Archive for the ‘Home Brewing’ Category

Vigo Centrifugal Mill 91202 in the UK or Speidel Apple Grinder in  Germany.If you are going to make cider at any decent volume you will find that apple grinding is the one real headache in pressing apples at home. If you’ve pressed enough apples you find out pretty quick that hand-cranking is OUT. The one exception might be if you have some over sugar’d and under exercised kids around the house and well I don’t… Hand turning the grinder on my old barrel press at my place was over in just one quick season.

I read all about folks adding 1HP motors to their on board barrel press grinders and briefly thought about going that route for a bit. Not knowing how long I even wanted to continue with my old home style press kept me considering the other options.

The most attractive option to me was a hobby+ sized apple crusher I could grow with, like this one to the right sold by Vigo in the UK for £745.00. If you check the link you can see a video of this grinder in action. They claim it is for the “enthusiastic cider maker”. That mill looks as though it is the Speidel Apple Grinder sold here at Speidel in Germany. No one in the US imports this model but I always like the way it looked. Easy to clean!

I’ve also read tales of the lower priced Czech made “Fruit Shark” also sold in England here at UK Cider. UK Cider has a great write up on it and some purchase information if you are on that side of the Atlantic.

In the United States here you’ll find companies like the good people at St. Pat’s in Texas who import the super nice 220V Italian stainless steel version for $1250 plus freight. St. Pat’s also has a video linked to their product page which is pretty cool.

I have also seen and heard talk of using garden shredders as potential apple grinder solutions for the advance cider hobbyist. From what’s been written on the cider forums some claim success with such devices but I’ve never seen anything in the local lawn care department that made me want to run out and throw apples through it for consumption.

While browsing around the pages of a recent Harbor Freight Advertisement online and I ran across something I really wish I would have seen last year before I dropped the big bucks on my 220V Italian Stainless Steel Apple Grinder/Shredder. I haven’t seen Harbor Freight’s Chicago 2-1/2 HP Chipper Shredder in person nor can I endorse it’s use but I’d certainly have given it a whirl at $175. Wow! I really does looks sweet. Add yourself a bin to collect the pomace and start pressing!!! If it doesn’t work you got a nice little yard chipper and yards of free mulch.

Edit: This post dedicated to Heather and Jason @ The Candle Wine Project whom I recently got to meet. I know they will be thinking about how to grind them up some apples come this Fall.

Harbor Freight Garden Chipper Shredder Update:

Got a couple comments from Rick who checked out these Harbor Freight Chipper Shredder Units. Check his comments for details but he says it looks as thought it may work. Here is his pic!  I mentioned this in my reply but this blade looks exactly like a buddy of mine’s smaller apple shredder from Germany. I used that for my biggest season yet in 2008 and and it worked really well. Thanks Rick!


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Don’t laugh but Fall is around the corner. My buddy Al takes us through his ingenious modification and conversion of a Harbor Freight Shop Press into a Rack and Cloth Apple Press. Step by step Al takes you through the pieces, where to get the parts, dimensions, what to do, what no to do, and how to install the parts. Start yours now and coast on into the apple picking season with a new rack and cloth cider press that should beat the pants of any barrel press. Maybe he’ll send me a list of the parts and source links to post in here.

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Done deal. 4 years in the waiting and I’m finally going to attend Peter Mitchell’s Cider Academy. The course I am taking is Cider Making – Principles & Practice course and it is held at the WSU Mount Vernon extension. Not too far away.

I’m pretty excited overall and the syllabus is a dream. I hope to really absorb a lot. I’ve never spoken with anyone who has attended these courses but I read great things. I’m hopeful as this isn’t a cheap class to attend. I’m confident it will meet my expectations and be a great experience to say the least.

It is hard to choose but I expect some of the course highlights to be;

Cider Orcharding.
An really interesting topic for me. My Mom’s side of the family is from Wenatchee here is Washington. The once self proclaimed “Apple Capitol of the World” is now host to a ailing apple industry and a virgining wine industry in neighboring Lake Chelan which is or was once equally apple heavy. Now orchards are being torn out to make way for vinyards. Other than just going organic can diversifying product by means of grafting cider varieties as well as other old time varieties be a viable answer? If you know apples you know apples… Why grapes? Anyway that is another blog post entirely.

Principles for Cider Production and Preparation for Fermenting.
Can you go over read about them enough times? When all is said and done this is the real reason behind going. It will be great to hear it all and take notes from a respected professional. Fruit selection, harvesting, processing, juice composition and preparation. Nice!

Commercial Cider Producer Visit
One of the days we’ll be headed North of the border to Vancouver Island to check out Merridale Estate Cider. I’ve had sought out and had their cider twice now while in Victoria. Heading out there for a tour was high on my list for Heather and my next trip up there. It isn’t harvest or anything but it should be a nice time of year to visit and for sure interesting to no end.

The Legislative Requirements, Assessment and Profiling of Cider, Blending, Lab Analysis and so-on. Honestly it all looks great and I’m pretty excited to finally be going.

On a side note some of my own pressed and blended batches are starting to take shape. Man oh man. Much much better than what I am using from the local cider mill. I don’t know what they did to their recipe but at one point I was pretty successful with their juice… I was beginning to think it was me. Well anyways fresh pressed and thoughtfully blended is key, my fermentation temperature re-revelation didn’t hurt either. Keep it cool brothers.

Sometimes apple picking/press partner, fellow fermenter and coffee colleague Michael Elvin wrote me up nice review of what I think will be one of the better batches yet. Surprisingly or not, it contains some great cider apples kicked down by a buddy on Whidbey. Thats trouble… How the hell am I suppose to get my hands on cider apples every year? Ideas offers and inquiries welcome…

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While writing my last cider entry I inadvertently exposed a pet peeve of mine regarding the bottling practices of a few micro-breweries and wineries. After a little thought I was thinking I’d like to go into the topic a bit more.

Besides my momentary tastes and the quality of the product there is another huge factor that drives the purchase of my specialty fermented beverages. Being home brewer I’m always on the look out for bottles (much to my girlfriend’s dismay) that I can use for my brewing projects.

Buy bottles new at any given home brew store it will cost you 50¢ a piece for 12oz and $1.00 each for 22oz… maybe a bit more some places. Since they purchase in bulk it doesn’t cost the commercial brewer 50¢/$1.00 per bottle however if the contents are good and if those bottles are able to be reused they have an extra “added value” to me. I suspect a good number of loyal craft beer customers like myself are home brewers too, so breweries… Listen up if you care.

There are certain bottles and styles I prefer however and I’d like to review those first.

Rogue Stoneware BottlesFlip Top Bottles (EZ caps).
Man I think flip top bottles are always nice to use when home brewing. Most or pretty big which is nice, they are fairly easy to use when bottling (no capping) and I feel really they just add a classier touch to some company’s packaging and identity. Without a doubt I always end up gifting my flip top bottles out first, or saving them for the best occasions.

Besides a few examples like Redstone Meadery’s cool cobalt blue flip tops and Rogue Brewery’s kick ass stoneware flip tops they use on some of the premium beers, it is hard to find something delicious in a flip top. It is even harder to find something drinkable and affordable. They are expensive to purchase and bottle in regardless of who you are, and it should be understood that cost is passed along to the customers.

Big Bottles
Old Quart Size Beer Bottles22’s and their larger cousins seem to make bottling time a whole lot easier and faster. They hold more volume which means less bottles to clean, less bottles to sanitize and less bottles to cap. And let’s the face facts if I’m sitting down to a cold bottle of home brew, 22+ oz bottles are a better size. My all time absolute favorite bottling bottle ever was the now extinct (I think) 1 liter beer bottle. Now those kicked ass. They were huge. And better than that I liked the dimensions of these bottles, they remind me of the Olympia or Lucky Lager”Stubbies” in a way. I don’t recall what happened to the rest of my stash but they are gone and out of my life forever I am afraid.

Orval BottleUnique or Custom Shaped Bottles.
Provided they don’t have branding cast into them I like funky and different bottles. Some don’t ever leave my collection or are reserved for “special gifts”. Some of my favorites are Anchor Steam’s 12oz (pre-twist cap) and 22oz bottles, Sam Smith 20.4 bottles (I excuse the branding in this case) and I really dig the shape and heavy dark glass of the Orval Belgian Trappist beer bottles. So cool.

Domestic Sparkling Wine (Champagne) Bottles.
What is a domestic champagne bottle and what is the difference? Well European are often the standard and their larger bottle opening does not accept the standard beer style bottle caps. For reason I don’t know or question there are cap-able wine bottles that now accept standard bottle caps. My favorite Washington cider Wescott Bay Orchards recenlty converted from 22’s to a cap-able flat bottom, green glass wine bottle now and I bought a ton of their cider this year when I was trying to stock up on larger cap-able wine style bottles.

Production Bottling Mistakes 101 for Craft Brewers.
For the craft brewer that is interested in the little details and is interested in going the extra mile to please their customers there are a few rules you should consider when designing your bottle packaging.

#1) Twist Tops and Caps are the Number 1 No-No.
So what is the deal? The bottles can’t be any more or less than standard cap-able bottles. Is the bottling equipment cheaper? Think about this they saving you any money if they are costing you sales? A little detail like a twist cap could be a deal breaker when it comes time to buy. So often I’ve passed a great tasting beer with a twist for another choice because I had a bottling coming up. Remember this brewers, there are plenty of awesome beers/ciders that use cap-able bottles.

#2) Heavy Duty Industrial Label Adhesives & Painted Bottles.
Few things are worse than a stubborn label with heavy duty glues that won’t come off a bottle easily. I understand the need for labels that don’t fall off the bottles happen to get wet or “break a sweat”. However adhesives of that caliber can’t be cheap to buy nor can they be good for the environment I imagine. I only need try to dislodge a stubborn label once or twice before pass that brand up. A quick session in the dishwasher should be more than adequate for label removal.

Painted bottle are impossible and a huge no-no. I don’t buy them normally, or if I do they get kicked to the curb and recycled. There are a few exceptions to this rule too. The aforementioned Rogue Stoneware and occasionally the larger 22oz or whatever Red Stripe bottles. The exception to the exception… I don’t give them away.

Damn guys! Use some common sense when choosing your bottles and labeling supplies. You were home brewers once yourselves and maybe not so long ago. Did you forget what it was like trying to obtain usable bottles? You must remember spending endless hours scrubbing labels off bottles? Do you care? Show us. Use “home brewer friendly” bottles and labels.

Now playing: Stringbean – Threre’ll Be Moonshining in Them Old Kentucky Hills
via FoxyTunes

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