Destemmer/crusher modifications

The great grape destemmer/crusher is in need of some modifications.  

When I dropped the first grapes in, I received a face full of grapes back.  The front auger spun such that you had to perfectly time when the bunch was dropped in.  Otherwise, some would get flung back.  So, I created an angled “chute.”  This a ½” plywood box internally covered with 1/8” HDPE with 45 degree angles cut on the sides.  I placed a ½” plywood kickstand for the chute as well to hold it in place.  When the grapes go down the chute, anything that gets flung back does not make it back up the angle.    This effectively solved the problem.  However, there was another problem at the end of the destemmer basket.  Grapes were flying out the end.  I tend to get grapes in tight bunches, so there were a lot of berries flying out to the left and right of the machine.  To solve this problem, I removed the last two fingers and built another box chute for the end.  Again, this is ½” plywood covered with 1/8” HDPE plastic.  This attaches to the rear cross brace for the destemmer rod with a couple screws.  Now, when grapes try to fly out at the end, they hit the sides of the chute and fall into a waiting basket to go back through the destemmer.

angled chute optimized

After having run three seasons through this machine, I find there are two shortfalls to the design.  The first is its lack of speed in processing.  You can’t just dump a lug in and walk away.  Bunches have to be fed one at a time, which limits the output.  It takes about 1 hour to do 500 lbs with 2 people.  One person feeds the bunches in and the other hands them lugs.  If I was looking for more output, I would have to make more modifications (longer basket perhaps).  Luckily, I only ever make up to 500 lbs. at a time.  The second shortfall is the height of the machine.  Due to the requirement that the bucket fit under the rollers, the person who feeds the grapes must stand on a ladder in order to feed in the bunches of grapes.  It would be faster and safer if that function was closer to the ground.  Obviously, this would remove the ability to place my actual fermenters under the machine.  I would have to either manually transfer the must or buy a pump to move it if I decided to make this modification.