A cider press is the mechanism used to press cider from apples. It consists of an apple grinder, a pressing bucket or barrel, and a pressing screw. The way the press works is this. Apples are fed into the hopper of the grinder. The apples are very coarsely ground and packed into the pressing barrel. A flat plate that fits tightly into the barrel is placed on top of the ground apples. The screw is tightened, forcing the plate down onto the apples. The barrel has slits in the side where the cider runs out as it is squeezed from the ground apples. The screw is cranked down further, exerting tremendous pressure on the plate and the apples, and all of the cider is extracted. The cider is caught in tubs or jars, to be aged and bottled. Cider presses can be made of steel or wood. Fresh cider is delicious, but the flavor really improves with a day or two aging. Fermentation starts soon after, however, and hard cider is the result, an alcoholic beverage.
On the place where I grew up, we had the biggest cider press in the area. Many of the ranches, including ours, had large apple orchards, and each fall we would have cider presses, where neighbors would bring their boxes of apples to our press and go home with gallons of cider. It was great fun, the men taking turns cranking the giant handles of the grinders and the screws, the women sitting on lawn chairs in the shade and getting the pot luck lunch ready, and us kids running around being kids. Our press was made of hickory and was about 70 years old. The barrel and plate and funnel where the cider ran into the tubs were all made of wood, and the screw and grinder were of cast iron. We gathered the cider in large galvanized wash tubs, and strained it through cheesecloth before bottling it in gallon jars. The shed where the press was kept was used as a metal shop the rest of the year, but the tangy smell of cider never quite left the building. It's a smell I can still remember, and it still makes me smile.