Well, invented is definitely a stretch here, but I've just come up with a system for pressing large batches of cheese--10-20 gallon batches--with a press that cost me $16 brand new. To put that in perspective, the first press I ever bought was a 1-3 gallon job, required constant tinkering, and cost $100. the one decent sized press at www.cheesemaking.com is $279 (!!!), but in all fairness it does look pretty.
The biggest problem when it comes to pressing cheese I have encountered has been stability--i.e. things tipping over. It seems most presses are proportionally too tall for the amount of pressure you need, and the 'follower', that is the piece on the top of the cheese that is doing the pressing, inevitably has quite loose tolerances and just makes the problem worse. There is really nothing more frustrating than having your weights thrown across the room because the follower became cockeyed.
What I hate about most spring-based or pneumatic-based presses really is the same issue, getting an uneven press. Personally I think a symmetric cheese with some whey-checks looks much better than a smooth lop sided cheese. Other people may have different opinions, but that is what I believe.
So, after pondering exactly what I wanted to accomplish--bigger cheese loaves, less hassle, minimal cost, it dawned on me how to make this all work together: tight fitting, food grade 5 gallon buckets, such as the ones you can buy from Home Depot for $3.90 each. Make sure they are food grade--they will say if they are, don't use them if they do not.
The idea is conceptually simple, but there are a couple of gotchas. The first is that your typical Home Depot plastic bucket, after you drill all the holes needed to let the whey escape, likely won't have enough structural integrity to hold the amount of weight needed during the press. The second issue is the follower should ideally be flat on the side that is pressing the cheese. The third is again weight related, the whole structure needs to ideally be able to support 200+ lbs.
So it turns out the execution is delightfully simple as well. For the cheese form, you don't just use a bucket--you use several buckets that tightly line each other. It's basically a food-grade-plastic laminate, with two or three buckets placed inside each other, and holes drilled through all the layers.
The second issue (a smooth follower) was also easy--take a hack saw the remove the lip and other offending pieces from the bottom of the bucket used as a follower. Along with some smoothing with a file and a little de-burring, this was pretty straightforward. Now unfortunately this makes the bottom of the follower a little weak, since material was removed. This could be a problem if there is too much weight and it pops the bottom of the bucket out, but there is a simple solution:
It doesn't matter that this one has all the lips and what-not, since the force is going to be applied to the followers rim, not the bottom.
So, the cheese mold is made from two or three tight fitting buckets with appropriate holes drilled to let the whey drain. The follower is made from two buckets, one with a smooth-ish bottom, and one to hold the weights. I currently have a ten gallon loaf pressing right now, and it is stable as a rock. I don't know if I could knock it over if I tried.
Pics will be coming tomorrow after I brine the cheese loaf that is currently pressing.
And one last thing, the name. Since I haven't seen anyone else create this particular style of press before, I shall name it:
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.