Geissberger Farmhouse Cider has gone mobile

This cidery in Clarington, Ontario, is keeping up with the times by providing a mobile cider pressing service to Durham region farmers and farm markets.

The first of its kind in Ontario and the first one east of the Rockies, Geissberger Farmhouse Cider’s mobile mill is an all-in-one washing, pressing, pasteurizing and packaging facility on a 16-foot trailer powered by a 24-kilowatt, three-phase diesel generator. The mobile mill processes and packages 40 bushels of apples per hour, generating over 132 gallons of cider per hour.

Mobile mill
Geissberger Farmhouse Cider’s mobile mill. Photo credit: Emily Pochubay, MSU Extension

Apples are washed in the mobile mill prior to arriving at the grinding station. Apples are then crushed into a “mash” that is pumped into a hydraulic rack and cloth press where the juice is extracted. The juice is filtered through the cloth and flows into a holding tank to await pasteurization. During the pasteurization process, juice is heated to 170.6 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 10 seconds.

Rack and cloth press
Rack and cloth press. Photo credit: Geissberger Farmhouse Cider

The mobile mill uses bag-in-box packaging, which is different from the typical clear plastic jugs we use for sweet cider here in Michigan, according to Michigan State University Extension. This system places pasteurized cider into 5-liter plastic bags, each equipped with a tap; bags are then placed into individual boxes. Think “box-o-wine” and you can visualize this system.

Bag filling
Mobile mill’s bag filling station. Photo credit: Geissberger Farmhouse Cider

Using this packaging method, freshly pressed cider is not exposed to air, which increases shelf life up to one year if the box remains unopened and for up to three months after opening. Furthermore, preservatives and refrigeration are not necessary using bag-in-box. As this concept was unique to Ontario, Geissberger Farmhouse Cider earned the 2013 Food Innovation Award from the Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association for their bag-in-box sweet cider.

Geissberger brothers
Garry (left) and Gord (right) Geissberger holding bag-in-box sweet cider. Photo credit: Geissberger Farmhouse Cider

Geissberger brothers Gord and Garry first learned of mobile mills after contacting a commercial fruit processing manufacturer in Austria. Their interests in the mobility of the mill and the storage qualities of bag-in-box juices were the deciding factors for purchasing a mobile mill from a producer in British Columbia, Canada.

“There are only four mobile cider mills in Canada and each of them are different,” said Gord. This variability between each new unit is a result of producer input that incorporates improvements suggested by mobile mill owners.

According to Gord, the mobile mill is more efficient than their previous business model. For over 40 years, farmers brought apples to the Geissberger family for processing. Bringing the mobile mill to farms and farm markets saves their customers fuel and time. In return, the Geissbergers request the customers supply one assistant to help two Geissberger Farmhouse Cider employees with pressing and clean up.

Mobile mill customers must also have a certified potable water supply and, for economic efficiency, a minimum of 120 bushels of apples for pressing. Cleanup is a two-hour process involving a high-pressure, heated-water wash of the stainless steel and food grade plastic equipment.

Geissberger Farmhouse Cider received their mobile mill in October 2012. However, this is their first year of mobile mill cider production due to major apple crop losses last year. “It worked well because we were able to learn how to use it and how to create a good cider,” said Gord.

Mobile mill
Making cider at Smiths’ Apple Farm. The mobile mill trailer walls prop open on three sides for easy viewing. Photo credit: Geissberger Farmhouse Cider

As of Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, the mobile mill is still making cider. “We ask [the growers] to put us up front,” said Gord, “so the kids can see that a good apple cider is just the juice squeezed from apples with no sugar or water added.”

Watch the mobile mill in action on Geissberger Farmhouse Cider’s website.

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