How to build a cheese press

Stephanie wanted to start making farmhouse cheddar last weekend (the beginning of a weeks-long, if not months-long aging process) which required pressing the curds with a significant amount of weight. It turns out that balancing twenty pounds on top of cheese curds in cheesecloth is not an easy feat.

We rigged up something rickety…

Improvised cheese press

…but I immediately started drawing designs for a simple, inexpensive press.

Improvised cheese press

Our plan was to get some weightlifting weights that we could put on the center pipe in the drawing. But then I realized, why not just skip the center pipe and put the weights on the left and right guide pipes? With that innovation in mind, we went to Home Depot looking for pipes, flanges, screws, wood, and a tray at the bottom to drain the whey away (presumably into the sink).

This is what we came back with:

Cheese Press parts

  • 16″ length of 2×8″
  • 18″ length of 2×4″
  • 1″ spade bit
  • 8 5lbs weights (not all pictured)
  • 2 threaded flanges
  • 2 18″ threaded pipes (“nipples”)
  • screws
  • 2 rubber leg tips (not pictured)

Drilling the holes for the guide pipes in the crossbar:

Drilling holes to build a cheese press

One of the mistakes we made was that our parts’ tolerances were too tight. Turns out drilling a 1″ diameter hole in wood does not allow a 1″ diameter pipe to pass through. So I ended up having to increase the diameter with a Dremel tool. We had the same problem with the weights. They slid onto the pipes, but they were tight, which meant the pipe itself was absorbing most of the weight, rather than the crossbar, and thus the cheese curds. So we plan to return these weights in exchange for some “Olympic” style weights with larger holes.

In the meantime, here’s the finished product:

Our homemade cheese press

· Food