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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Making Cider

Today we harvested all the apples off the Tropical Apple tree roughly about 50 KG. This is the best harvest ever. Partially because more fruit was bagged against fruit fly and partly because of the dry weather that assisted in fruit set and growth. 


The scratter that was made from information on web a couple of years ago is designed to process a large amount of fruit. And today it received its first volume test. What a great machine. The task was completed very quickly and the whole unit taken outside (it is on wheels) and hosed clean in minutes. The scratter is almost completely made of recycled material. The timber is harvested from old pallets, The motor and pulleys from old washing machines and the drum holding the stainless steel teeth is an old Ironbark fence post put through a lathe.

Normally the volume is so small we only use a small press but for once we were able to utilise the larger wine press. The only difference was using a cloth liner for the smaller pulp. An old nylon curtain worked perfectly.

The scratter in action. A bucket of apples emptied into the feed in tray and about a dozen apples dropped into the hopper, then adding a few at a time as the stainless steel teeth shred the apples.

The pulp is pressed and the juice loaded into the demijohn. Roughly about 60% yield of juice. After the first hard pressing the pulp is loosened and pressed a second time. This produces a few more litres.

The pH was tested at 3.48 which is perfect as the ideal is between 3,.0 and 3.8.

The Brix was 11.5 and ordinary sugar was added to chaptalize to 16.5. This will produce an alcohol level of 9% which is the minimum recommended for flavour and aging. It is possible to make a lower alcohol but it will not mature as well and requires higher levels of Sulphur. Potassium metabisulphite was added at the rate of 50 ppm to kill off any bad bugs and the yeast will be added in 24 hours.

Two different batches will be put down with different yeasts and once the yeasts start their work the demijohns will be refrigerated to 15 C. The fermentation at lower temperatures produces better nose and mouth flavours. Higher temperatures can boil off the better esters.

A few apples were put aside for eating fresh. They go really well with blue cheese.


  1. I would love to try this one day. Hope we can plant such a productive tree!

    1. Hi Liz, There are a number of Tropical Apple varieties from Daleys ( The cider making doesn't initially need all the fancy gear we have. We started out with just a kitchen juicer. It made the juice a bit frothy but it worked fine and negated the need for pressing. A long time ago before we had our own tree(s) we visited Bilpin and bought some organic apples (cheap if you pick them yourselves). Stanthorpe has an apple festival coming up in March or you could just buy a few kilos when their cheap in the shops. Best wishes.

  2. It is hard to believe you get so few comments on your blog as it is so good and you write so well. Favourable comments of course….

    I looked back on your cider posts and see you must make lots. In one photo there were demijohns by the dozen on a shelf. I loved your machine for mincing up the apples and wonder if it or similar would be good for mashing up tomatoes for making juice or sauce? I have been a beekeeper for 50 years and must say you had some nice combs of honey there. What flowers does it come from do you think - some kind of gum tree or ground flora? I used to use ladies stockings (new of course and boiled) for straining the honey in a hanging up position. As the pressure in the stocking increased the stocking stretched so never overflowed. Unfortunately they never last long so a regular supply is needed.
    And I make cheese, inspired by Gavin Webber a couple of years ago. My next batch will be Halloumi which I last ate when in Cyprus around 35 years ago.
    So all in all I am glad to have found your blog.

    1. Hi David,

      Thanks for your encouraging and kind words.

      In reference to quantities of cider: In the past we haven't been able to make all that much as the harvests have not been large. This apple/pear harvest has started exceedingly well with the Tropical Apple. The pear trees (3) and the cider apples (5) look promising quantity wise but are months off ripening and anything can happen in between. Maybe some of the photographs included demijohns of wine of which we make about 200+ litres.

      The scratter could be used for tomatoes but I suspect it may produce a chunky output and not as consistent as the stick blender that we use.

      The dominant species of Eucalypt in our area is Spotted Gum but I'm not sure if it is the source of the nectar this year as I understand it doesn't flower annually. Things took off in the hive after the 250 mm of rain. Neither of us are experienced enough to pinpoint the source.

      The ladies stockings idea sounds excellent. It would certainly provide a finer filter and the expandable size solves the volume problem.

      You’ve chosen the best time to make Halloumi with Tomato season being in full swing. Fried Halloumi with thick slices of fresh Tomato is one of the best dishes ever.

      Are you able to source raw milk?

      Gavin Webster is is doing and outstanding job with both his face to face teaching and his educational blogs, videos and podcasts.

      Comments favourable or not are always welcome. It's the only way to assess if the writing has clarity. Sometimes after writing a piece I read it back and think "that doesn't make sense", or realise that half the information is left out. Worse still is if the writing conveys the wrong impression. Always better to know and have the chance to edit in a correction. So thanks for your comments.

      Best wishes, John

  3. Yes I can get raw milk but I don't advertise it. I usually blend 5 litres of raw milk (about 4.25% fat) with 4 litres of store-bought homogenized & pasteurized 'full cream' milk (3.25%) to make 9 litres. But I do two batches like this at the same time, one pot in each side of my kitchen sink. To warm the milk I put the plug in the sink and fill with hot water. When it reaches the right temperature, I just pull the plug. Saves all that lifting on and off the stove. I am actually in central Canada where the temperature is currently MINUS 25 degrees C, so no tomatoes to go with the halloumi!!

    I was thinking of the scratter more as an alternative to slicing the tomatoes prior to boiling them up.

    How many colonies of bees do you have? I have developed a very easy way of queen rearing that hardly disturbs the parent hive at all. It takes about 5 minutes to make 20 queens. Maybe I could email it to you.

    Keep up the good work and don't eat too many of those chocolates….


    1. We only have a single hive at the moment. They say you should have 3 to 5 hives in order to assess if an issue is only related to a particular hive but we just wanted to minimise the work load. We only use a small amount of honey and a single hive is sufficient for the pollination needs. Would love to see your queen rearing method. I've put a contact form on the bottom right of the blog.