How to Choose a Wine Grape Press!


Choosing a Press

There are basically two types of wine press in the world: Basket Presses (also called Ratchet Presses) and Bladder Presses. The essential concept behind a wine press is to separate the juice or fermented wine (depending on if you're doing reds or whites) from the skins, seeds and pulp that make up the solid parts of the grape. This is done by squeezing (rather than, say, a centrifuge...).  Customers will basically be choosing between the nicer features of a bladder press or the low price of a basket press, then selecting the appropriate size for their needs.  We love bladder presses.  Let's take a closer look at why:
Bladder presses have several distinct advantages over basket presses.  To see the most important difference you need to understand the basic way the two different styles of press function.  We'll go over them in broad strokes here, and for more info or if these descriptions aren't clear then you can check out our instuction manuals for these types of presses in the MoreManuals section of the wine website.

Basket Presses: Basket Presses work by squeezing the grapes or must from the top and bottom.  The must or whole bunches of grapes are placed inside the wooden basket until it is pretty full, then two half-moon shaped blocks of wood are set on top of the fruit. 2"x2" blocks are then stacked on top of the moons log cabin style until they reach out above the height of the top of the basket. An iron ratcheting assembly (hence the name "ratchet press") is threaded down the center shaft of the press until it  settles against the wood blocks.  Then a handle is inserted in the ratchet assembly and used to push the wooden blocks down on top of the press with a ratcheting motion.  By nature working this way yields one of two results: 1) In order to get every last drop of wine/juice out of the grapes the customer ratchets down pretty hard on the fruit. This causes extra pressure to be put on the seeds and any stems present, extracting harsh or bitter flavors into the wine; or 2) In order to avoid these undesirable flavors the customer does not ratchet down so hard on the fruit.  As a result they leave behind perfectly good wine or juice.

Bladder Presses: Bladder Presses work by squeezing the must or grapes from the inside (center of the press) outward.  As a result of this the entire lot of fruit receives the same amount of pressure during pressing, meaning the customer does not have to choose between maximum yield and maximum quality.   Additionally, bladder presses are faster to run per press cycle. That means that the customer can purchase a smaller press then they would need to with a basket press and simply run it more times in a day, which in turn means that the press is easier to store the rest of the year. Bladder presses are also easier to use and to move around. The ratcheting of a basket press gets pretty tiring after a while, and the component parts of the press are all very heavy and unwieldy. Overall the bladder press is a much more user-friendly experience. A word about Speidel Brand Bladder Presses: Speidel was the original inventor of the bladder press and is the only German manufacturer.  All the other bladder presses available in the market are made in Italy. There are a few key differences between the Italian and the German presses:

  • Slotted Screens: The German press uses a slotted screen rather than a perforated one, which helps eliminate splatter during the pressing and hence reduces oxidation of the wine during the press
  • Heavy Duty Hardware: The hardware, valves, pressure gauge and pressure relief valves on the Speidel press are higher quality than their Italian counterparts.
  • Recessed Hardware: The valve assembly on the Speidel press is recessed back underneath the press' basin.  This is an advantage because it eliminates the chance of damage if the press is knocked over, as well as eliminating the chance of damage to either you or the press when you hit you ankle/shin on the exposed valves (this WILL happen if you work with an Italian press, and it will hurt one or both of you - trust me, I've been there).

Sizing a Press

Sizing a press comes down to an intersection of 3 different questions: How much do I have to press? How much can I press at once with a given size of press? and How long will each press cycle take? As with the crushing/destemming part of winemaking (and pretty much every other part of winemaking for that matter), the setup and cleanup will represent a significant portion of the day, so you don't want to plan on spending 8 hours presssing unless you feel like working a 12 hour day.  In general you want to be able to get through the entire lot of wine or grapes in about 5 hours.

Keep in mind that when you're pressing must it will be between 30% and 35% solids.  As you fill the press most of the liquid will flow right through and out   referred to as free run wine/juice. So the volume of the press is going to correspond to the volume of solids that need to be pressed.  For example, if you have 100 gal of fermented must to press, that only corresponds to about 35 gal worth of solids. To press 35 gal of solids through the 40L bladder press (10.6 gal) you would need to run about 3 press cycles in order to get the job done. If you can run a full press cycle on the 40L bladder press in about 45 minutes - which, as it happens, you can - then this press will totally do the trick.

Now seems like a good time to define what I mean by "press cycle." A full press cycle consists of filling the press, pressing, emptying the press and cleaning and sanitizing it for the next run. Now all you need to be able to figure out which press is right for the customer is to know how long the press cycle is for each model that we carry.

Keep in mind that times for running press cycles do vary based on the customer's equipment physical set up, practice, preparation and level of expertise. The two most time consuming parts of the process are 1) filling the press, and 2) actually pressing. With the bladder press this essentially consists of waiting for the bladder to fill...

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