The Brewing Shed

Scratters, mills and big lumps of wood: A Thirsty Gardener’s Guide to apple pulping

As all good (and many bad) cidermakers know, apples require a lot of persuasion before releasing their precious juices. Shoving them whole under a press just wont cut it; you need to crush them first to maximise juice extraction, and thats what an apple mill, or ‘scratter’ is for.
For the odd demijohn or two of cider, you can just about get away with using a food processor, but use one of these when dealing with larger volumes may result in a broken Magimix and tears/angry shouting, hence the need for something more appropriate for the task in hand.

Many low volume cidermakers use garden shredders, but caution is needed when employing one of these due to the significant risk of electrical mayhem with all that apple juice sloshing around inside something not specifically designed for the job. Worse still, garden shredder blades tend to be made from mild steel which will react with the malic acid in the apple juice – the blades will go rusty and your cider will turn green.

You’ll need to decide what method suits; a lot depends on the size of your wallet, your apple stash and the amount of space you can afford to store the equipment during the miserable months outside cidermaking season.

We’ve had first hand experience of using the following mashing machines and implements, so read, digest and go get those pesky apples…


1. A ‘big bit of wood’
Price: A couple of quid.
Available from: Your local wood yard.

Crude? Yes. Effective? Sort of. A 5ft fence post, a pair of arms and a large trug is all you really need to get started. Quarter your apples*, throw them in the trug, bash with stick, repeat.
We modified ours by adding handy handles. We thought this made it look like a pogo stick, thus encouraging children to do the apple smashing for us. We were sadly misguided.

Effectiveness: 5/10
Fun factor: 9/10 for approximately five minutes, then 1/10 for the remainder of the milling session.
Thirsty Gardener rating: 6/10

 2. The ‘Pulpmaster’
Price: £23
Available from: Vigo

Supplied with its own bucket, the propellor-like metal attachment fits onto an electric drill. It’s great for small quantities of apples and makes a fine job of mincing them to an appropriate consistency but as with our advice on using garden shredders, be sure to keep any apple juice away from the electrical innards of your drill.

Effectiveness: 6/10
Fun factor: 4/10
Thirsty Gardener rating: 6/10


3. Vigo Classic Crusher A
Price: £245
Available from: Vigo

Looks like it should play fairground music and come supplied with its own organ-grinding monkey, this marvellous mechanical hand scratter fits directly onto a 12, 20 or 36 litre basket press and will chew through apples as fast as you can crank the wheel, although we found that a steady pace somewhere in between tortoise and hare gives the aluminium teeth the best purchase on the apples.
It works a treat, and is great for developing massive forearms should you ever encounter a gorilla that demands an arm wrestle.

Effectiveness: 7/10
Fun factor: 9/10
Thirsty Gardener rating: 8/10

4. The Vares fruit shark
Cost: £449
Available from: See below

This Czech built fruity predator will devour apples at a rate of 600 kg an hour. Whilst not readily available to purchase in shops, its sole importer can be tracked down on The Cider Workshop. Beware: it’s functional, robust construction harbours many sharp edges. Rich sliced his finger whilst operating his fruit shark a few season ago, resulting in unmarketable ‘rose’ cider and the creation of many new swear words.

Effectiveness: 8/10
Fun factor: 6/10 (marked down for slicing flesh)
Thirsty Gardener rating: 7/10


5. Spiedel Apple Mill
Cost: £745
Available from: Vigo

Widely considered the daddy scratter of small scale cidermaking, this monstrous mill will beast apples at a rate of 1000kg an hour. Big, loud and yellow like an angry banana, it makes a bit of a racket, so operate during the daylight hours or risk incurring the wrath of your neighbours.

Effectiveness: 9/10
Fun factor: 8/10
Thirsty Gardener rating: 9/10


6. Voran WA/LC wash mill
Price: Approx £9500
Available from: Vigo

Money no object? Take your cidermaking to the next level with this weapons-grade fruit mill.
Aimed at commercial cidermakers, this apple-crunching tyrannosaurus will consume, wash and masticate apples for fun. Combine it with a Vigo hydraulic swivel press for a killer setup.

Effectiveness: 10/10
Fun factor: 9/10
Thirsty Gardener rating: 10/10


* Sharp eyed readers will note that the trug in the picture contains whole apples. This is for aesthetic purposes. Do as we say, not as we do.


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