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

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

21 Comments

Bri/Dad

Wow, I am so impressed with all your handiwork. I was overjoyed to see the drawing, and then the engineering work, but especially the feedback & adjustments. The final cheese press looks great.

It was a lot of fun, but I could totally build a second one with one I learned building the first. Also got some neat ideas from these instructions I found after the fact: Build your own Cheese Press Instructions.

Hey you are also a “Gyro Gearloose” ;-) ..and never tought a townie owns a drill ;-))- i am delighted !

Angelika, thanks. But can you believe I had to look up “Gyro Gearloose“!

ha..ha… i am the mickey-mouse generation ;-))) we didn’t know other comics in the seventies ! in german – gyro gearlosse has also a funy name – its “Daniel Düsentrieb” Düsentrieb = jet engine or – nuzzles drive ( i can’t find another translation. – you would like to be also good as konstruktion drafter than your grandpa !!! ;-))) – i am sure !

Truly industrious.

Angelika – oh my goodness, it’s Geo Trouvetout! (in French, Trouvetout = “finds it all”) I was a fan as well when I was a kid in France!

Found you through Twitter- nice press! I only tried cheese-making once, but my main problem was getting the milk to “curd up” (is that the correct term?) Perhaps my junket was old? Does that matter?

Aliza,
The Junket rennet is not good for cheesemaking in general. I started with it and it DOES NOT work like regular rennet as it is quite dillute. I finally bought some rennet and other supplies at http://www.cheesemaking.com. They sell small amounts for people like us who just want to make cheese for our families.

When I tried the regular rennet, it was a totally different product!

Another issue is if you are using ultra-pasturized milk it will sometimes not give you a firm curd. If possible, get some raw milk from the farm!!

T
Good luck!

CheesySLC

Thanks for sharing your plans! I’m truly motivated and this is a great jumping off point for me! I just started making cheese myself, and don’t have the cashflow to go out and buy a fancy dancy press.

CheesySLC, also check out Fias Co Farm’s “Build your own Cheese Press Instructions”.

http://fiascofarm.com/dairy/cheesepress.html

Same principle, but more elegant carpentry than our pipe and flange hack.

springchicken

We did the same thing last week although my solution was to stack flatish rocks on cheese mold….wrecked the mold. Your idea os so much better!!!!!!!

Malcolm

Very ‘heath robinson’ !!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfC5n_avfO0 Check out my cheese press.

Malcolm. Dude. Insane. Nice cheese press. What kinds of cheese do you make with it?

Nate

Nice cheese press, although I would have done it slightly differently. A press like the one I drew up here can get you extremely high weight without the need to purchase tons of weight. The key is simply getting the distance ratios to where you want. By making a slideable weight(I drew small hooks, but you get the idea), and a press arm that can be adjusted to a couple of different locations, you can get pressing weights easily upwards of 150 or 200lb with one or two milk jugs filled with water but you still have a lot of variability of weight by changing the ratio. The whole thing could probably be done for about $10-$15.

Note that the angle, while i put the term in the equation, is only really important if the lever arm is far from being horizontal, but if you make the pressing piece with multiple holes it would always be near horizontal.

http://img258.imageshack.us/img258/7510/press.png

JP

Thank you for posting your great design for a cheese press, however I modified it slightly. I used the same size wood on the top as the bottom and used 1/2 in pipes which required a 7/8″ drill bit which made the wholes just slightly bigger than the pipe – to give a nice smooth fit. Also because I used the same 16″ 2×8 for the top I can simply place the weights right in the middle of the board vs. on the pipes as pictured. I had the wood, drill bit, and screws at home so the pipes and flange were the only thing I had to buy ~ $20 ! I used it last night night to make some Manchego and it worked great.

mary

I am new to cheese making and I have been looking at different types of presses. I was thinking a big c-clamp would provide the same force that the commercial press would. In order to check how many times I had to turn the screw to get different weights, I clamped it to my bathroom scale. It read 80 lbs with only 1/2 turn of the screw. Is this a correct correlation to how many pounds are applied to the cheese? Do I have to multiply by the surface area I’m pressing against? It just doesn’t seem like that much pressure.

Mary, the problem with a c-clamp is that it does not apply a constant 80lbs of pressure. Your bathroom scale is solid, but your cheese it more like play-dough. Once you apply the pressure, the cheese is compressed into a new shape, and then 80lbs are no longer being applied. Generally you need constant weight of 20-40lbs to be applied over a period of several hours, which might require you turning the screw a quarter turn every 15 minutes.

Sean

Ya know, I have been scouring the web for a design JUST like this. I will work the press up this weekend and get a few pics for you. I am LOVING this idea!

Sean, looking forward to it. Also check out the design by Fiasco Farms:

http://fiascofarm.com/dairy/cheesepress.html

emily pillay

excellent idea, for a cheese press if u are new to chesse making

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