The Cheese Press depicted here forms part of the rural and agricultural machinery collection of the Illawarra Museum in central Wollongong.
What is a press used for?
A cheese press is used to remove excess whey by imparting pressure for an extended period, often overnight. When the cheese is removed from the press it should be firm.
For an extended description of the cheese press, follow this link.
Evolution in Design
The design of cheese presses varied considerably, in terms of their size [single or double] and the materials used in their construction. Simple cheese presses may comprise a mould with a large heavy stone placed on top to provide the necessary downward pressure. A more sophisticated design was later developed which comprised a frame of iron or wood with the stone lowered by a threaded iron bar.
Later designs replaced the use of levers and weights by having a spring that compressed to produce the necessary pressure. In simple designs of cheese presses that may be made at home, the spring press model is often used. To achieve the desired level of pressure, the springs need to be calibrated by turning the wing nuts that connect to the threaded rod.
The cheese press provided the cheese producer with control over the level of pressure being applied. This is essential in the delicate craft of cheesemaking because too little pressure results in inadequate firmness and a susceptibility to spoilage, while too great pressure will result in cheese that is too hard or dry.
Design of Cheese Press at the Illawarra Museum
The design pictured above is known as a double lever press and it is made with wood and iron elements. The cheese press is a "double" rather than "single" simply because it enabled two moulds to be pressed at any one time. The press was lowered by a metal thread which enabled a more precise tightening of the mould. Weights were hung from the ends of the press to increase the downward force. The additional weights are visible in the first image on the left end of the press and stacked on the base (not in use).
Want to know more?
A good guide to building your own spring cheese press may be found at:
Source: Information on change in cheese press design over time found in: Ingram, A. 'Dairying Bygones', Shire Album 29.
Image Credit: Photos of Cheese Press collected by the Illawarra Museum taken by Carly Todhunter on 1/11/2010 and 4/11/2010.