By Patrick Mann
It seems like each year there are more and more community cider press events. City Fruit rolls out its press on various occasions during apple season; and so do P-Patches, churches and schools. As the awareness of Seattle’s fruit resources grows, so does the interest in putting them to good use. There are few things as delicious as freshly pressed apple juice; or as satisfying as opening a bottle of home-made hard cider.
Wendy and I have been pressing apples at the Brandon Street Orchard and P-Patch for a while. Some of our friends and neighbors were inspired and started joining in; and our cider production quickly grew from just a few gallons to 40 gallons in 2016. Did you know that it takes about 15 pounds of apples to make a gallon of juice? So those 40 gallons contain the juice of 600 pounds of apples. And every pound needs to be harvested, sorted, washed, milled and pressed – a formidable operation if you are working with a small hand-cranked apple mill and press.
After the 2016 season was over we decided it was time to step up to the next level: a hydraulic press and electric mill. Unfortunately, commercially available models cost many thousands of dollars and can hardly be justified for making some backyard cider. Luckily there’s the internet and a community of DIY cider enthusiasts that will happily teach you how to build your own hydraulic “rack and cloth” press. And once we got started, we were amazed at all of the support we received from our community to help turn the idea into reality.
Seattle Department of Neighborhood provided funding in the form of a Small Sparks grant. City Fruit stepped up as our fiscal sponsor. Pacific Sheet Metal custom-fabricated and donated the stainless steel juice tray and pomace frame. TAP Plastics donated high density PE sheets which separate the layers of pomace. The Lighthouse for the Blind donated and milled the thick nylon press plates. It was wonderful to see all these organizations and people inspired by our idea … and perhaps the prospect of enjoying some cider in the future.
Today we finally inaugurated the new press with some of the last apples of the 2017 season; and with our friends and families that had patiently listened to our talk of hydraulic jacks, pomace trays and apple scratters for the last year. The juice was sweet, there was excitement in the air, and even the rain clouds parted briefly to let the sun shine down.
Now we can’t wait for the fall of 2018 when we can start cranking out juice in earnest.
Patrick Mann grew up in the hills of rural Southern Germany, where agriculture is no longer profitable and the remnants of old orchards adorn the countryside. This was probably where the seed was planted, but it wasn't until he came to Seattle that his passion for fruit trees blossomed - aided and abetted by City Fruit and the Master Fruit Tree Steward program. Patrick now lives with his wife in a 1922 home in South Seattle, where they have replaced every inch of lawn with a wide variety of fruiting shrubs, vines, and trees; and turned their neighbors' backyard into a fruit tree nursery.