Homemade Cheese Press

To date FUCheese has done soft cheese. Despite our desire to make hard cheese we were lacking a key piece of equipment for the process of making a hard cheese – the cheese press. I’d seen a number of cheese presses for sale online and also seen pictures of more homemade varieties. While the ones you can purchase online are expensive, they do come fully assembled and with a design that has been time tested and proven to be efficient and accurate.

Because we here at FUCheese like to do things for ourselves and because I got it into my head early on that we could build a cheese press on our own that was just as accurate and way cheaper than the fully assembled varieties some of us at FUCheese found ourselves one sunny summer day in the woodshop. We had purchased plans to make our own cheese press from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company and had purchased food grade lumber and were going to build our cheese press.

Now, I’m not going to discourage you from attempting to build your own if you want to, but if I had to do it all over again – I’d buy a cheese press. I had a great time making it and it was not a hard plan to follow, but there was some difficulty finding the right hardware, and while New England Cheesemaking Supply Company was very prompt with their reply with a solution to our hardware dilemma, there were a number of other alterations we had to make to get it to work.

We used it to press our farmhouse cheddar recently and it worked fine, but even after solving our hardware problems we are still running into issues. Largely due to the fact that the base – given its size – can’t be centered under the press point because the wall gets in the way. This makes for an uneven press and a somewhat lopsided wheel of cheese. Plus extra work for you to turn the cheese on the base in order to equalize the press.

So when it gets down to recommendations – buy your cheese press. It will save you time, hassle, and inaccuracies.

8 Comments »

  1. Mark S. said,

    November 6, 2008 @ 9:48 pm

    Hi! I’ve become an avid home cheesemaker. You can find a simple but effective cheese press design on the Fias Co. Farms website. Just google it. It cost me about $15 for materials (plus weights).

  2. Amanda said,

    November 8, 2008 @ 7:41 pm

    Thanks, Mark — that is a pretty nifty press on their site!

  3. Mike said,

    March 17, 2009 @ 2:26 pm

    Looks good, you should move your fulcrum point forward on the handle. You might want to reinforce the handle if you do that but you will get more pressure from the cheese sitting closer to the weight.

  4. FUCheese » Hard Cheese Class at Kookoolan Farms said,

    April 11, 2009 @ 10:25 am

    […] issue has to do with our nifty little press that we made. It’s made out of solid maple and is pretty great. However, the base of it is […]

  5. Damon said,

    November 1, 2009 @ 1:44 pm

    Hi Mike, just a small correction. If you move the cheese closer to the weight you will actually reduce the pressure on the cheese. Other than that, you’re absolutely right. the cheese could be moved further out to make more room for it and to get a pretty axisymmetric wheel, but you will need to put more weight on the lever to get the right pressure.

  6. Joey Lebow said,

    December 30, 2009 @ 3:17 pm

    Another issue, you may have too little force applied at your press…Most of the Ricki Carroll recipes call for using a 2 pound mold a certain force, specified in pounds from the press. If you switch to a mold with a larger diameter (bigger follower), the downward force of the press gets spread out across the larger follower surface, and the pressure on the cheese is less.

    Here is an example. Sorry if you don’t like math. We have a 2 pound mold from New England Cheese Making. It has a 4.5 inch diameter. The area of the follower is: pi*r^2 = 3.14 * (4.5/2)^2 = 15.9 square inches, where pi = 3.14 and r is the radius of the follower. If the recipe calls for 50 pounds from the press (with a 4.5 inch diameter, 2 pound mold), the pressure on the cheese is 50 pounds/15.9 square inches = 3.1 P.S.I. (pounds per square inch). So if your mold is 8 inches in diameter you have 50 square inches of area (3.14*4^2=50). To get the proper pressure, you need 155 pounds of force from your press (3.1 P.S.I * 50 square inches = 155 pounds).

    A lot of cheese making references I’ve seen seam to mix up force and pressure and use them interchangeably. They are related, but not the same.To illustrate the difference between force and pressure, think of walking on snow with regular shoes vs. snow shoes. With the bigger shows, you don’t sink down as far, because the pressure on the snow is less. The force (or weight of the person) is the same for both cases, but when the force gets spread out, the pressure on the snow decreases.

  7. Adam said,

    February 7, 2010 @ 9:54 am

    I think I see where your problem is happening. In the press plans it shows the fulcrum cantilevered out by a metal bracket that extends from the “wall.” The press shown here has your fulcrum going through an arm coming up from a base on the table, which is acting as your “wall,” but it is running parallel to your swinging arm instead of being perpendicular, and in effect you have lost (what looks to be) 3-4 inches of clearance. The area directly below the fulcrum is meant to be entirely open (and then some). Perhaps this is the hardware issue mentioned, but I think with some minor tweaking you could set up a cantilevered bracket system. If you look at a comprehensive hardware catalog like McMaster-Carr (http://www.mcmaster.com/#) you can find all sorts of specialized hardware pieces. You could also just get 2 angle brackets from the hardware store and mount them on top of one another to get a makeshift “U” bracket to put your fulcrum pin through. You could still use your freestanding press idea, but turn your “wall” piece 180 degrees and mount the brackets to the face of it.

  8. Sammi said,

    April 4, 2010 @ 3:05 pm

    If perchance you have a drill press among your tools, you have the makings of an excellent cheese press. My dad made our cheese press using a large juice can with both ends cut out and round wooden blocks made to fit as pusher and base and a pie pan to catch the whey. The cheese spent 2-3 days in the drill press and every time he passed it during the day, he would crank the pressure a little more. He made awesome hard cheese this way. Mom would wrap it in cheese cloth and cover it with wax and store it in the pantry…for as long as it lasted – which wasn’t long with us eager to eat it.

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