Pressing, do weights matter?

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mendozer

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Curious on your takes on this. Most of the cheese presses on the market either use springs with a gauge, options for weights (think flat top or dutch style), or none and use a screw press. I have used the flat top before but I sold all my weightlifting plates and never really liked it anyways. I can source a dutch one used for a good deal here with molds and all, but I was looking at the Ultimate Cheese Press online and theirs is tight fit to a hoop with a single screw plate, similar to a low level wine press. The concept explained to me by them and in a way it makes sense, is that curds will release whey when they say so. So 20 lbs is great but that can cause uneven pressures and let out milky whey rather than clear whey. I used to work at a creamery and we used commercial pneumatic presses so it was always even no matter what. Recipes of course call for X lbs for X minutes or hours. Maybe in truth the pressures don't matter much and as long as it's tight it's good, not sure. I do like their press as it comes with a hefty hoop as your mold, so I wouldn't need to buy cheese molds. This is similar to what we used in the creamery, just a long stainless hoop to make a giant log that we sliced down.

I could just throw a kitchen scale under a drip tray to get an idea of what I want i guess. It's less compact than the dutch one too

what do you think? I plan on making everything from cheddar to parmesan so I need to be able to press pretty good.
 
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bernardsmith

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Not as experienced as many but I would suggest you want a range of weights and you want some of the weights to be quite light. If you begin pressing with too many PSI (and that is the real factor - Not so much the weight but the weight pressing down over a measured surface area), you will expel more curd than whey. Depending on the cheese I am making I may begin with a half gallon of water as my weight and then move on to two gallons after 15 minutes (read: these weights are half and gallon milk containers filled with water (1 gallon of water = 8 lbs). But I also use pavers - about 18 lbs and so 4 of these is about 72 lbs.
If you brew beer or make wine you likely have 5 or 6 gallon buckets and you can rig these to act as a press. You might need 3 with the one in the middle having its bottom drilled to allow all the whey to run into the bottom one and the one on the top to hold your weights. That rig will tend to ensure that the weights are evenly distributed as each bucket prevents the other buckets from sliding around. I tend to use a press made from two cutting boards drilled at the four corners through which I inserted 12 in threaded rods locked in place on the bottom board with washers and nuts. I use the top board as the surface onto which I apply the weights. I don't recall the cost of the pavers but the rig cost about $10-15 and it is strong enough to allow me to make a block of hard kefir cheese (made without rennet) - and that can take three or four days of REAL pressure.
 

mashpaddled

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The idea is that you want just enough weight to expel a slow stream of whey and not curds. That will produce cheese with a uniform texture and the right amount of moisture for the style--without losing the curd which makes up the cheese.

I started with a screw press for fruit which made ok cheese but it doesn't maintain consistent pressure so as whey expels and the cheese loses height it also loses pressure. So you have to go in a tighten in routinely. I tried adding weight to a mold which gave more flexibility but pressing cheese doesn't expel whey perfectly uniformly so sometimes one side would press down more than the other and weight would slide off. I ended up buying a press with springs which has produced the best results. You can find plans for how to build these presses online and buy the parts at hardware stores or online for less than buying a built press if you wish.
 

bernardsmith

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I have something similar called the Cheesypress.
Your final product looks incredible but are you not returning to the press every few hours to tighten
that screw? A device with weights is automatically self-regulating. Springs and elastic bands presumably need constant attention as mashpaddled suggests , don't they?
 

shelly_belly

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Thank you! You are correct. The first 2 hours of pressing I flipped the 'wheel' 4 times. I then pressed for 4 hours increasing pressure about every 15 minutes. It was then flipped again and sat in the press overnight with no pressure.
 
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mendozer

mendozer

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I looked at the Cheesypress but it's no longer made. I could make it myself, but if I were to make something, I can get the compression springs from McMaster Carr and then make a more precise regulated pressure. I priced out the all-thread, nuts, springs, to be basically 45 bucks, and that includes extra nuts and springs because of the product pack. I could use HDPE with a steel insert for strength or just Oak/Maple. The hoop would be harder to source. HDPE tubes are pricey and would be too long wasting material, steel cools too fast.
I understand the concept of cheese releasing too much milky whey if pressed too hard, which is why I don't plan on just throwing weights on there and leaving it be. But I like the idea of a spring keeping tension, and I could start it low and slowly go up to "recipe instructions".
But also...isn't it the curd culture and temperature it was cooked at that really dictate a cheese structure, assuming all get "good" pressure in pressing?

The one good thing about the one I linked is it comes with a big and small hoop, no molds needed. At my creamery job we had no "cheese molds", so this seems to be a niche thing for smaller makers.
 

bernardsmith

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I may be wrong but I think that the stirring and cooking determines the amount of whey that the curds will naturally hold and the amount of whey released before any pressure is applied. The more pressure you apply the more whey that is in the curds you will expel. The less pressure you apply the more of that maximum amount the curds will hold onto thus determining how soft or how crumbly the paste will be. Too little pressure and the paste may be atypically soft and smooth; too much pressure and the paste will be unexpectedly crumbly
 
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mendozer

mendozer

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the other issue I'm thinking of is the hoop material. I don't want PVC but it's hard to find any HDPE pipes or polypropylene. polypro is food safe for sure but I can't find them online well. I'm inquiring with a plastics supplier near me. Stainless is great for cleaning and everything but it cools cheese too fast.
 
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cheesepress2.jpg

cheesepress.JPG

What do you think of this? The advantage of the screw press is your driving pressure is always balanced. The advantage of the spring is it's pressure regulated so you know what you're pressing without the use of say a bathroom scale under your base plate. The disadvantage is they press from the sides, not giving any front to back stability. So...why not merge the two?

Square overall shape with triangular pressing platform using springs with the through hole doing through the spring plate driven by a T handle. The hex nut for the Acme style rod would be recessed into the top plate to provide the central force. Plates would be 1/2" HDPE, rods are stainless are nuts, ACME rod is carbon steel since it doesn't touch anything, follower plate is 3/4" because why not? I chose 40# springs for a max of 120 lbs

I have a few back and forth thoughts:

1) hoops: i see solid hoops (like what we used commercially) and ones with holes. whey will drain regardless, so why holes?
2) I could do a drip tray under the hoop, but one plan I saw online used a stainless floor drain fitted into the pipe diameter, that was slick, maybe unneccesary?
3) I was thinking 3/8" for the guide rods on the three poles, maybe the same for the T handle, that can screw down with decent force, but should I go thicker?
4)I made this with a 6x8 hoop for size reference for larger batches. But then I thought, can't I just make several wheels of cheese in one hoop? curds followed by plastic follower, then curds followed by another follower, etc? This is how you press cider for even pressure (think layer cake). Because then I'd only ever need one hoop size, 4" and larger batches would just make more wheels vs a larger 6" wheel.
 
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mendozer

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You just use a cheese wire for that? But you made one big lo as opposed to making two in one hoop right?
 

mashpaddled

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View attachment 719397
View attachment 719398
What do you think of this? The advantage of the screw press is your driving pressure is always balanced. The advantage of the spring is it's pressure regulated so you know what you're pressing without the use of say a bathroom scale under your base plate. The disadvantage is they press from the sides, not giving any front to back stability. So...why not merge the two?

Square overall shape with triangular pressing platform using springs with the through hole doing through the spring plate driven by a T handle. The hex nut for the Acme style rod would be recessed into the top plate to provide the central force. Plates would be 1/2" HDPE, rods are stainless are nuts, ACME rod is carbon steel since it doesn't touch anything, follower plate is 3/4" because why not? I chose 40# springs for a max of 120 lbs

I have a few back and forth thoughts:

1) hoops: i see solid hoops (like what we used commercially) and ones with holes. whey will drain regardless, so why holes?
2) I could do a drip tray under the hoop, but one plan I saw online used a stainless floor drain fitted into the pipe diameter, that was slick, maybe unneccesary?
3) I was thinking 3/8" for the guide rods on the three poles, maybe the same for the T handle, that can screw down with decent force, but should I go thicker?
4)I made this with a 6x8 hoop for size reference for larger batches. But then I thought, can't I just make several wheels of cheese in one hoop? curds followed by plastic follower, then curds followed by another follower, etc? This is how you press cider for even pressure (think layer cake). Because then I'd only ever need one hoop size, 4" and larger batches would just make more wheels vs a larger 6" wheel.
I don't think the third spring is problematic but it's probably overkill. On my two spring press I have even pressure and produce an even wheel. The wood beam horizontally between the mold is almost as wide as the mold and with followers the pressure is being driven primarily into the middle 60% of the mass so the cheese isn't losing pressure in the front or back unless the mold is put in the wrong place.

I would think if you stacked cheeses you will press the whey out of the top wheel into the lower wheels. It seems you would have more moisture remaining in the lower wheels requiring further pressing the lower the wheel in the stack. It seems easier to press a single larger or taller wheel and then cut it.
 
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mendozer

mendozer

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I don't think the third spring is problematic but it's probably overkill. On my two spring press I have even pressure and produce an even wheel. The wood beam horizontally between the mold is almost as wide as the mold and with followers the pressure is being driven primarily into the middle 60% of the mass so the cheese isn't losing pressure in the front or back unless the mold is put in the wrong place.

I would think if you stacked cheeses you will press the whey out of the top wheel into the lower wheels. It seems you would have more moisture remaining in the lower wheels requiring further pressing the lower the wheel in the stack. It seems easier to press a single larger or taller wheel and then cut it.
I gotcha. This past weekend someone on CL posted a press for sale (the exact "Ultimate" one linked above) plus a few molds plus a mini wine fridge for $100. I could build mine for about 89 but for the other gear it was a no brainer. So I got it. But...I'll eventually add springs and a gauge for maybe $20. The ball's rolling now!
 
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mendozer

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I plan on drilling tiny holes in the plastic molds too, seems a bit weird that there are none at all. Our stainless ones in college only have holes on the bottom lid but also had a seam with a bar that closed the steel hoop and whey ran out of there too. Thinking about getting a cutting board plastic piece and drilling a ton of holes and such in it for a bottom "plate" under the hoop for drainage too. They used cheesecloth in the video, but that's an easier thing to wash
 

ophiuchus_99

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A Dutch press is the way to go if you can. I made the first one that I used myself and it worked fine. I now have a commercial grade one.
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To answer the original post, pressing weights do not matter nearly as much as the amount of time between adding rennet and cutting the curds (flocculation time). This flocculation time has a very strong correlation to the the amount of moisture that will remain in the curds, and consequently whether it's a soft or hard cheese. Of course, there a zillion other variables that can affect the cheese.

Here's a pic of my Dutch-style lever press (not up to sanitary standards when compared to the one posted above by Mssr. Over-achiever haha). But for home use, it's as good as it gets. Look up SturdyPress. Also, a picture of the vertical cylinder type, but no spring in it. This worked OK for hard cheeses, but didn't work well for cheeses with loose curds that loose a lot of whey when pressing. I made a bunch of fine cheeses with the cylinder.

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mendozer

mendozer

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That's good input about the flocculation time. That last pic is what I picked up and intend to modify with calibrated springs so pressure can be somewhat regulated. Down the road I thought about dutch or off-the-wall(basically a fixed dutch) but I wanted compact for now. Once I renovate the utility room for all my brewing and crafting needs, then maybe I'll put an off the wall press there. What drove me away from that style was I have on 10 lb plate leftover from a weight set and got rid of the rest. I didn't plan on storing a vast array of weights. Unless I can use that style press with ONE weight.
 
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That's good input about the flocculation time. That last pic is what I picked up and intend to modify with calibrated springs so pressure can be somewhat regulated. Down the road I thought about dutch or off-the-wall(basically a fixed dutch) but I wanted compact for now. Once I renovate the utility room for all my brewing and crafting needs, then maybe I'll put an off the wall press there. What drove me away from that style was I have on 10 lb plate leftover from a weight set and got rid of the rest. I didn't plan on storing a vast array of weights. Unless I can use that style press with ONE weight.
If you're referring to the lever press, I don't use weights. I have that gallon milk container. I add water until I get the weight I want. Back when I got it, I put a scale under the press and marked off common press forces on the side of the gallon container. So, all I do is add more water to increase the press force when needed. If you change your mind and want to try building one yourself, here's the plans (see attached). After I took the pic above, I removed almost all the screws and replaced with wood dowels on mine.

BTW, I sold my cylinder press right here on HBT 6 or 7 yrs ago.
 

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Another major advantage of using a lever press is the ability to use any mold you like. I've made all sorts of large and small cheeses, and many required fancy molds. Below, a manchego from 100% raw goat milk). I've made edams in a round mold too, very interesting to see.


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mendozer

mendozer

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thanks for the plans it was hard to find online since that site's down. I think I'll start with this one and build something like that. I would want to add different notches along the way so I have more options other than the basic 5x or 9x leverage. Maybe add a pulley to double weights too like some people have done.
 
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