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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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