The Cider Crate

Over the weekend we caught up with the family and convinced them to drink some beer. Not just any beer though, it had to have a swing cap! I wanted everyone to drink a certain dutch beer so I could collect the empties and use them for my cider making exploits. So, after a successful and relaxing weekend I was left with another 8 swing cap bottles. The only thing now was how to carry them all? Enter, the home-made cider crate.

Ready for some brew

I wanted the crate to be big enough to hold 6 beers/ciders and light enough so that we could take it to family/friends places and not look like a beer merchant. It also had to be cheap because as far as self sufficient products are concerned alcohol is not really crucial, therefore I don’t want to spend too much on it.

The Process

Thinking and Planning time

The first thing I did was grab a bottle and some timber. I didn’t want to pay for timber so I went for a drive to look for some pallets. I found a few which were dripping wet and too thick anyway so I kept thinking. Then I realised that Lauren had just used some pine boards for her Tae Kwon Do grading, which were the perfect size for my crates, although they were a little split and chipped :).

The wooden beer crates that I have seen before are often designed to carry many beers in the back of a truck so I decided to use a modified design and scale it down.

An important step that I usually take when building something out of timber is to make a cut list. This cut list is undertaken after i have double measured everything and figured out a design. The cut list for this simple crate is: (L) = Length, (w) = width, (t) = thickness – All expressed in millimeters

4  horizontal long sides + 2 long floor slats –  250 (L) x 50 (w) x 12 (t)

4 vertical pieces – 140 (L) x 50 (w) x 12 (t)

4 horizontal end pieces – 150 (L) x 50 (w) x 12 (t)

Equipment – nails/screws (approx 30) to suit your timber size, wood glue, jigsaw/table saw/band saw/handsaw, drill/screw driver.

Construction steps

Dry assembly

1. I found the easiest way to start was to dry assemble the 2 floor boards, the 2 ends and the 2 sides, this way you can see where the verticals should be attached (see photo).

2. Glue and nail/screw the verticals to the 2 end pieces making sure that the 2 end pieces sit on top of the 2 floor boards.

3. Glue and nail/screw the two lower sides to the two end pieces, making sure that they sit up 12mm off the ground, which should make them even in height to the 2 end pieces (This forms the basic structure)

4. Flip the crate over and place the two long floor pieces onto the base

Nearly done

structure. These long pieces will not cover the floor, this ensures drainage if needed and lessens the weight. I found that leaving a 13mm gap between the edge of the crate and the floor pieces meant that the floor pieces lined up with the middle of the bottles, which will be sitting on the floor pieces.

5. Keep the crate upside down and glue, nail/screw the two remaining side pieces.

Bottles ready for filling and storing

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The First Post! – Cider Making

Well here we are, the first post. I thought I would start the blog with a bit of fun and hopefully some success – Cider making.

Ready for a brew

At the end of this post I will have 1 glass carboy full of fermenting apple juice, which will  eventually be bottled and stored for future use. This recipe makes alcoholic cider therefore you HAVE to be of legal age to make and drink the stuff. At the end of brewing we should have a little under 5 Litres of alcoholic cider.

Cider can be made using pure apple juice or a blend of apple and pear juice (Perry cider). If you are reading this from Australia you may have notice some different flavoured ciders on the shelf of your local liquor store, such as strawberry, mixed berry and even cinnamon (great warm!). These ciders are usually made as an apple or perry cider and infused with different flavours. For the purpose of simplicity and to lower the costs of making cider this recipe will be made with preservative free, cloudy apple juice bought from your local supermarket.

In the future we hope to establish some apple and pear trees to produce fruit for eating, cider making and for selling at the local farmers markets.

For those of you who currently live in an apple growing region or who own some apple trees you can easily make your own cider from juicing or crushing your own fruit. I have read that a good mix of apples for cider making is 40-60% neutral/low-acid apples, 10-20% medium-high acid, 10-20% aromatic and 5-20% tannin apples.

The first step for this brew is to gather up the ingredients and utensils:

Equipment and ingredients

Brewing Utensils (approx $30.00 exc hydrometer)

1 x 5L glass Carboy (see photo above), plastic brewing tub, ceramic jug, etc

1 x Airlock for the above brew vessel

1 x Brewing hydrometer (not essential)

1 x 5L cloudy or clear pure apple juice (MUST be preservative free or the yeast we are adding may die). Leave the juice out of the fridge until it reaches roughly 20-24°C/68-72°F

1 x sachet (5g) of Champagne yeast (use 1/4 of a pack per 2L of juice)

1 x sterilizing solution/powder (available from brewing/food container supply shops)

Bottling Utensils (cost varies largely depending on the type of bottle)
(If making a still cider you don’t have to bottle your cider, you can simply add a tap to your carboy after fermentation has ceased and help yourself at will)

1 x Food grade plastic siphon (can be a bit of plastic tube roughly 90cm long)

– Assorted swing top bottles (I will be using 450ml swing cap beer bottles that i have slowly been drinking/collecting – see photo. Bottles with corks or beer caps can also be used, however if you are adding sugar to get a fizzy cider then bottles that can withstand pressure are needed).

1 x 2g fine, white sugar per 450ml bottle (If you don’t want a fizzy cider then you wont be adding this sugar)

Lets do it!

Step 1 – For interest sake I tested my apple juice using a hydrometer, it should read 1035-1050, if it doesn’t you can water it down a little. This reading will be used to measure the alcohol content after fermentation and is more important when crushing or juicing different apple varieties (my juice measured 1040).
An important step is to sterilize all equipment to be used, according to the instructions on your cleaning kit (usually just the carboy at this stage – DONT place the carboy in the oven or boiling water to sterilize).

Step 2 – Next I added roughly 4.8 L of room temp, pure, preservative free apple juice (I am going to use a sweet apple juice in my

Champagne yeast

next brew) to the carboy making sure there was about 5cm of head space between the juice and the airlock (if using a funnel make sure its sterilized/cleaned in the correct solution). The temp of the juice helps the yeast start to do their job.

Step 3 – Throw in a bit over half a pack of yeast and seal the lid with the airlock. Swish gently to remove any yeast that has stuck to the neck of the carboy (fill the airlock with sterilized water or alcohol – the liquid in the airlock will bubble as the air is slowly released from the carboy during fermentation). Using the EC-1118 yeast should produce a dry cider with an alcohol content of 6-8%.

Step 4 – Store the carboy at room temp and wait roughly 2-3 weeks until fermentation (bubbling) ceases. On the side of the carboy I will write the start/end date, hydrometer reading before/after fermentation and what the brew is. This way I can keep a record of every brew I make.