Our fruit is processed in hydraulic water bladder presses. They are great presses, sized to give us good flexibility with volume Fact: these presses also do all the sweet cider production for the orchard. We can press as little as 15-18 gallons at a time. However, depending on the amount of cider produced daily, between 40 and 900 gallons of water can flow through them. We have built a close loop water system in which water is pumped from a separate holding tank to the presses. Then when the press is complete, instead of the water going out as waste, it is pumped back in the holding tank. An added benefit to this is the pumping out of the press allows for a press faster cycle.
After the pressing of the ground up apples, called pumice, we’re left with quite of bit of crushed apples with no juice in them. Fact: it takes about one bushel of apples to make 2.5 – 3 gallons of sweet cider and we make a lot of sweet cider. This used up pumice is generally spread back out in the orchard. The deer seem to like it a lot and it attracts them. Since the deer also like to eat the new buds off the apple trees we’re always looking for folks to take the used pumice away. Pigs seem to like it as well. Call us if you want some of the pumice.
The Ice Cider has to start fermentation with juice with no less than 32 brix. This is about 15% – 20% of the sweet cider we spend all of December making. That leaves a lot of left over cider. The next 20% or so actually has more sugar than the pre-frozen sweet cider right off the press. We have made a very nice table wine using this “second melt” juice. In the past it has kept the family well supplied but as the volume grew it became clear this would be a new product for us and in 2012 we began selling Iced Apple Wine.
Our son-in-law Joel has been experimenting with hard ciders for a while and began to use this “second melt” juice. We’re so pleased with those results that we began selling Iced Hard Cider in 2012.
Both of these products began their fermentation process at such high brix levels that nothing but yeast and nutrients are added. Both use the cryoconcentration approach to concentrating the sugars of the juice.
After we’ve melted the original sweet cider twice there still is a lot left. The “third melt” can have as much sugar as sweet cider right off the press. This is sometimes used as late season sweet cider.
After the “third melt” the ice that is left is pretty much all water. We spread this back onto the orchard.