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Juice and Strain kit

Juice and Strain

Nevin Stewart shares his innovative new method for cider making that saves time – and prevents apples going to waste

"Up to 90% of all apples grown in private gardens fall and are left to go to waste!" states Sir Richard Paget. This amounts to many thousands of tonnes of fruit per annum. This is a shocking statistic and why should this be?

It is the case that for centuries apple juice has been obtained by a pulp and press two step method. Apples are fed into a shredder and the resulting pomace is pressed. Homemade or mass manufactured, the required kit is large, heavy and expensive. This presents a barrier for the average apple tree owner. What is needed is a convenient, low cost, clean and efficient method to produce apple juice in volume – with the resulting juice either consumed fresh, or stored, (by being pasteurised or frozen), or fermented out to cider.

In the autumn of 2011, the Scillonian Road cider co-operative, suffering from an abundance of apples but a lack of funds, developed an original process using inexpensive (£15-£25) second-hand domestic centrifugal juicers, which we call Juice and Strain™. The required kit is low cost and the method is clean, efficient and suited to use in a domestic kitchen. On up to 120kg of apples scale, the juice yield is higher than that of a small press and the apples are processed in a shorter time. Overall, modern process-thinking coupled with recent advances in centrifugal juicer performance reduce a two-step pulp and then press technology to one that has a single synchronous step. Whole apples are fed in at one end and clear apple juice is drawn off, by the gallon, at the other.

The utility of the Juice and Strain process has been recognised by being listed on REID (Resource Efficient Innovations Database), which is managed by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), a part funded Government initiative.

Apples on a tree

Our cider making was guided throughout with reference to an excellent book "Craft Cider Making" by Dr. Andrew Lea. In practice, our method comprises the following steps:

Gather your apples.

A hand-held apple picker works well and is safer than harvesting from a ladder. Any kind of apples can be used, although a blend will often produce a better end product. Generally, dessert (sweet) and higher acidity (sharp) apples will be the most commonly available. A 4:1 mix of sweet and sharp is often recommended. If you like a more astringent cider then add crab apples to the mix at about one part in ten. A more interesting and complex tasting cider can be produced if you are lucky enough to have access to true bittersweet and bittersharp cider apples, thanks to their relatively high tannin content.

Double wash all apples rejecting any that show signs of mould. Bruised fruit and windfalls may be used for making cider but not fresh apple juice, due to possible contamination with enteric bacteria that do not wash off. Sanitize all kit parts that will come into contact with the fresh apple juice for a couple of hours before juicing. Immerse in a sodium metabisulphite solution prepared by dissolving four Campden tablets per gallon of tap water. Overall, remember that fresh apple juice and cider are foodstuffs and all appropriate food safety and hygiene steps should be followed.

Set up your Juice and Strain kit

Place your juicer on a towel on a table, and clamp a hose in place with the outlet directed into a fine mesh straining bag held loosely in a plastic bucket that has lots of small drainage holes drilled into its base. The bucket should fit snugly into the top of a 22.5 litre (5 gallon) fermenter bin fitted with a drainage tap at its base. The juice collection assembly then sits on top of a box, or a stool, that allows a demijohn to be placed underneath the drainage tap. The more powerful a centrifugal juicer you have, the faster you will be able to process your apples. Caution: High performance centrifugal juicers are powerful appliances and all manufacturers instructions should be carefully adhered to.

Get juicing!

With the last juice hand-wrung out of the straining bag, a fine brown pulp residue is left in the bag and you do not want this in your cider. Overall, 8 kilograms of fruit are needed to generate about 4.5 litres of juice and, with two people working, 67.5 litres (15 Imperial gallons) of clear juice can easily be produced in a few hours.

Using a hydrometer, measure the specific gravity (SG) of your apple juice. A target minimum is 1.045, which after fermentation will give an alcohol by volume (ABV) content over 5%. This will ensure storage stability. Extra sugar can be added at this point if your reading is low.

Add yeast

We use a commercial champagne yeast (Saccharomyces bayanus) rather than relying on the natural yeasts contained in the fruit. We do this for consistency and reliability. The added yeast overwhelms wild yeasts present and gives a crisp, dry and refreshing product. Typically, a 5g sachet of yeast is sufficient to inoculate 22.5 litres (5 Imperial gallons) of fresh apple juice. We use pre-sanitized glass demijohns fitted with airlocks exclusively for fermenting the apple juice with no added sulphite.

Leave to ferment

At an ambient temperature of around 18°C (64°F) the fermentation should be completed in three weeks, with a measured SG of 1.000 or below. If higher than this, allow the fermentation to continue. We have found that our cider has cleared at this point, and have yet to encounter any pectin haze problems. The cider is drinkable at this stage. Our preference, however, is to allow the product to age and mature on the settled fermentation sediment (the lees) and bottle it the following spring.

Bottle it up

Pre-sanitized screw cap bottles can be used for the still (non-bubbly or non-effervesant) and dry (no additional sugar added after fermentation) product. Fill these leaving 2.5cm (1 inch) of air at the top (headspace) to allow for thermal expansion. The bulk of our cider we "bottle condition" to produce a pleasing, light effervescence. With a minimum of agitation and disturbance, we rack off 22.5 litres (5 Imperial gallons) of product into a fermenting bin with a tap at the base. We then make a syrup of 113g of sugar in a minimum of cider which we very gently blend back into the bulk liquid. Overall, we are trying to minimize exposure to air, and oxygen uptake, which might cause flavour impairment or spoilage. We then fill pre-sanitized beer bottles to within 2.5cm (1 inch) of the top and seal with a crown cap.

Nevin Stewart with Juice and Strain
Making the juice
Fermenting the cider
Bottles of cider

Enjoy your cider!

On storage for a month at spring temperatures, a secondary fermentation occurs and our product is ready for drinking. Those who enjoy a sweeter cider can add sugar syrup to taste when serving it. Adding too much priming sugar, after fermenting, can cause excessive foaming at bottle opening or, in the extreme, hazardous "bottle bombs."

We haven't lost a single gallon of cider to spoilage in our five years of using Juice and Strain. Rather we, together with family and friends, have enjoyed over 900 litres (200 Imperial gallons) of golden, crystal-clear, kitchen-made cider. I wish you the same success!

The complete Juice and Strain system is now available from Vigo Presses. Click here for more information.

For those who want just the “strain” part of the system, because they already have their juicer, this is also available – click here.

Little Green Space September 2017

The Strain kit