Pressed For Success
Register Guard Article, October 2006
'Cider Bob' creates handcrafted apple presses and
Robert Correll likes to say that he doesn't just make
apple presses, he makes memories. "I feel so grateful that
I'm able to be a part of so many people's lives," says the
man who's been called Cider Bob and the Johnny Appleseed
of apple presses.
There have been at least 3,050 memories made by Correll.
That's how many presses the former inventory control
specialist from Elmira has produced. Of course the real
number of people who have been touched by Correll's
handcrafted wooden presses is much greater.
Cider making is an intrinsically social activity, best
undertaken in small groups, and Correll's presses have
been used by countless church groups, neighborhood groups,
farm collectives and small businesses. They are also,
arguably, the best small presses you can buy. So says
Sally Herman, a farmer from Salem who recently purchased
one of Correll's presses.
"It's a dream machine, no doubt," she says. "We pressed
some cider with another machine a couple of years ago and
had to chop all the apples (by hand). This one's fast,
it's easy, it's portable, easy to clean. It does a really
Herman isn't the only one who thinks Correll's presses
are special. Last year an article in Forbes Magazine
declared it the best small press on the market. A Northern
California company was so impressed with the design that
they licensed it for production, and Correll has had
orders from all over. Locally, there are Correll presses
at Dorris Ranch, Mount Pisgah Arboretum, Buford Park and
in numerous other barns, sheds and warehouses.
Correll started off selling mainly to buyers in apple
growing regions in the Northwest such as Yakima, Wash.,
but he has since branched out to other parts of the
country, not to mention Costa Rica, New Zealand, Poland,
France and Malaysia.
"This is my niche. This is God given," says Correll, who
recently celebrated his 75th birthday with an apple
turnover his wife baked. "This isn't just what I do, this
is who I am."
Correll grew up in Ellensberg, Wash. So did his wife,
Glinda, who says Correll was the first boy who ever kissed
her. He's also the second-generation apple press maker in
his family. In the early 1970s, he persuaded his father to
begin making presses as a way to earn money for
retirement. When his father died in 1974, Correll began
teaching himself the craft. He quickly surpassed the 22
machines his father had sold and quit his day job. "I was
worried about our income," Glinda recalls. "It took a
while (to make money), but he is who he is and I accept
Today, Correll says he lives debt free, and it's all
because of apple presses. He shows off the two cars he
bought, the house he owns clear and outright, and the
converted goat barn that serves as his workshop. He
constructs almost every part of his presses himself, right
down to the steel teeth on the apple grinders that chew
right through Jonagolds, Fujis and Braeburns.
Correll builds his presses 10 at a time, working on each
part in shifts. In one corner he punches holes in strips
of stainless steel that will eventually wrap around the
baskets that contain the apple grindings. Just outside the
door are the baskets themselves. They've been dipped in
protective urethane and are hanging to dry.
"Every job is a self portrait," reads a sign hanging from
a post. "Autograph it with quality." Correll's workshop is
a monument to his own ingenuity, filled with all sorts of
self-made tools and modified spaces. He talks about the
time he took the tip of a finger off with one of his
joiners, and why he settled on four rows of blades on his
apple grinding mechanism.
"I tried eight rows and the apple just sat up there and
bounced around," he says. "It's all been a process of
Correll started making his presses with oak, but later
switched to ash when the price of wood began to climb. He
says ash - the same wood used to make baseball bats - has
a built-in resiliency and is about half the price of oak.
But it's clear that price is not the main concern for
Correll. If he suspected diamonds were a better material
for breaking up apples and releasing the juices, you get
the feeling that he'd probably try them out, too. His
entire focus seems to be building a better apple press.
'I started selling to dealers, and one dealer in
Lewiston, Idaho - he called me and said, 'Mr Correll, I'm
80 years old. If you could only put wheels on them and
handles,' ' Correll recalls. "It's the whole
configuration. They just work better than anybody else's.
A child can (make cider) on my machine."
Correll's presses are now outfitted with those wheels and
handles requested by the man from Idaho. He's made other
minor improvements here and there, but says the design was
largely finalized in the early 1980s.
"I've made over 3,050 and no one's ever returned one," he
Correll's design is more utilitarian that artistic, but
there's a certain beauty in the sturdiness and simple
functionality. A grinder with an electric motor feeds into
two baskets, which rest atop a sloped platform. While one
basket is catching chunks of chewed up apple, the other is
being squeezed by hand with a circular press. The juices
from both baskets are collected and channeled into a
Correll makes several different models, which range in
price from about $600 to $1,200. His higher priced
"heirloom" presses are made with solid Michigan and
Kentucky white ash and bear his signature. Standard
Correll presses are made with a mix of ash and hardwood
plywood. All of the presses are inscribed with the Correll
icon, an apple burned into the wood with a laser. It's one
of the few processes that is contracted out to somebody
Correll's presses are most efficient when operated by
several people working together, which is how Herman and
her family made more than 40 gallons of cider in three
hours; Correll says he recently made 73 gallons in the
same period of time. One of his clients, a small-farm
operator, was making 500 gallons of cider per week, five
months a year. After 40,000 gallons, the group finally
came in to have the grinder blades sharpened. As far as
Correll knows, the machine is still spitting out cider.
When asked how long he plans to continue making cider,
Correll answers with a question of his own.
"How does forever sound?" he asks. "Why would I ever
quit? Unless I got so debilitated that I couldn't handle
Correll is nowhere near that point. He works 12 hours a
day, six days a week, and although Glinda says her husband
works too hard, Correll says he wouldn't have it any other
Herman says Correll's hard work comes through in the
craftmanship of his presses. When she began shopping for a
press of her own, she looked at other brands, but says she
didn't find any that compared with the presses made right
here in Oregon. She points to the quality of the materials
and to Correll's meticulousness.
"If you do something long enough and are into it that
much, you start working out all of the things that can go
wrong," Herman says. "I don't know why anyone would get
Herman is hoping to use her press for a neighborhood
apple pressing party next year. But first she has to pick
up her machine. She is number 86 on the waiting list and
says Correll was nice enough to loan her a machine for her
family's recent cider pressing party. Herman expects to
take possession of her very own Correll cider press next
May. She says she's willing to wait.