The press has a hand cranked grinder which grinds the whole apples into a wet sawdust like consistency. This is called the pommace. The pommace falls into a cheese cloth suspended in a slatted bucket sitting below the grinder. Once we had ground up all the apples (or enough to fill our cloth), we slid the slatted bucket under the press.
The press is operated by another hand crank. This crank drives a screw press that slowly drives a thick hardwood piece of wood onto the pommace. The pommace was already "leaky" even before we had pressed it, but once we started to compress the pommace, there was a river of cider.
The cider is filtered through the cheesecloth and from there is collected in the large tray that holds the slatted bucket. The tray is slightly slanted and the freshly squeezed cider flows out hole in the tray. We had made a neat little faucet / filter device, but found that the 1 1/4" tubing and filter simply clogged up with apple bits. The amount of these bits you want in your cider is up to you; if you wanted a clearer cider, you could add something as simple as a kitchen colander underneath your hole that would work sufficiently. Either way, just hold a collection jug underneath the cider flow until its full. Cap and repeat.
We found that we got about 3 gallons of cider per bushel (about 45-48lbs). That would be a little bit more than 50% (if cider weighs about the same as milk). Industrial size cider presses do better. They average about 4.5 gallons per bushel, or about 75%.
After the pommace has been pressed, we were left with a slightly damp sawdust like mash. Professional presses will leave a dry, crumbly, cake like substance that breaks apart in your hand. We're not there yet. We fed the leftover to our pigs who were glad for the consideration.
For the second batch, Nate brought and installed a food disposal unit (what you would find under your kitchen sink). We found this makes a much finer pommace, but can get bogged down if you feed it apples too eagerly. We have plans in the works to upgrade our processing capabilities. I'm sure we'll have more to add in a separate post.
We drank most of that batch as sweet cider throughout the fall, and made some more sweet cider for Thanksgiving with the whole family. Led by Nate, we also tried our hand at making some hard cider. Typically, hard cider is not made from the same apples used to make sweet cider. Sweet cider comes from table apples, whereas table cider comes from specific cider apples found to have the correct qualities when fermented and blended. For our hard cider, we pretty much ignored any of the recipes and just went with what we had. We made about 5 gallons of hard cider which is sitting in Nate's basement. The fermentation process has since stopped and the cider is resting but should be ready shortly. We'll keep you posted with our results.