At Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider, we upgraded to an Goodnature Squeezebox SX-200 about one year ago. The first day we used it, we got through four bins, then eight then eleven. After completing the system by purchasing a matching Goodnature Elevator and PF-150 Pomace Feed System with EG 400/50 Grinder, we’re up to about 35 bins each day.
Press days start at 6 AM and end around 10 PM. We run two shifts with two people each, the switchover happening at 2 PM. Setup in the morning is about 45 minutes and a rough cleanup takes about an hour. A full truckload of apples is about 48 bins which takes about two days so we save the thorough cleaning until the pressing is done. That cleaning takes about four hours including cleaning the floor. The press operator generally never goes beyond arm’s reach of the machine. The second person loads and unloads apple bins, (including press dumping bins), runs the bin dumper, sorts the apples, keeps the pomace hopper full, and keeps the grinder running smoothly. Both jobs are about three-quarter time. You absolutely need two people, but neither one is working his tail off. For instance, if we’re short-handed, I run the second person role for both shifts (16 hours) without serious fatigue. We always try to increase the number of bins we process in a day because the cleanup is the same no matter how many bins we press and cleanup is significant.
I recently asked our No. 1 Press Jockey, Jason West (no relation), for a list of tips to maximizing the throughput of the press. With the above equipment, the press is the bottleneck. We do about 50 pressings per day, so shaving even 30 seconds off each run can really add up. On the flip side, a one minute slowdown per press can add an hour to our day, or reduce the bin count by two.
The Objective: Press as much juice as fast as possible utilizing a machine that moves at a hydraulically slow pace.
The Machine: The Goodnature Squeezebox SX-200 (i.e. the apple accordion, the peoples pomice pusher, Bob, Shiva’s sippy cup)
The delicate manner in which to produce the most nectar while staying efficient is not complicated but requires a dedicated focus and persistence. The following rules will ensure you meet this zen like level over extended periods of time:
Rule 1: KEEP THE PRESS MOVING 97.2% of the TIME.
(Ed. Note: He’s not kidding. The middle platen must be moving nearly all the time. We eat lunch in shifts and bathroom breaks are coordinated with the second person.)
Rule 2: Before pumping, check pomace hopper to ensure proper level of pomace to complete a full fill. If not, yell “I NEED MORE APPLES!”
Rule 3: Before pumping pomace into the bags, align the press frame, bags and plates equidistant to ensure even filling without overfilling.
Rule 4: Fill bags fast, equal, and full. FEF!
(Ed. Note: The pomace pump shouldn’t be stop-started frequently which is bad for the motor. Aim for one start-up per fill/pressing.)
Rule 5: SWITCH PRESS DIRECTION IMMEDIATELY UPON BAG FILL.
Rule 6: Equalize bags as soon as switch as occured.
(Ed. Note: This means that you’re sticking your fingers and hands into the bag openings while they’re being pressed, so be aware of getting your fingers pinched, crushed, and amputated.)
Rule 7: Start scraping bags as soon as your scraping paddle can fit between press bag plates (roughly one third to one half through the press).
Rule 8: Before dumping, shake and align press frame, bags and plates equidistant to ensure room for pomice cakes to exit during dump.
Rule 9: Dump the press bags when there is still 4-6 inches left on the currently-pressing run, as measured on the throw of the piston.
Rule 10: Dump the press bags with momentum to make certain bags empty on one attempt rather than having to bounce the racks multiple times.
Rule 11: Keep spent pomace dumping bins clear as to allow pomace cakes to empty freely.
Rule 12: Monitor the fermentation tank to ensure there is no overfill.
Rule 13: ALWAYS THINK ABOUT RULE 1!
Jason presses one bin of apples in a little under 25 minutes using the above techniques, which includes quite a bit of sitting and waiting for the hydraulics to press. We have the Squeezebox’s vernier speed control knobs adjusted to maximum speed which equates to about a 3 minute press time. We are currently looking for replacement control units which would allow a faster maximum cycle time. The above times and processes are based on high quality dessert fruit. For lower quality dessert fruit, we still keep up a fast pace but switch out the press bags at the shift change. Having two sets of press bags is a requirement to reaching a fast pace continuously.