Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 7, 2013

Ag Forum: Cider pressing on the move

BY EMILY POCHUBAY Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Geissberger Farmhouse Cider has gone mobile.

This cidery in Clarington, Ontario, is keeping up with the times by providing a mobile cider pressing service to Durham region farmers and farm markets.

The first of its kind in Ontario, and the first one east of the Rockies, the mobile cider mill is an all-in-one washing, pressing, pasteurizing, and packaging facility on a 16-foot trailer powered by a 24-kilowatt, three-phase diesel generator. The mobile mill processes and packages 40 bushels of apples per hour, generating more than 132 gallons of cider per hour.

Apples are washed in the mobile mill prior to arriving at the grinding station. Apples are then crushed into a ‘mash’ that is pumped into a hydraulic rack and cloth press where the juice is extracted. The juice is filtered through the cloth and flows into a holding tank to await pasteurization. During the pasteurization process, juice is heated to 170.6 degrees for approximately 10 seconds.

The mobile mill uses bag-in-box packaging, which is different from the typical clear plastic jugs typically used for sweet cider in Michigan. This system places pasteurized cider into five-liter plastic bags, each equipped with a tap; bags are then placed into individual boxes. Think ‘box-o-wine,’ and you can visualize this system.

Using this packaging method, freshly pressed cider is not exposed to air, which increases shelf life up to one year if the box remains unopened and for up to three months after opening. Preservatives and refrigeration are not necessary using bag-in-box. As this concept was unique to Ontario, Geissberger Farmhouse Cider earned the 2013 Food Innovation Award from the Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association for their bag-in-box sweet cider.

Geissberger brothers, Gord and Garry, first learned of mobile mills after contacting a commercial fruit processing manufacturer in Austria.

“There are only four mobile cider mills in Canada and each of them (is) different,” said Gord Geissberger.

Mobile mill customers must also have a certified potable water supply and for economic efficiency, a minimum of 120 bushels of apples for pressing. Clean up is a two-hour process involving a high-pressure heated water wash of the stainless steel and food grade plastic equipment.

Geissberger Farmhouse Cider received their mobile mill in October of last year. However, this is their first year of mobile mill cider production due to major apple crop losses last year. “It worked well because we were able to learn how to use it and how to create a good cider,” said Gord.

Watch the mobile mill in action on Geissberger Farmhouse Cider’s website (farmhousecider.ca).

Emily Pochubay is a fruit integrated pest management educator with MSU Extension.