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This weekend in sunny Kent, England, it’s an epic battle of traditional cider pressing versus modern juicing machines. Muscle versus motor. “Slow food” versus labor-saving device. Who’ll make the most cider? The best cider? Only one way to find out. [UPDATE: Scroll down for contest results.]

Last fall Make: published Nevin Stewart’s “Kitchen-Table Cider Making,” a novel approach to making gallons of apple juice or hard cider with modern centrifugal juicers — much tidier and more compact than that ancient apple-squashing machine, the cider press.

Now Nevin has teamed up with a maker of traditional apple presses, Peter Eveleigh, to pit these two methods head-to-head in a test trial at this weekend’s Brogdale Cider Festival, August 23-24, in the hamlet of Brogdale.

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Peter and his co-worker will operate an electric mill to pulp the unsuspecting apples, and two of his custom manual presses to crush the living juice out of them: a 32-liter barrel press and a 50-liter rack and cloth press. The machines are beautiful to behold. “His presses have been likened to works of art,” admits Nevin, “and one would grace any grand country drawing room by its presence.”

“At approximately half the capital outlay,” says Nevin, he and a friend will operate two high-performance whole-fruit juicers to puree the helpless pippins, and then strain out the solid bits.

Each team gets 100 kilos of washed apples and 1 hour in which to do their damage. Yield of juice produced in a given time, and other key measures, will be recorded and reported. We’ll report on the results as they become available.

The Battle of Brogdale. Juice-and-strain, or pulp-and-press? May the best team, and method, win.

UPDATE: “A Damn Close-Run Thing Between David and Goliath”

It’s a draw! Nevin Stewart reports on the results: There was a small margin between the performance of the pulp-and-press and juice-and-strain methods in this test. I find this remarkable given the huge difference in sizes (and costs) of the respective kits. Here’s a photo of Peter’s three items of equipment:

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And here’s Dick (a neighbour and friend) and myself with our two compact juicers, and straining kit:

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On Saturday each team had 100kg of Brogdale-grown apples, and on Sunday 70kg each. This image shows me standing beside the box in which the apples were delivered to us. Just think that two juicers processed half of this box full in a total of 46 minutes!

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On Saturday pulp-and-press won by a small margin. To begin with, juice-and-strain led; as Peter said, “It is quick on the draw” giving an immediate yield of juice. However, he was also of the view that pulp-and-press would catch up, and overtake. Certainly the results below appear to bear this out. My view is that this was only partly the case. The reality was that I had not thought through how we, Catherine — a friend — and I (see the next photo) would recover the last few percent of juice from the five straining bags that we had used. I wrestled with this issue Saturday night and devised a strategy that Dick and I would employ on Sunday. This we enacted and we achieved, in my view, a highly respectable draw.

Day 1.  100kg of apples per team

TIME (mins) Percentage yield of apple juice (by weight)
Nevin’s Team (J&S) Peter’s Team (P&P)
10 2 0
20 10 7
30 24 24
40 40 33
50 48 55
60 55 61

Catherine and I completed juicing the 100kg of apples in 30 minutes. [Straining the juice took the remainder of the hour.]

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Day 2. 70kg of apples per team

TIME (mins) Percentage yield of apple juice (by weight)
Nevin’s Team (J&S) Peter’s Team (P&P)
45 61 61

Dick and I completed juicing the 70kg of apples in 16 minutes. At 45 minutes both teams had completed all their work and a draw was agreed.

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The juice-and-strain team at work

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The pulp-and-press team at work

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Apple juice product lined up after the contest

After the "action" on day 2: Nevin, Dick, Andrew, Peter

After the “action” on day 2: Nevin, Dick, Andrew, Peter

That’s my report. Overall, the contest was tremendous fun.
Best wishes,

Nevin

Keith Hammond

I’m projects editor of MAKE magazine.


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