2013 Pressing

Zac and Aaron empty another trailer

We have set ourselves a hard target of doubling production again this year.  We have achieved this on each of the last two years but it is going to be more difficult this year.  We will need to press 40 tonnes of apples to produce 20,000 litres of juice.

Our two workers this season are Aaron from the US and Zac from Sweden – they are the A to Z of cider-makers.

To reach our target, we have invested in some new equipment.  We have a second-hand potato hopper to store and slow feed fruit into the pressing shed.  We have a brand new washer-mill and the old press has been pimped-up with a hydraulic ram.


BBC Glasto

A BBC crew were making a story on Pilton & the festival and wanted to talk to local business. Our cider bar duly popped up for the occassion. Catch the clip on the One Show 28 & 29 June.

Glasto Pop-up Cider Bar


Tasting Tasting

After a slow start to the spring, our cider is finally ready and we have been out and about giving it away to the unsuspecting public.

Shaftesbury Food Festival


Nice Dragons

Our stand at the Farm Shop & Deli Show 2013

Our marketing plan for this year is to attend selected trade shows, to find new stockists for Pilton. The Farm Shop & Deli Show at the NEC in Birmingham is aimed at exactly our type of people.

We built the stand ourselves with stacks of cider crates, bottles and the ice bowl, finished off with a generous run of plush material.

A key event at this show is the Dragon’s Pantry, which is a foodie take on the TV version, where producers present to top people in the food industry. We were thrilled, and scared, to be asked to take part.

Great Crates

Champagne lies down in a box, Cider stands up in a crate – we need crates… off to the workshop.

Making cider crates in the 'workshop'


Big Bags

Our target is to press 25 tonnes of apples this year, most of which will be delivered by tractor trailer and off-loaded to await pressing.  We have experimented with apple boxes but they are expensive and bulky to store so we have gone for these great drop-bottom bulk bags.  They are custom made by www.centurionbulkbags.co.uk but were delivered within a week and at a great price.

The bags hold about 300kg each and just fit over our wash tank when dangling from the tractor forks.  The entire bottom of the bag opens when you pull the string to undo the knot.

Help Exchange

We have a new worker – Alexis has come from France to help us during the apple pressing season. The deal was done through www.helpx.net which is a great website that matches vacancies with workers. People provide free labour in return for food & accommodation and the chance to experience a new language and culture.

Alexis, aged 22, is on his gap year and keen to improve his English and discover some new skills – including cider-making! It seems to be a great arrangement, he works really hard and we now have some great French music in the press shed.

In return we have taken him out to discover the Somerset experiences of Glastonbury Tor, the Hunters Lodge and Roger Wilkins with a trip to Bath planned for next week.

Pressing Time

Apple season is here again – is it really a year since last time?

The first apples are falling and we have been out in the orchards collecting already. Unfortunately, the fruit is not really ripe enough for pressing just yet and it will have to be stored in the dry for a few weeks, until the sugars develop completely.

Which is just as well as the press shed is not ready for pressing yet.  I still have to finish putting down the timber floor and hope to get the new hydraulics connected to the press any day soon.  There always seems to be plenty of time to do these jobs in the summer but then they never get done until the last minute…

Great Taste Awards

Pilton has won a 2-star gold at the Great Taste Awards.  Hurrah! Hooray!

The judges said this:

Good aroma and good mousse. The nose is nice and fine. Good colour and lovely clarity.  Rich, natural sweetness; fruity and fresh; nice mouthfeel with little bubbles. Good balance.

Of the 8,807 products judged, 2,039 received 1-star,  631 received 2-stars, and 123 received 3-stars.

More info at www.greattasteawards.co.uk

Striking Gold in the West

There was great excitement on the bottling line today when news came through that we have won two Golds at the Taste of the West Awards.

We had entered both this year’s cider and some of last year’s 2010 vintage and are really pleased that both have received the highest  credit at the South West’s product awards.

Big apples at the big show

Our big apple bar had its first outing at the Bath & West Show last week.

Home to the biggest cider competition in the world, the Bath & West is the main event in the UK’s cider world.  Anyone who is anyone in the cider industry is there.  Tree growers, barrel makers, book authors, experts and first timers all meet up together in the Orchards & Cider tent.

For once, we were able to offer customers a choice; we still had some of the 2010 vintage left and the first of the 2011 cider was ready.

The first few days of the show were quiet with school children not yet on holiday but on Saturday things were really busy. (more…)

Smart Boxes

Our new boxes were delivered today. Nicely printed with the Pilton Cider apple scribble, they look so much smarter than the standard issue ones we have been using until now.

The minimum order quantity was 2,500 though, which will be enough to last us a year. With the last year’s cider stacked in bottles and this year’s cider still fermenting the cider cellar is now officially full.

at Harvey Nic’s

We added a new stockist to our list this week, none other than the designer fashion and beauty department store Harvey Nichols.

The shop is better know for its Cartier than its cider but does have a trendy food market stocking the very best in just about everything.

Easy Pickings

Picking apples in T-Shirt and shorts, with sun tan cream and salad sandwiches – can this really be Somerset in October?


The season is not going completely smoothly for everyone this year. Our orcharding friends down the road had a problem today when their first load of the day slipped into a ditch.

The lane had been plastered with mud by tractors harvesting the maize so there was no grip to be had at all.

Forward, reverse, pull or push; nothing would move the trailer.  Even a monster four wheel drive John Deere tractor could not do it.

Chillin at the Show

The Pilton Cider Bar had its first outing at Shepton Show on Sunday and proved to be a great success.

The bar was a custom canopy designed by the talented Tony Hogg and built by Fabric Works in Cheddar.  It kept the sun off the cider and made an attractive entrance off the busy thoroughfare.

On the Shelf

Pilton Cider finally arrived in local shops this week.  It seems to have taken a very long time but it just had to be right before it is was allowed out on its own.

We have been testing the cider every week since bottling to check how the fermentation was going and it has now developed enough fizz but still has loads of fantastic apple flavour.

Cider shed gig

I have been worrying about the cider, sitting all alone in the cider shed.  Slowly maturing for months.  Bottles lined in rows.  Stacked on pallets.  It must be just so bored.  So the lads and I decided to put on some entertainment; just for the cider.

We played some Al Green, we played Wilson Pickett.  We played Jace Everett and even some Undertones.

…and do you know what?  I think the cider really appreciated it, it tasted good when we started but it tasted even better by the time we had finished!

Bottle-Filling Fun

Well that’s bottling finished for another year.

  • 4,000 bottles filled
  • 9 volunteer staff
  • 5 days hard labour
  • 6 bottles broken
  • 32 doughnuts eaten

Some photos of the action below:


First bottles

The corks have arrived from France, the bottles have been delivered from London and the cider is ready; so it is Bottling Time!

With an all new system, we took it easy on the first day and tested out a number of configurations to find the best: one person on bottle-washing, one on filling and a third on corking & wiring with everyone changing jobs at tea-break.

Prune Down

Another day of orchard pruning was completed today, with perfect crisp clear winter weather, it was a joy to be out.

We prune traditionally planted cider trees for shape, ‘from the top, down’.  The aim being to have a gradually tapering trunk, going all the way down from a central tip to the ground. Fruit-bearing branches radiate out down the centre leader, making wide strong angles with the trunk.

Italian Import

Wahoo – It feels like Christmas! A new stainless steel tank arrived today, direct from the manufacturers Toscana Inox, in Italy.  Having been frustrated by the poor service and high prices of UK suppliers, I decided to cut out the middlemen and tracked down the maker themselves. (more…)

Wassail Hash

Today is 17th January, which is of course the old twelfth night and the night of  Wassailing, a strange and mystic ceremony performed in orchards to scare away bad spirits in the hope of encouraging a good harvest in the coming year.

To celebrate, a Wassail Hash was held across three of our cider orchards with hashing being almost as strange an activity as wassailing. This involves runners following a trail of flour across footpaths and lanes in the hope of finding their way back to the starting point. (more…)

On the Move

Today was the day for moving the cider into our new premises at the Anglo Trading Estate. This is a fantastic complex of Victorian buildings, built in 1864 to house the Anglo-Bavarian Brewery and now home to Brothers Drinks, Haskins Furniture and a number of other local firms.

Our building is of solid stone construction with a single north-facing window; perfect for the cool, stable temperatures required for making craft cider. Not that there seems much danger of anything overheating in the current cold snap. (more…)

Bulk Delivery

Our largest ever delivery of apples arrived today; four tonnes direct from the Platterwell Lane orchard.  The trailer contained a great mixture of bittersweet and bittersharp varieties, of all shapes, colours and sizes; tiny bright green ones, giant orange ones and knobbly red ones. (more…)

Museum Discovery

Several years ago when the Shepton Mallet cider mill was still owned by Showerings, they made the prudent step of planting a ‘museum orchard’ to preserve some of the rarer varieties of cider apple.

Somerset’s cider apple experts searched the old orchards and planted a new one immediately behind the factory. Unfortunately, however, the business changed hands soon after and the orchard was sold off as part of a private estate. (more…)

First Apples

And so it starts!

Today we collected the first tonne of apples of the new season from the Pylle Halt orchard. We had lovely warm sunshine and only a gentle breeze so it was a real joy to be out.

The Yarlington Mill and Harry Masters Jersey have cropped very well this year but will still need a few weeks in storage yet to fully ripen. (more…)