Bladder Press Review

Wine equipment — By on October 13, 2007 at 3:00 pm

What is a bladder press?

The bladder press is different from the normal ratchet press.  A bladder press uses a “water balloon” that expands out to press the grapes.   The water comes from your garden hose.  The bladder expands uniformly and allows the pressure to be applied against a larger surface area which results in more juice extracted from the press.  The press is also much gentler to the grapes.  A ratchet press can crack grape seeds, which might give off flavors for your wine.  A ratchet press applies pressure from above, so the surface area of the pressure is reduced.  This leads to lower extraction of juice.

The bladder press

The Enotecnica Pillan bladder press

Enotecnica Pillan Italian Press

We tried a 40L Italian Press manufactured by Enotecnica Pillan SNC.  The press comes with a stand, a stainless steel basket, the bladder, a plastic gunny sack, and a plastic bag.  The gunny sack is used to help keep the solids from pushing through the steel basket and the plastic bag goes over the press to prevent squirting liquids.

When we first got it set up, we were very confused on how to connect the garden hose.  There was no female connector to connect to.  The poorly written instructions proved to be very confusing, since English was not the author’s native language.  There is a diagram showing where to connect the garden hose, but no indication “how” to connect the hose.  We thought a part must be missing, until we stumbled on a “add on” from St. Pats.  The connector is an “add on”, and confirmed that we were missing a part.  Luckily we were able to put something together with a few parts from Home Depot.

We bought some tubing to fit the nipple on the press, and a second nipple which would connect to a female water hose connector.  We also needed some tubing for the water discharge.  Once we added these parts to the press, we were ready to go.

This is part I had to build so I could connect it to my hose

This is part I had to build so I could connect it to my hose

The instructions are difficult to read, but they do give some clues on how to assemble the press.  The gunny sack goes on the interior of the stainless steel basket.  It should fit as close to the inner wall of the basket as possible.  This allows for as much room as possible for your fruit.

Once we filled the press with our grapes, everything went smooth.  We replaced the top of the press, and turned on the water.  Make sure you leave the release valve open to allow the water to displace any air in the bladder.  Within minutes the press squeezed every drop of juice out of our grapes.  If you have ever used a ratchet press, you will be amazed at how easy the bladder press is to use.  We waited a few minutes, and realized  the pressure was not going up and the juice had slowed to a trickle.  We decided that it must be complete.

We opened the release from the press.  The pressure from the water released was strong enough to clean a few items.  When we removed the top from the bladder press, we were shocked.  The grape skins inside the basket were almost dry.  The skins felt slightly moist, but not wet.  The skins were pressed into a 1 cm thick wall around the inner wall of the press.  We pressed 100 lbs of Merlot grapes and got 9 gallons of wine.  We also pressed 100 lbs of Cabernet Franc grapes and got 8 gallons of wine.  We were unable to get more than 7 gallons of wine from a ratchet press in previous years.

The remaining grapes were almost dry, like vermiculite

The remaining grapes were almost dry, like vermiculite

The press was very easy to clean.  We simply sprayed everything with the garden hose until it was clean.  The whole process from setup to break down was about an hour.  The actual pressing of the grapes took no more than 10 minutes.  After our last press for the season, we rubbed vegetable oil on the bladder.  This helps the bladder last longer and keep its elasticity.

Conclusion

Despite the instructions, we were very pleased with the press and would recommend it to anyone.  The only negatives we experienced were the instructions and the fact that we had to piece something together to connect it to a garden hose.  If they insist on selling the attachment separately, they should make it clearer to everyone that it is required.  The ease of use and the impressive extraction of juice far outweighed these problems.

I am a avid homebrewer and winemaker. I’ve been making my own beer and wine for many years. I started making beer when I was in college (mostly because the drinking age in the United States is 21). My first few beers were horrible. The beers are much better now, and I often supply my neighborhood with free beer!

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    The perfect addition to your home winemaking equipment – a high-quality, German-made bladder press!

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    The perfect addition to your home winemaking equipment – a high-quality, German-made bladder press!

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    Speidel was the original manufacturer of the bladder press. While similar to the Italian models in operation, Speidel offers a few quality upgrades. To obtain a better press Speidel uses a slotted screen, similar to what is offered on large commercial presses, instead of a screen with circular perforations.

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    Speidel presses also offer superior hardware, a recessed valve assembly (to reduce accidental breakage) and a stainless tripod frame on the 160L model. Note that Speidel offers a 90L model in place of an 80L model. Click here for a PDF of the MoreWine Bladder Press Manual.

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    Try bladder press over a ratchet press anytime. There are much faster,
    effortless, easy to clean, can’t overpress, give more wine. The Joel’s
    press is a 40 L size and you should get a 80L size as a minimum for your
    production. Standard house water pressure are more than enough. You
    only need 3 bar. Use a 80 L bladder press and handle around 1500
    pounds of grapes with it and it work wonderfull. The next size after
    the 80 L is a 160 L and it will probably be too big for your need. For
    proper use, the press need to be almost completely full. However, you
    can simply inflate the bladder before filling it with the grapes when
    you don’t have enough grapes for a full load.