As I pedaled on a bright red Schwinn, with the sweet scent of Gala apples around me, I realized that nothing exemplifies creative Northwest sustainability better than a bicycle-powered cider press.
On Saturday I headed to the house of Audrey Lawrence and Nathan Royston to try out their bike press and get a taste of fresh cider with organic apples from Tonnemaker Farms.
So how does this thing work?
Who: Audrey Lawrence and Nathan Royston
Day Jobs: Both Audrey and Nathan work at Theo Chocolate, highlighting their passion for organic food products.
The Project: Hard Cider from a Bicycle-Powered Press
How They Do it: Audrey and Nathan acquired the homemade press from their friend Damien over three years ago. 120 gallons of cider later, the press is still going strong. It works by clamping the back bicycle axle into the press. The bike wheel is pressing against a large cement fly wheel that powers the apple crusher made of a wooden cylinder with stainless steel nails.
While one person is riding the bike, another is feeding the thoroughly washed apples into the hopper, crushing them down into a mesh-lined basket. After the basket is filled with apple mash, it is covered with a wooden top and pressed down with a large metal crank. We used a wooden beam to help squeeze the most amount of juice out of the apples.
The juice runs down and into a pitcher, which can be bottled later. After pressing 80 pounds of apples in under an hour we were able to make 5 gallons of cider.
Tip: We used Gala apples which created quite a sweet cider. Typical cider apples tend to be have a sharper, bitter sweet flavor. One of the favorite cider apples are Golden Russets. Sweet or soft apple cider is unfermented, unfiltered, unsweetened and often unpasteurized, while apple juice is both pasteurized and filtered.
Fermenting Process: Audrey and Nathan ferment their cider using champagne yeast. During a second fermentation they add sugar moments before bottling, which turns natural malic acid into carbin dioxide and lactic acid. Too much sugar can lead to exploding bottles so it’s important to be extremely exact about proportions. More information on fermenting cider can be found here.
Cider Recipe: If you want a kick to your cider without fermentation, here’s a great recipe that let’s you enjoy your fresh cider right away. Heat up your cider on the stove and add cloves, cinnamon sticks and orange slices. After you’ve let it simmer, pour it over your favorite scotch whiskey.
Left: We gave an apple sacrifice to Gnomey to ensure plentiful amounts of cider; Right: I brought the fancy to the cider session
Story and photography by Annie Laurie Malarkey. See this site for more of her work. Do you have a cool project or creation you’d like to share with the GeekWire community? Please email [email protected] about being featured in Geek Made.