Housemade Cheese Press

OK, so as mentioned earlier, we’re delving more into the world of homemade cheese. As we do, we’ll share our findings with y’all, and see if we can’t get some of our fellow cheese makers share they’re experiences as well.

We’ll cover soft and hard cheese, ingredients and equipment as we go.

First off, let’s talk cheese presses. Without a doubt, this is one of the priciest pieces of specialized equipment needed if you really decide to get into cheese. Now there are plenty of nasty, cheap versions out there, including quite a few homemade versions. Those seem to be equally split between cheap, thin plastic, or stuff made with wood. Neither of those simply ain’t gonna do. The plastic won’t take the pressure for long without failing, and the wood is a trap for nasty things to grow in.

On top of that, you’ve got to choose the type of press you want. The Dutch type has a long arm that presses the follower into the body of the press; you hang weight off the arm. The tomme style is basically a body with a follower tall enough to stack weight directly on top of; those require a set of weights to stack on top. Finally, you’ve got a screw press, often with an added spring. The latter are probably the most popular, due to their ease of use and no need for added weights; you do need to calculate accurate press weight with a screw press, but that’s not a big deal, so that’s the version I opened for.

Now, for the screw press variety, anything decent, made with heavy duty plastic or steel, and you’re looking at somewhere between $60 and $150; don’t know about y’all, but I call that a bit on the steep side, so I set out to see what I could DIY.

For reasons of ease of fabrication, I opted for mostly plastic, namely Schedule 40 PVC for the body of the press; this is a nice, heavy pipe with a smooth, food safe surface. For the base and followers, I chose 1/2″ UHMW Polyethlyene. For the main infrastructure I went with1/4″ thick, 1 1/2″ wide steel bar stock and 3/8″ threaded rod. A handful of washers, nylock nuts and a couple wing nuts finished things out.

The parts came from a really good local hardware store, with the exception of the pipe and UHMW; the pipe I got from a local specialty outfit that keeps a bunch of scrap around. It takes about a 7″ length of 6″ PVC for a single press. I got some 4″ too for smaller cheeses as well. The UHMW came from a recycled cutting board. I used a dedicated planer to work it nice and smooth prior to cutting out the base, followers and handle.

The bottom line is that construction was pretty simple. You’ve got to have the tools to be able to cut, shape and smooth plastic and steel, and a tap and die to thread the steel bar and clean up the threaded rod. I ended up with this.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

If anyone wants the precise bore and stroke on building this press, just let me know.

Off we go, eh?!

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2 thoughts on “Housemade Cheese Press”

    1. Dishwasher safe, but I use a bleach/water/surfactant mix instead.

      No flavor imparted, and there’s cheesecloth/butter muslin between cheese and press.

      Yeah, “Food grade plastic” is a bit of an oxymoron, but the pipe is made for carrying water and the base plate and follower made from a cutting board, so they’re both OK for food contact.

      The distinction is that LOTS of folks make these from materials that are NOT suitable for food contact, and/or with things that will harbor the growth of microbial nasties.

      The best alternative would be stainless, but the price of the materials was prohibitive for me, and I don’t have the equipment to braze or weld that anyway, unfortunately; but the next one…
      😉

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