While my kids loved the hay tunnels and corn stalk maze and the hay ride around the orchard, my favorite part of visiting Soergel's this year was the cider press demonstration.
First, they use a forklift to bring in a huge bin full of different varieties of apples and dump them into a holding area at the start of a conveyor belt.
The apples are fed into the machine which rinses them and carries them up the ladder to be ground up by a very loud "food processor". I had always envisioned whole apples being pressed, but now this makes much more sense!
The apple "mush" is then pumped into trays lined with canvas. When each tray is filled, the canvas is wrapped around the apples and another tray of apple mush is made on top until they have about a dozen trays of apple mush all stacked on top of one another. The trays are then pressed between the "floor" and "ceiling" of the machine and all of the liquid is captured in the tray around the "floor" of the press. The liquid is then pumped through tubes into a large holding tank where it is pasteurized and then bottled. One batch of trays will make about 300 gallons of cider (I think that's what they said). The pulp/fiber left over is as dry as cardboard and they use it as mulch which eventually returns the organic matter to the soil. Pretty cool, huh?