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How to Build a Serious Apple/Grape/Fruit Crusher on the Cheap

08.19.09
As with the last post, I felt compelled to share the following so that others may have an easier time sorting this out than I. I was an hour or two away from purchasing an old fashioned apple crusher. $350. Once again Herrick bailed me out, putting me on to a variety of different ways to use a standard-issue garbage disposal as a fruit…well…destroyer. It doesn’t really crush the fruit so much as purée it – which is a highly desirable result when you’re trying to press fruit to make wine or cider of any kind.

Being the cheap ass that I am, my disposal is a 3/4 HP erator that I picked up on Kijiji for about half of the cost of new. But it was new-in-box, which is important to me as I’m not keen on putting my fruit through someone elses’ former garbage. The modifications required:

A hopper. Something to direct the fruit of choice into the machine. The coolest idea I’ve seen was a guy using a stainless steel bowl. I intend on going down that road, but needed a solution that didn’t involve the shitty task of cutting a nice hole in stainless. Plastic. Tried a cheap plastic bowl from the dollar store. It cracked. I needed softer plastic. Result: Costco potato salad container. Nice. It fit beautifully, cut easily, was free, and will do the job nicely until I can develop something a little more…sophisticated.
Electrical & Cooling solution. This unit had electrical coming out the bottom, which wasn’t very handy. Feeling slightly awesome, I proceeded to disfigure the machine with a drill to punch a hole that would be more convenient. Used spare home electrical wiring into the box. Bought the cheapest dimmer I could find. Cut up a scrap power bar thinger to obtain a handy plug and cord. Wired it all together. Why the dimmer? Apparently these things can overheat and auto-shut-off when used in an unconventional manner like this. My stepdad can be credited with this modification idea. I’ll blame him if it doesn’t work. :) [ps. this failed. the dimmer fried first time I fired it up. apparently need something with more load capacity to do the job. I've got a switch currently, and will be looking for the part to do the job]

The tailpipe. Once pulverized, the fruit has to go somewhere. Somewhere I want it to go, preferably. The unit came with the elbow at the top which is supposed to be hooked up to a trap and then into sewer. I bought a coupler to go 1.25″-1.5″ ABS, used a scrap coupling and pipe from our reno, and cut the pipe so that when the unit sits on a table, the pulp will exit at the top of a 5 gal pail.

I anticipate modifying this thing further down the road as it gets some use and parts make themselves available. So consider this ‘Part 1′. Hope you make some use of the idea, and please weigh in in the comments if you have any ideas to share to improve the setup.

NOTE: See notes on using this setup here, which includes design commentary and revision

13 Responses

  1. [...] for desserts, 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 [...]

  2. We bought a farm with over 100 grape vines in Missouri and the Nortons are almost ready and I was trying to figure out about the crushing problem as, like you, I prefer the cheap. Well I think your idea is awesome and this is what I am going to set up. Do you have any further info on its results?

  3. Absolutely fantastic information and detail and I CAN DO IT! Now…!
    :)

  4. keni says:

    what about the pits. would the garbage disposal crack the pits into small bits which would get into your juice?

  5. Kevin says:

    Others share your concern, I do not. Assuming you are concerned about the arsenic in apple seeds, that is. If you’re concerned, core your apples – pretty much that simple. The way I see it, the solids stay in the cheese when pressing, or at very worst settle into the sludge or lees throughout the process. So the amount of volatile arsenic in the finished product is likely ridiculously low. To add to this, consider whether or not you figure they core every apple that goes into commercial apple juice…

  6. Shauna says:

    We used this on our grapes, and it was fantastic. Smashed up a 5 gallon bucket faster than I could feed them in. Juice was great. Been several days and I’m still alive, so the arsenic must not be an issue.

  7. Roger says:

    I am an engineer.

    Problem One; the blades on a new disposal too sharp grind them down blunt to prevent the seeds in apple or grapes from busting.

    Problem two; the machine does not need to be on all the time us a foot switch. Will prevent overheating. Also may wind up with less of a puree.

    Problem three; Using a fan reostate that is designed for lights not a good idia. A reostate for a sewing machine might be the ticket. One it’s designed for a moter and if you can get your hands on a contemporary type they are solid state.

    Problem four; Having a water source directly in the shute or having the grapes go in with water combined will keep the unit cool. The wine process water is always a little desired for volume and PH adjustment. Will also facilite clean up.

  8. [...] sink, outfitted with a hopper and a power switch.  You can read about Kevin’s design here.  The press is a strong wooden frame with a carjack that drives a plunger onto the crushed [...]

  9. hton says:

    Great ideas, like the foot switch, dont see why you dont make a ply wood hopper in a funnel shape? As for arsenic in apple seeds, never ever heard of the problem, i think this is some sort of trans-Atlantic urban myth, even if there were how many apples would you have to crush and consume the juice from to get a fatal dose- or even a mild stomach ache, i think that my liver would pack up from the alcohol in the cider long before that

  10. I. BENNETT says:

    Congratulations! All you “McIver” (field-expedient, innovative, frugal, etc.) types! My Public Health career can tell you that
    the APPLE SEED issue is a MYTH. You have to eat approx. a TON at one sitting/meal for there to be any harm. In fact,
    apple seeds, like apricot seeds contain CANCER fighting compounds. These received a bad rap … from the big pharmacy
    manufactureres. The compound is called LAETRIL. Remember? As always, “follow the $$.” The big boys don’t want us to
    get/make our medicines FOR FREE!! Happy crushing!

  11. [...] sink, outfitted with a hopper and a power switch.  You can read about Kevin’s design here.  The press is a strong wooden frame with a carjack that drives a plunger onto the crushed [...]

  12. [...] the record, I stole all of this from Kevin, who built his first crusher years ago, posted about it here, and has generously lent it to friends many times since then.  I just got around to making my own, [...]

  13. Dennis says:

    Grate source of information. I believe the bitterness associated with the pits/seeds are a concern when using the fruit for cider or ???? Hence, the crusher crushes the fruit and leaves the seeds intact. The reason Roger advised to blunt the blades. Has anyone followed up with this post besides myself??

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