Our cidermakers love to marry traditional techniques with state of the art technology to create ciders that are smooth, fresh and full of flavour.
Straight from the orchards, our apples are delivered and tipped into our apple bays. Every load is weighed, quality checked and graded. We test sugar levels before picking to ensure only the highest quality fruit enters the mill.
The apples are floated into the mill, washed and mashed. The mash is pressed to extract the juice. We have five Bucher Guyer presses which benefit from the most advanced technology to enhance the efficiency of the press.
When we installed our hydraulic press in the early 1950s, about six tonnes of apples could be pressed in one day! Before that, Stan would press two tonnes of fruit a day – one in the morning and one in the evening. By the 1970s five men could press up to 40 tonnes a day.
The pressing season starts in September and runs until November each year.
During fermentation, our special yeast is added to the apple juice, to turn sugar into alcohol.
Our temperature controlled, fermentation tanks are controlled by a bespoke system which allows us to make consistent quality cider to our exacting standards – bringing out all the natural apple character and flavours.
The cider stays in the fermentation tanks for 8 days.
We have 11 oak vats, each over 150 years old. Each vat is over 30 ft. tall, constructed from three inch oak staves, bound with thick steel bands that have to be regularly tightened. Coopers hand crafted the vats from English oak. It would have taken three fully grown trees to make each vat. Our largest vat holds around 135,500 pints of cider.
The oak vats help give our ciders their distinctive character. After fermentation the cider is racked to separate it from the yeast. The cider is then matured in our oak vats for around six weeks. Here the tannins gradually become soft and smooth, enhancing the mellow and rich tones of the cider while it matures.
The cider in the vats is tasted every Friday by our cider makers. Only when they say it is ready – and only then – does the cider leave the vats to be blended ready for packaging. It’s not an exact science so we may leave it to mature for a bit longer to make sure it’s perfect. Every vat has its own character – they are very precious assets.
Around 20 million bubbles are added to each pint of cider with our carbonation system. – Thatchers