It's hard to argue that fresh juice makes the best drinks. Lemons, limes, and oranges are the most common fruits, and it's only logical to use fresh citrus whenever you can, including in food recipes. The great news is that these are also the easiest fruits to juice.
There are several ways to get fresh juice from citrus fruit, and it takes just a few minutes. Most of the techniques require a tool, though several juicer styles are inexpensive and can be stored in a bar or kitchen drawer.
Prep to Maximize Citrus Juice Yields
Preparing fruit to be juiced is easy: Rinse the peel thoroughly and, in almost every instance, simply cut the fruit in half. The only exception is when you need a "squeeze" of juice, in which case a wedge works best.
There are a couple of steps you can take to get the most juice out of the fruit:
- Warm It: Allowing citrus to reach room temperature before juicing will significantly increase the juice yield. If you refrigerate fruit, set it out for at least 30 minutes. Pop fruit in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds for a quick warm-up.
- Roll It: Before cutting the fruit, roll it under the palm of your hand while pressing firmly down on the countertop.
How Much Juice Is in Citrus Fruit?
Every piece of fruit holds a different amount of juice. Factors such as variety, growing environment, and size impact how much juice a citrus fruit yields. On average, you can expect to get:
- 1 grapefruit = 3/4 cup or 5 to 6 ounces
- 1 orange = 1/4 cup or 2 to 3 ounces
- 1 lemon = 3 tablespoons or 1 3/4 ounces
- 1 lime = 1 tablespoon or 1/2 to 1 ounce
How to Store Citrus Juice
It's best to use fresh citrus juice immediately and squeeze only what you need. However, citrus juice can be stored in the refrigerator for two to three days. Choose glass or food-safe plastic containers with tight-sealing lids. Opaque or dark is better than transparent bottles and jars because light can make the juice go bad faster (it's typically not an issue in a dark fridge). Optionally, freeze citrus juice for a few months. Ice cube trays create convenient servings; transfer to a freezer-safe container once frozen.
Wash Your Hands and Avoid Sunburn
The acids in citrus juices can irritate the skin. If your hands have cuts or rough skin, it is best to wash your hands often during and after juicing. If you're very sensitive, you might even think about wearing gloves. Additionally, if citrus juice remains on your skin and is exposed to direct sunlight, you can get a severe sunburn. It's called phytophotodermatitis or "margarita dermatitis" because it's often associated with making margaritas with lime juice in summer.
A Splash of Fresh Citrus Juice? Just Squeeze It!
Many food and drink recipes call for a splash, squeeze, or squirt of fresh juice. This accent is most often used for lemons and limes and is the easiest juicing technique because it requires no tools other than a knife to cut wedges.
For drinks like the gin and tonic, the wedge is often used as a garnish and allows the drinker to squeeze as much juice as they like. Other cocktails add a splash while mixing the drink, and several food dishes call for a splash when plating.
How to Squeeze Citrus by Hand
- Cut the fruit into wedges (save some for the garnish).
- Hold the wedge over the glass or cocktail shaker between your thumb and fingers.
- Squeeze to release all of the juice from the fruit.
The Hand Squeezer
A citrus squeezer (or hand press) is a handheld tool that uses force to gently squeeze the fresh juices from lemons and limes. It's a favorite among bartenders and chefs because it's quick, efficient, and easy to store. The two arms are held together with a hinge that helps when pressing, all but the tiniest seeds stay in the press, and the juice is typically pulp-free.
This style of citrus juicer is pretty inexpensive and comes in two sizes. The smaller model works specifically for limes and small lemon varieties, while the larger version is suitable for the average lemons and limes. On occasion, you can find one for oranges and larger citrus. When shopping, look for a stainless steel or heavy plastic squeezer. The handles of cheap plastic juicers can snap under normal force.
Use this juicer for recipes that call for "juice of 1/2 a lime" or similar small measurements. You can squeeze the juice directly into a glass or cocktail shaker. When a specific quantity is needed, squeeze over a measuring cup of (very carefully) a cocktail jigger.
How to Juice Citrus With a Squeezer
- Cut the fruit in half.
- Place one half in the press so that the peel faces upward and not toward the curve. (This is counterintuitive but ensures juice doesn't splash into your face.)
- Close the juicer and, using both hands, gently squeeze the two handles together until the fruit releases all of its juice.
The Citrus Reamer
A citrus reamer tends to be more beneficial for food recipes. It's not used frequently for drinks because you need to strain the seeds and pulp. It's also rather messy in comparison to the squeezer. However, it is a cheap gadget that takes up little space, and if it is all you have, it does the trick.
How to Juice Citrus With a Reamer
- Cut the fruit in half.
- Hold one half in the palm of your hand, pulp facing out and at about a 45-degree angle.
- Press the reamer into the pulp, twist to pulverize, and allow the juices to run into a bowl or glass.
- Before mixing drinks, strain the juice using a fine mesh strainer to remove any stray seeds and most of the excess pulp.
The Old-Fashioned Citrus Juicer
Another manual juicer, this is a great way to quickly get a lot of fresh citrus juice on the cheap. These juicers are also small enough to fit in a drawer and do an amazing job at getting the most juice out of fruit.
This style of juicer comes in two main forms. They typically come in one size that will fit lemons, limes, oranges, and smaller grapefruit, though larger versions are available.
- The glass juicer is a classic that cleans up easily and is available in a few sizes. The tray of the larger style holds the juice from several limes or lemon, or one or two oranges and grapefruit. Smaller versions will need to be dumped more often. These are very common to find second-hand and some of the vintage juicers have great style. To ensure seed- and pulp-free juice, a fine mesh strainer may be required.
- The other option is often made of stainless steel and has holes in the bottom of the tray so seed- and pulp-free juice falls directly into a bowl (often included). They take up more space, but are still pretty convenient.
Use this juicer when making large quantities of juice for storage, stocking up for a party, or making a pitcher of fresh lemonade.
How to Juice Citrus With a Manual Juicer
- Cut the fruit in half.
- Place one half, pulp side down, onto the reamer.
- Press firmly and rotate the fruit on the reamer until all of the juice is released.
- Strain through a fine-mesh strainer if needed.
Need A Lot of Citrus Juice? Get a Press
If you are serious about juicing citrus, then a countertop citrus press may be a good investment. It requires manual force and is larger and more expensive, though you will get what you pay for, and it is best to choose a well-built press.
With this style of juicer, you can squeeze a lot of fruit in very little time. It is a perfect option if you have space in the kitchen, love fresh orange or grapefruit juice, and want a minor workout at the same time. This press will produce a pulp- and seed-free juice in most instances, though a strainer may be needed.
How to Juice Citrus With a Press
- Cut the fruit in half.
- Place one half on the reamer, pulp side down.
- Grab the arm and forcefully pull the handle down until all of the juice is released.
Go Electric and Juice it Up!
The final option for getting juice out of citrus fruit is, arguably, the easiest. Some people love electric juicers, and others find manual juicers easier and more efficient.
You can find electric juicers dedicated to citrus and models that include a citrus attachment. The design of either option is essentially the same as any other citrus juicer, though the reamer is rotated or vibrated by an electric motor.
If you are looking for a versatile kitchen appliance that will juice a variety of fruits and vegetables as well as citrus, this may be a good option. It does all the work for you and would be a good choice if physical limitations prohibit you from using a manual option. The disadvantages are that they're more expensive, require extra storage space, and can be noisy.
Hankinson, Andrew, et al (2014): Lime-Induced Phytophotodermatitis. Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives, 4:4, 25090, doi:10.3402/jchimp.v4.25090.