The cheese-lover or cheese-maker in you might be hankering after a cheese press. Even if you don't really need one, you might want one. They are convenient — and if you're making cheese often, a press can be a big help.
Although there are many retail options for cheese presses, I've selected three to review today. These are available from my favorite online merchants, Cultures for Health and Homesteader Supply. Please note that none of these are of the Dutch style press, which uses a lever system for pressing.
Before I get into each one, let's break down the main components of a press. I'll evaluate the three presses based on these qualities.
- Drip Setup. When cheese is pressed, whey flows out. How does the press handle this? Usual choices are through drip channels or a drip tray. You'll need to add your own pan in front of the press to catch what flows off. Some presses fit easily inside a pot or baking tray.
- Mold. This is the container that shapes the curds into a block of cheese. An important factor is material — food-grade plastic or stainless steel are the usual choices. Another issue: will it accept other molds should you want to change in the future?
- Blocks/Followers. These connect the top of the cheese with the weight system of the press, allowing the cheese to be pressed. Personally, I look for blocks and followers that are long enough to reach way down in the press so that even a small block of cheese can be pressed.
- Size. Yield is an important factor here. How much cheese will you be making? 1 gallon of milk usually yields about 1 pound of cheese. Personally, I make cheese from 2 to 4 gallons of milk (which is what my biggest pot holds), so I look for a mold that accommodates 2 to 4 pounds of cheese.
- Weight System. How precise is the weight system? How easy is it to use? In the style of presses featured here, the pressure loosens and you must adjust the press as you go along. What happens is the cheese gets smaller and shorter, but the press stays in the same position — thus the pressure on the cheese gets relieved, and you need to come in and tighten it up again.
Now let's talk about those three presses. I own #3, and while I have not held the other two in my hands, nor used them, I have carefully reviewed their features in order to draw an opinion. I feel confident in offering any of the three as options for you, whether for general use or for use in the Cultured Dairy and Basic Cheese eCourse. I will list the presses and describe their features.
Press #1: Basic Press at Cultures for Health
$129.99 retail (at time of posting), or 10% off as part of Cultured Dairy and Basic Cheese eCourse Supply Kit.
- Drip Setup. This press has grooves in the wood for the whey to flow out the front and onto whatever pan you put down to catch the whey. The wood is treated with olive oil.
- Mold. Does not include a mold, but fits a variety of molds. If purchased with the Cultured Dairy and Basic Cheese eCourse Supply Kit, we add a simple food-grade plastic 800g mold to your order. This mold is good for up to a 2 pound block of cheese or so (2 gallons of milk). If your cheese yield is low, the follower plate (fits on top of the cheese giving it a flat top) won’t easily slide to the bottom areas of the mold. I recommend filing off about 1/16” all around so it will float freely up and down in the press.
- Blocks/Followers. This press’s block is approximately 4” long by 1” thick x 1” wide. This may or may not be a sufficient length, depending on the cheese yield of your milk. I suggest you scavenge for a replacement scrap block of wood that is about 5” x 1.25” x 3.75”. The last two measurements can decrease some, but 5” long is just about right for maximum versatility.
- Size. Depends on which mold you choose to use. With the plastic mold included with the eCourse supply kit, you can make up to a 2 pound block of cheese or so (2 gallons of milk).
- Weight System. This press requires you to turn the wing nuts to apply pressure; each turn is approximately 2 pounds of pressure. While not being as precise as some presses, pressing cheese is not an exact science. You start with a little pressure and increase it bit by bit until you have the right pressure for the type of cheese you’re making. You learn this over time.
Press #2: Ultimate Cheese Press at Homesteader Supply
Retail: $174.99 (at time of posting). See the press here.
- Drip setup. There are no drip channels or drip tray. The manufacturer recommends putting the mold in a large pot when making cheese, with little mess or fuss. This uses up less counter space.
- Mold. This comes with two hoops (molds) to prepare 1 to 5 pound cheese wheels. The manufacturer says that using plastic instead of stainless steel prevents the cheese from cooling down too fast during pressing. It will not accept other molds, but since it accommodates so many sizes of cheese, I'm not sure that is necessary.
- Blocks/Followers. A follower (pressing plate) connects the top of the cheese with the pressure mechanism of the cheesepress, allowing the cheese to get pressed. This press includes 2 followers; which one you use depends on which mold you're using.
- Size. The manufacturer claims that you can make a 1 to 5 pound wheel of cheese (1 to 5 gallons of milk). However, I can only fit up to 4 gallons worth of curds in the press, yielding up to 4 pounds of cheese.
- Weight System. This is a press where you tighten until you feel it pressing, and keep repeating this for 12 to 24 hours. While not being as precise as some presses, pressing cheese is not an exact science. Though less precise, it turns out excellent cheese for me every time.
Here's my video review. See a more complete and updated review here.
Press #3: Deluxe Press at Cultures for Health
Retail: 279.95 (at time of posting), or 10% off as part of Cultured Dairy and Basic Cheese eCourse Supply Kit.
This is the same press available from Cheesemaking.com.
- Drip setup. This press includes a stainless steel drip pan under its mold for the whey to flow out onto what you put down in front of the press.
- Mold. This press includes a stainless steel mold, good for 2 to 4 pounds of cheese (2 to 4 gallons of milk). It will accept other molds, which I have actually done.
- Blocks/Followers. This press includes two blocks which you probably won’t need to modify. However, I recently asked my husband to make me a new block. He used a 2×4 and cut it to 5″ long (an inch longer than the 4″ block provided with this press). When I'm making smaller amounts of cheese in this large press, the regular blocks don't reach the top of the cheese with the weight system engaged. The slightly longer block fits the bill!
- Size. With its included mold, this press can make a 2 to 4 pound block of cheese (2 to 4 gallons of milk). It will hold other molds, smaller or larger.
- Weight System. This press is very easy to use. Use the pressure gauge to determine how far to press down on the locks — it will lock into place at the desired pressure. The gauge is not that precise, with increments of 5 pounds marked. I recently put my free weights on top of the press to check the accuracy of the gauge and found it to be off by 3 to 5 pounds. This is not necessarily bad because pressing cheese is something you want to do by feel anyway.
This is updated as of 7/31/12.
I think I truly could be happy with any of these three presses. But if I had to choose one press over the other in any of categories, I would choose #2. It is more affordable than #3 (which I really like, too). I like that you don't have to read numbers on a pressure gauge but can press by feel and end up with marvelous cheese, and that it keeps a smaller space profile by fitting inside a baking sheet or pot for the whey dripping out.
Remember, you don't need a press for the Cultured Dairy and Basic Cheese eCourse. A simple tome mold and lid will do. If you do get a press, I hope these reviews have helped, though I don't claim to be an expert. I'm just a cheese lover like you, learning every day from the adventures in my kitchen!
Do you have a cheese press? Which one? Do you like it? Why or why not? If you've made a homemade cheese press, please share the details, too!
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