Many times people ask us what’s the best cheese press to start with. There are several different styles: from the Dutch Press which uses an arm with weights, to a press with a heavy spring that is screwed down to increase pressure, to those that use actual weights. But the very simplest press I’ve ever owned that works as well or better than all the rest and was so simple to make. And best of all, you can make it for FREE!!
Introducing, the Bucket Press!
Here’s how it works:
Go to a local bakery or deli and ask them if they have any 3-5 gallon food grade buckets that they’re getting ready to throw away. They’re usually happy to have you recycle them. You’ll need either 2 or 3 buckets of the same size. (Note – if you can’t find free buckets, they are very inexpensive to purchase from a restaurant supply store.)
Drill holes in the bottom of one of the buckets with a power drill. The more holes the better but not so many that you compromise the strength of the base of the bucket.
Take a gallon jug and fill it with water. Pour that into the other bucket, and then mark a line with a permanent marker at the water line. Label that line with an “8” for that represents 8 pounds. Do that again, and label the next water line with a “16”. If your buckets are big enough, do it one more time and mark that line with a “24”. Now you can go back and fill in a few lines at the half way points to represent 4, 12, and 20 pounds. (In this picture we have it marked at 5-10-15 pounds which you can estimate from the 8 pounds of water technique.)
That’s it! You have a cheese press that will accommodate at least 24 pounds of pressure (you can always use additional weights to make it heavier, or skip the water and just use weights placed inside the bucket).
How to use:
- If you only have 2 buckets, you will place the one with the holes in the bottom directly into your kitchen sink (be sure it’s a very clean, disinfected sink). If you have 3 buckets, you can just place the one with holes into one without holes and the bottom bucket will serve as you sink.
- Put your cheese form (often referred to as a mold) into the bucket with the holes, put a piece of cheese cloth in it if you’re using it, and then scoop your curds into the form and put the follower on top. If needed, put a can on top of the follower to give you something to put your weight on.
- Put the remaining bucket, with the appropriate amount of water or weight, right into that bucket and on top of the follower. You may need to put a kitchen towel or pot holder in between the buckets to keep the top bucket from wobbling, especially at first when the curds are still full of whey.
- That’s it! Your cheese is being pressed and the weight will follow the curds as they release their whey. The expelled whey will drip through the holes into the lower bucket or sink.
Submitted by Kate Johnson, June 2020