How to use a hand fruit press.
A fruit press is used to literally press all the juice, contained in soft fruit, out of the fruit and to collect it for fermentation.
It provides much better results for both wines and spirits than, for example, liquidising the fruit. If the skins of fruit are broken too much (as in liquidising it) the resulting mash contains also the fruit skins (with many heavier aromatics and oils).
Using a fruit press prevents this and allows us to ferment only the juice from fruit. It is indespensible for the distiller (or fruit wine maker) striving to produce better quality spirits.
Lets start witrh the typical components of a hand fruit press:
- The (red) ratchet head: This head allows us to create an incredible pressure on the fruit to squeeze out every drop of juice.
- The (shiny) locking pins: These are use to secure the two wooden slat assemblies
- The Wooden slat assemblies: these two wooden slat assemblies form the structural support to contain the fruit during pressing. The openings between the wooden slats provide for the juice to flow out of the press into the centre support.
- The (red) Centre support: This provides the structure for all the other parts to fit onto. It also contains a collecting panfor the fruit juice and a lip for the juice to run into a separate container. The centre of the centre support contains the threaded bar with thread onto which the rachet head fits, and screws down towards the collecting pan of the centre support.
- The ratchet pins: Two steel ratchet pins are provided to allow the ratchet to be turned in only one direction - either to press down on the fruit, or to lift the racthet head a bit, after pressing.
- The (blue) leverage bar: This bar is inserted into the rachet head to provide us with some leverage to exert greater force on the racthet head.
- Spacer blocks: Normally 4-8 wooden spacer blocks are provided with a press to allow the rachet head to move down the centre support while exerting pressure onto the half-moon pressure halves.
- The half-moon pressure halves: these press directly onto the fruit.
- The press sleeve : Not all fruit presses come with a press sleeve. This sleeve is however indispensible when pressing fruit with pips or seeds that would normally be able to slip through the gaps between the wooden slats. The press sleeve should be open on both sides. It is NOT a manufacturing defect that it does not have a bottom! Normally press sleeves are made from fairly tight woven shade cloth and you can easily make yourself one if your fruit press was supplied without one.
Let's start with the assemblying of the press.
- Start by taking the ratchet head and fitting the ratchet pins. Note that each ratchet pin has one slanted end. Position the pins as indicted in the image (with slants of the ratchet pins opposite each other). Do not be too concerned about their direction. We will correct them later.
- Insert the ratchet pins into the racthet head and slide them in until they are fully upright.
- Now fit the two wooden slat assemblies onto the collecting pan of the centre support and secure them to each other with the locking pins.
- Insert the press sleeve over the threaded bar of the centre support until the ends of the press sleeve touches the bottom. Do not worry to try and fit it very neatly. As soon as we start filling it with fruit, it will expand and fit tightly.
- Initially your bag might look a bit small, but after the first pressing it will have streched a bit to fit much better.
- Now start filling the press sleeve with your favourite fruit. The fruit should have been washed and all leaves, stems and rotting pieces removed before filling th epress.
- After filling the press sleeve with the fruit, insert the two half-moon pressure halves as shown and press them tightly onto the fruit.
- Start screwing the rachet head onto the threaded bar, but don't screw it down too far.
- Position the spacer blocks onto the half-moon pressure halves and turn the ratchet head by hand until it fits tightly against the spacer blocks. Initially you might find that the spacer blocks want to turn with the ratchet head while it turns. Just position the pressure blocks and turn the ratchet head against them.
- Now is the time to position your juice container under the lip of the collecting pan.
- Insert the (blue) levarage bar into the ratchet head and tighten it's locking screw. Without turning the ratchet head, start moving the leverage bar backwards and forwards by hand so that the ratchet head moves down (or up) without it's bottom sliding on the spacer blocks. If it moves up, remove the ratchet pins and turn their slanted sides around for the ratchet head to move down.
- As you move the ratchet backwards and forwards, you will feel the rachet head requires more and more force to move. Just keep on moving the leverage bar backwards and forwards to increase the pressure and start the juice flowing!
- Your fruit press can exert an incredible force on the fruit and, as you keep pressing, the husks, skins and seeds / pips will eventually form into an almost solid pressing cake.
- When the pressing is almost complete, tip the whole press towards the lip for the last juice to run clear into the juice container.
- Once you are sure the maximum amount of juice has been extracted, remove the ratchet pins on the rachet head and turn them around.
- With a few backward and forward movements of the leverage bar, the ratchet head will lift enough from the spacer blocks to further turn the whole ratchet head to loosen it.
- Remove the spacer blocks and loosen the locking pins on the wooden slat assemblies. (a few light taps withy a rubber hammer on the bottom of the lockig pins might assist in getting them loose)
- Now also remove the woodon slat assemblies and lastly remove the two half-moon pressure halves.
- Slide the whole pressing cake over the threaded bar and remove it from the pressing sleeve.
- Make sure you wash and sterilize all components before storage to prevent nasty bacterial growths on them.
For certain fruits (think of grape husks for grappa) the pressing cake can be broken up and the husks / skins be spreaded out on sieves to dry in the sun. These dried husks can then replace the copper mesh in reflux stills to produce a strong with characteristic aromas. (Or, with a pot still, place it in a ginning basket or a sieve, in your pot still). If the husks are not dried, it needs to be used fairly quickly.
Note: a fruit press is very suitable to extract juice from soft fruit such as grapes, soft peaches, soft pears, etc. The more ripe or soft the fruit, the better your yield will be. If you would like to use it with harder/firmer/less ripe fruit such as apples or pineaaples, we would recommend that you first mince the fruit using a manual or electric meat/fruit mincer before pressing. This will increase your juice yield dramatically and makes for much easier pressing with the fruit press.