For Traditional Cider, Head To The Laundry Room

To celebrate the fall apple season, Freeport, Maine, neighbors Ned Wight and Gino Giumarro decided they wanted to buy a home cider press. But after realizing it would set them back hundreds of dollars, they stumbled onto another, more feasible option: convert a washing machine into an apple press. Five years later, their creation is still churning out cider with the best of the traditional models. Patty Wight sent this audio postcard.

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GUY RAZ, Host:

It's that time of year when the crisp tang of apples lures us into the orchards and then into our kitchens. But when independent producer Patty Wight's husband, Ned, and their neighbor Gino Giumarro decided to make cider, they discovered that traditional presses could cost hundreds of dollars. Unwilling to splurge, they stumbled onto an idea: use a washing machine. From Freeport, Maine, Patty Wight has this audio postcard.

PATTY WIGHT: It all started five years ago with two apple trees dripping with fruit, an old washing machine in a barn, two guys who love to tinker and the Internet.

NED WIGHT: I think it was just somewhere in the Google search, you know, you come across the - a hit that says Whirlpool cider press. And, you know, once you know that exists, you have to have it.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WIGHT: That's Ned Wight. He owns the old washing machine. Gino Giumarro is his neighbor across the street. He has the apple trees.

GINO GIUMARRO: Ned forwarded the link, I think, while I was at work. And I remember just kind of daydreaming about it the rest of the day about how we're going to make this happen with what we've got lying around.

WIGHT: There were no instructions online, so they decided the best place to start was to take apart the top loading Whirlpool circa early 1980s.

So tell me what the washing machine was like when you guys were first taking it apart. What...

WIGHT: Foul inside. All the hoses and the bottom of the tank were just absolutely covered with grime and hair and soap scum.

WIGHT: In fact, the bulk of the 15 or so hours it took to convert the washer into a press were spent scrubbing, degreasing and bleaching. Then, Giumarro says, they moved on to the next challenge: how to get apples in, mash them up and get cider out.

GIUMARRO: I think, generally, we realized that we needed something to take advantage of the spin cycle since it was the fastest setting in the washer.

WIGHT: They removed the blades and replaced them with a flat plywood disk impaled with exposed screws. A plastic pipe directs apples into the washer to be mauled by the spinning disk.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WIGHT: The blunt force trauma is what we're looking for.

GIUMARRO: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WIGHT: Really, you know, we want to be able to bruise the apples, essentially, rather than slice them up. And I think it's that bruising that, you know - between the bruising and the spin cycle, the centrifugal force of that is where we're generating the cider.

GIUMARRO: All right. Ready?

(SOUNDBITE OF WASHING MACHINE)

WIGHT: As the washing machine warms up, Wight explains what happens to the apples.

WIGHT: The apples kind of bounce around on the screws for a second, and then you see little bits shooting out to the side of the drum. This is kind of, you know, it's a little like mayhem, apple mayhem.

GIUMARRO: Yeah. It's a little like, you know, fireworks display here with apples.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WIGHT: And the result is gallons of cider. It spills out where soapy water normally would, the washer drain, and that left Wight and Giumarro with their final challenge: what to do with it all. The answer? A party, of course, now an annual neighborhood event.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: It's been blowing up out of the thing.

CHILD: Oh, juice. Apple juice.

CHILD: Gee whiz.

GIUMARRO: I think it's surprising how good it feels just to be able to take something that's been going unused and make it into something useful.

WIGHT: That's Gino Giumarro's take on the washing machine cider press. But Ned Wight? Well, he relishes its oddness.

WIGHT: This wouldn't fall into the category of like a machine or something well designed or engineered. Like, you look at it, you see it running, and it's a contraption, which is really fun.

WIGHT: And an economical one at that. All told, the converted washing machine cider press cost no more than $10. For NPR News, I'm Patty Wight.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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