The cheese press. This is probably the piece of equipment that you don't own, since unlike the others it really has only one use--to press cheese. I've used three styles of presses, and I can say with very limited authority to not buy any that are on the market. It's not that they are not usable, but you can make one yourself that will be easier to use and cause less frustration in the long run. Oh, and you'll save a bunch of money too.
The one thing you will have to buy is a cheese mold. You can certainly make one, but cutting an accurate cap for pressing requires either more patience than I have, or specialized equipment for cutting large circles out of plastic cutting boards.
I purchased mine from New England Cheese supply (Small Cheese Mold) and for $15 it works great. The press that I originally purchased did not work very well though.
The original press I used was based off of a crank handle and a spring. The spring was a 50lbs spring, so when it was fully compressed you would have an ideal amount of pressure to press the cheese. The problem with this was two-fold.
First, the spring didn't stay centered. The lid (the part that was pressing against the actual cheese) would wobble during the pressing, and the end result would be a very lopsided loaf. The second problem was that fact that you couldn't actually see when the spring was fully compressed. There were several times where I surely cranked way past 50lbs since I didn't know when to stop, and other times I used to little pressure for the same reason. Picture is from CheeseyPress.
The second type of press I tried is called a Dutch style press that I put together in an afternoon. It uses a lever system to press, and while it helped solve the weight issue (i.e., it was easy to determine how much weight was being used), it still had issues with centering. Plus, it was made out of wood, and in the long run it would definitely warp and not be food safe. So, back to the drawing board.
Finally, after trolling the tubes for awhile, I found some plans that looked like they would solve the majority of my issues. I found the plans at Fias Co Farms, and with a few changes it turned out to be the best press I've used so far. The main changes where instead of using wooden dowels and boards, I used PVC and thick plastic cutting boards. The generation 1 version of this press that I'm using is far from perfect, but it is certainly easier to use, more accurate, and much less expensive than the alternatives. Planned upgrades include a clamp or bar to go over the top of the mold to help prevent curd leaking from the bottom during heavy presses, deeper recesses for the PVC pipe on the bottom board, and some shallow grooves on the bottom board to encourage more whey to be expelled.
Cheese A Day by Jeremy Pickett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at cheeseaday.blogspot.com.