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How to Build a Cider or Wine Press

08.04.09
I almost did it. I almost spent $350-500 on a juice press. It would last me a lifetime, and be an infrastructure-esque purchase worth the splurge. I needed to get geared up for making wine now that my grapes are here. One of my newest obsessions is making apple wine, cider vinegars, and other unmbentionable biproducts. More on that soon enough. Last winter was spent researching what kinds of presses were out there, how much they cost, who supplied them, shipping costs, etc. I thought I’d done my homework.

Then, somehow, I tripped on this man. He singlehandedly saved me about $700 as I was going to buy an apple crusher too. Herrick presents the idea of there actually being a better way to do the jobs associated with cider [and wine] making, for a fraction of the cost. He had me at fraction of the cost. My inner cheapass had me glued to my seat. I read. And read. And read. And after all my falling asleep with design ideas in my head, I came up with my own fruit press concept.

First. The economics. Average anvil-screw-type-press costs a few hundred. My build costs: ~$32. And I’m guessing others could do it with yard-scrap. I used food-grade plastic pails – primary fementers sold at a wine shop. Most of my cost is in those two buckts. 1 whole 2X10. – went bigger to provide a broader base for the bucket. 1 stainless valve. 1 car jack from my Corolla. Some scrap 2×4 and incidental screws, nuts, washers, etc. $32. Bargain. I’m posting this more than anything in hopes that some uninformed sucker like me can trip on this post and save themselves a lot of cash and a lot of reading to end up with a functional juice press.

This valve had a threaded ass end and a 1/2″ pex front. I have spare pex from the house reno, so I can run a line to juice-receiving bucket/pot wherever is convenient. The threaded bit allowed me to pick up two rubber washers in the odds and ends bins for a few cents to create a water tight, high quality tap. It works. I leak tested it. The crappy plastic shitter version from the wine shops costs $10. This was half, and is a whole lot better quality. Note that a lot of valves turn towards the pail side, making them not feasible – otherwise I would have gone with a 90 pointing down. This was the only one that had the valve turn away from the bucket, therefore not getting in the way.
This is my ‘plunger assembly’. A food grade plastic pail, cut to about 8 inches [eyeballed clearances on press to determine ease of use], and some scrap 2×4 screwed together with construction screws to create a 4×4 plunger post. The jack connects to the top, the bottom connects to the pail bottom – which is of course perfectly sized to fit into the bucket containing the fruit. The extra blocks are to get deeper down into the bucket if need be simply by lifting the jack back up, and inserting it between the plunger post and the jack. I’ll likely stain them with the spare stain that I used for the body of the press. I debated fixing them in place to the jack so that it looked better, but the fact is that it will function better if they’re mobile. PLEASE SEE MORE RECENT POSTS UNDER THE CIDER AND WINEMAKING TAGS, AS THIS PLUNGER FAILED AND I’VE POSTED A NEW DESIGN THAT WORKS.

A view of the rear of the frame. I cut some 1×6 scrap into corner braces to prevent any side sway when under pressure [THIS TYPE OF BRACING IS IMPORTANT - OTHERS HAVE TWISTED APART THEIR FRAME BY UNDERBUILDING]. You can also see some framing brackets in the corners I figured may provide some additional stregnth. That jack is powerful, and I don’t want the frame ripping apart. The jack’s attached with a couple bolts [took me three tries to get the right length], washers and nuts on the top of the frame.

The bottom line is that a car jack and some figurin’-shit-out is a whole pile of genius in this situation. Comment if you have questions about the build of have ideas for improved design.

PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR MAJOR DESIGN REVISION

**It’s key to note that this method requires cheese-forming-style pressing, and if you don’t know what that is, I’ll leave that homework to you.

12 Responses

  1. [...] and some out of hand. But the vast, vast majority are about to meet their fate in my crusher and press setup – soon to be fermenting away into what appears may be a lovely white wine. The aromatics on [...]

  2. Dang – saved me $700 in 5 minutes. Awesome – this was my #2 problem about 2 weeks from now.

    Thanks!

  3. Thank you, Kevin. Thank you. Truly. Ingenious.
    :)
    Valerie

  4. Jermeister says:

    Just stumbled onto your site. Fantastic idea for a grape crusher! I am not getting any info on your plunger redesign when i click on the link. would love to see your solution, as i have about 200 lbs of grapes that need crushing.
    Thanks!

  5. Ed says:

    Wow. GREAT idea. I was going to build something that would have saved me a couple hundred bucks and look a bit like the Italian presses, forgoing the ratchet… But this is even better. Somehow i have an abundance of scissor jacks and at least one shall be re-purposed. Glad I tripped on your site!

  6. Andrew says:

    I love it. I can not wait to get home from college this weekend and put something like this together. Originally planned on only getting must, but I think I may double my order and convert to grapes and press them!!

  7. [...] is a strong wooden frame with a carjack that drives a plunger onto the crushed fruit, described here.  Thank you, [...]

  8. Peter says:

    Hi Kevin,

    Trying to find your design revision for the wine press but the link doesn’t work. Can you post it again?

    Thanks!
    Peter

  9. Melissa says:

    I also had trouble finding the revised press plans, but here is the link: http://www.kevinkossowan.com/the-new-awesomer-plunger-assembly/

  10. Brian says:

    Kevin,
    Great Idea. Wine making for several years without a press. Too cheap to buy one. I have about twenty food quality PVC buckets and a shed full of 2X4’s. Several jacks too. BUT—–cannot find the upgrades anywhere at the site. I think I may know what they are, but a shortcut would be very much appreciated.
    Thanks!
    Brian

  11. staggering jack says:

    I am going to build one tomorrow . I will use six by six angle iron brackets pre-drilled for carriage bolts to beef up the gussets . Probably go with a hydralic jack to as I have poop loads of them kicking about the driveway .

    Couple of springs off two motorcycle front shocks mounted over guide rods and a sling made of four inch square 095 cold rolled tubing to hold the jack upright .

    A two inch diameter stainless plunger shaft with half inch thick stainless round plate to fit inside a half of a beer pony keg.
    Should work well .

    bottoms up boy and girls.

  12. Aaron says:

    Too funny. I was just looking at $500 wine presses and thought about building my own with a car jack. I had a good chuckle when I saw your build of nearly exactly what I had going on in my head. The nesting bucket as press head: brilliant. Thanks for sharing your design.

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