and wired. For larger volumes we produce key kegs, polypins, pouches, Jerry cans and a variety of bag-in-box sizes.