We’re building a Cheese Press! I love the idea of making my own cheese. Up to now, I have only made soft cheeses like Brie. Hard cheeses have been calling my name! So Cheese Press construction was necessary.
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My journey into cheese making is mostly fueled by the desire to eat more cheese and pay less money for it. This means that I’ve learned through a whole bunch of mistakes and some gross batches! But on the whole it’s been a fun and tasty adventure.
Making certain types of cheese is actually as easy as heating milk, adding cider vinegar, letting it separate and then straining it. but usually that doesn’t really give you the best bang for your buck in terms of how much you get. Honestly, just going for it and buying the extra ingredients is way more fun and gives a more pleasing result.
A few Notes about Cheese Types for your Cheese Press:
- Not all cheeses need to be pressed.
- Soft cheeses like Brie, Camembert, Chevre and Mozzarella actually don’t need a press. These cheeses either involve compressing under their own weight, or, in the case of Mozzarella, being stretched.
- Some cheeses don’t need intense weight.
- Though building a cheese press is going to be ultra handy, not all cheeses need extreme weights. Some only need 20-30lbs. These can be pressed using things around your house like gym weights or pots of water standing on top of your cheese mold.
- Most cheeses require molds to form their shape.
- I highly recommend investing in or making your own cheese molds. Though some cheeses can be made without a mold (Mozzarella) you will be much happier with your other cheeses if you have a proper mold for them. This one is a good starter mold.
Cheese Press Design Ideas
So where do I start? Well, I’ve been following a few people who make cheese, and learning from them that you can easily just purchase cheese presses. The trouble with those is that they can be pricey, and also where’s the fun in that? My design is a pretty standard one. Not trying to down play it or anything, but I’m not reinventing the wheel here.
Here’s a few examples of some presses so you get a basic idea.
This Press from Amazon is a pretty snazzy cheese press and has the price tag to match.
This Press from Gavin Weber‘s Little Green Workshop is a less expensive one, and is also a great design to follow if you wanted to DIY it.
Finally, This is the cheese press design I used for mine.
All three of these are good and, like I said, there isn’t much in terms of ingenious new ideas in this topic, since it is something that’s been around for a long time, and doesn’t need much reworking!
So I started with the wood. The instructables design that I was following didn’t really specify what kind of wood. It hadn’t occurred to me before, but once I got to the store I realized that it needed to be hardwood. I went with Oak and was able to find a piece that was the perfect size. (a 5 1/2″ x 2′ board)
Then, I cut it to the three length pieces that I needed, and drilled the holes for the two side bars. The idea here is that the two small plates will hold springs that will press down on a follower and push the cheese.
Next, I wanted to make sure that the wood doesn’t get warped or cracked. To do this, I used some of the mineral oil I use for my wooden cutting boards. It’s easy to just rub the oil over the boards and it takes about 5 minutes. One coat would probably be fine, but I did three just in case. It also has the benefit of making the press look quite nice!
Finding the springs was actually one of the more challenging parts. The springs you’re looking for need to be able to compress to a weight of at least 50lbs. The trouble is that most springs don’t say anything about this on them or their package. I had to go to a special contractors store, and try three different springs. This wasn’t actually as tedious as it sounds. the springs cost about $3 for a pack of two and I just grabbed a few that sort of “felt” right.
Tipping the Scale
During the process of making cheese you will need to press the cheese at a few different weights throughout the time that it’s forming. This means that you’ll need to find out how far to compress the springs in order to achieve the weight. I did this using a scale that I borrowed from work. You can also do this with a bathroom scale. You’ll need a measuring tape, pen and paper for this as well. Place the scale under the press, and have the springs fully open. Tare the scale to zero, and measure the distance between the inside of your two boards. That’s 0lbs. Tighten the springs by 5lb increments and measure each time. Then you’ll be able to tell how much weight you are pressing on your cheese by using your measurements later on. As you can tell from my pictures, I had some trouble with my measurements. But having used the press, it turns out I was fine with what I had done.
Mold and Follower
This next bit is pretty straight forward and not necessary if you just feel like buying your mold. What I used to build my mold was a cylindrical plastic water jug. Using a dremel I cut it to 6 inches tall and drilled drainage holes in it at 1/2″ intervals. Mike cut the follower (the plastic disc that makes sure the cheese is pressed flat) out of a plastic cutting board, using the dremel as well. This size of a mold is good for the curds of about 5 litres of milk.
First Round of Cheese
For the full post about our first round of hard cheese making complete with recipe click Here. But the steps to get to this first cheese are worth mentioning here. There are a few more things you will need in order to move forward:
- First of all, a recipe! This book is great and has lots of good beginner and intermediate recipes.
- Cheese cloth
- A large pot
- A Thermometer
All in all this project is cheap and pretty easy. It is well worth it if you, like us, eat a fair amount of cheese and enjoy doing things on your own. I’m looking forward to making and sharing my future recipes for hard cheese with you! If you have comments, questions or just want to say Hi drop me a comment. Thanks guys!