Homemade Cheese and Cider Press




Here is how I built my own combination cider and cheese press. After a great apple harvest this year, I was inspired to obtain my own cider press. However, after pricing one and seeing that they cost exactly one arm and one leg to purchase I started thinking about building one myself. While no advanced rocket engineering degree is needed to understand the basics concept of apple cider making (apples+ pressure=cider), it took some thought as to how it all fits together. At the same time, I was interested in learning cheese making so I put a homemade cheese press on it as well. So, I looked at some other press variations online and in magazines and this is what I came up with.

I used white oak, because treated wood wasn't an option in a food application and soft woods such as pine can impart an aftertaste to the cider. The press part is just a scissors jack from the auto parts store mounted to one of the top timbers. At 3000 pounds, it should have enough ooomph to adequately press the apples. At the other end is a grinder, made up of two rollers I turned out of a piece of oak. I put stainless screws into it to use as teeth for mashing the apples. The ground apples fall into the slatted bucket, which is lined with a mesh bag and gets moved to the other end where the press is. The juice flows out the slats, and into the wooden trough, where it then heads out into the bucket.

The cheese press is just a wooden arm that's mounted across the two top timbers, with a second arm mounted to it that goes down into the cheese mold. A weight ( a jug with water in it) is hung from the end. The pressure is varied by adding or subtracting water from the jug.
And here's how I did it...

Step 1: The Future Cider Press

I started with some hearty oak timbers one fall day, purchased from a local sawmill...

Step 2: Getting Started

I started by cutting out notches for the top timbers to set into. To keep the press steady, I used these top timbers to act as braces. I calculated how high I'd want the scissors jack to be placed and how much room I would need to fit the apple-mash box underneath it.

To make the notches, I just cut lines with the circular saw and used the chisel to knock them out. I soon learned just how hard oak is.

Step 3: Gluing Together Wood for the Rollers

I glued two 1 x 6 pieces to two 4 x 6 pieces with Titebond 3 wood glue (it's food safe), and then put some heavy wood pieces on it overnight. These were to be turned on a wood lathe to create the rollers.

Step 4: The Rollers

When you make cider, if you mash the apples first, you'll get more juice when you get to the actually pressing stage. To mash them, I made two heavy duty wood rollers that turn and grind up the apples.

I took the rollers into the campus wood shop and turned them on the lathe, making two 7" long rollers that were 5" across. A friend and I then drilled a 3/4" hole through them on the drill press. The drilled hole accommodates a 3/4" zinc-plated threaded rod that I used to mount it in the mash-box.

In retrospect, it might have been easier to drill first in the block, and then turn them on the lathe. Once the drill bit got part way into the roller they sure wanted to spin with it! I think it would have been easier to clamp a block than a round roller.

Step 5: Giving the Rollers Some Teeth

The rollers themselves weren't going to mash the apples, so I had to give them some biting power. I screwed stainless screws all over the rollers, leaving the heads protruding an 1/8 to a 1/4" or so. I read an account online from a guy who had made a similar roller setup, and his experience was that the less he let the heads protrude the finer it ground the apples.

Step 6: Gluing Together Some Boards for the Trough

To catch the finished cider, I built a trough that runs the length of the press. A bucket is placed at one end to catch the finished cider.

After running some of the oak boards through the planer to clean them up, I clamped and glued them together to get them ready for the trough. After they sufficiently dried overnight, I cut them up with a chop saw. The trough is 13" wide with 5" sides. The trough runs the length of the press (about five feet or so) and sticks out some on each end.

Step 7: Putting the Press Together

Now that I had all the components ready, it was time to fit them all together.

As you can hopefully see in the picture, there are two main upright timbers on each end. Then there are timbers going across the top and bottom, tying them together and basically making two big rectangles. These horizontal timbers act as braces to keep the whole press sturdy.

I also have side timbers tying the rectangles together and making the press. The trough sits in between, resting on the bottom timbers.

I used regular, zinc-plated bolts to fasten everything together.

Step 8: Building the Basket

For the basket, I used a table saw to rip some of the pieces I had glued together into 2" wide strips. I bought a piece of galvanized pre-drilled angle iron at the local home improvement store and cut them into 14" lengths using a hacksaw. I then bolted the pieces together into a box shape using some small bolts.

You have to leave some space between the slats to let the cider run out as it's pressed. Because I left an inch in between the slats, the apple mash will leak through, too. To keep the apple mash from mixing with the finished cider, I bought a mesh bag to the line the box. It will let the juice flow out, but keep the mash contained. The mesh bag is just a 5 gallon paint filter I bought at the hardware store for a couple bucks.

I also made a top lid that fits just inside the crate, that will press down on the apples.

Step 9: Building the Grinder Box

For this step, I cut some of the boards that I had glued together in Step 6, and screwed them together to create a mash box for housing the rollers. I mounted the three interior sides first.

I put a 3/4" threaded rod through the rollers, and drilled a couple of holes in the side of the box for them to sit in. On the inside I used a couple of press-in bearings that I happened to have on hand. The press-in bearings allow the shaft to turn without tearing up the wood.

Step 10: Mounting the Grinder Assembly

After mounting three interior sides of the box, I put in the rollers. With the help of a couple friends, I put the rollers in and screwed the outside panel on.

I had to create a crank mechanism to work the rollers, so I used a couple of bike sprockets welded to some large nuts by a friend. I then put those on the shaft that was threaded through the rollers and tightened the nuts fast.

Step 11: The Cheese Press

I then started working on the cheese press part. I plan on making some hard cheese like cheddar, so I need to be able to press the whey from the curds. Different cheeses require different amounts of pressure, so I created a system that will allow me to vary the weight.

First I needed to create a lever. I attached a couple of small blocks of oak wood to a longer piece to make a big enough end surface to put a hinge on. I attached that whole lever to one of the side braces of the larger cider press. It's screwed to one of the side pieces and spans beyond the other side. It's on that far side where I hang a 5 gallon jug and put varying amounts of water in it for weight.

Step 12: Highly Sophisticated Cheese Press Calibration Process

For this step I found an old bathroom scale and used it gauge how much water to add to the jug for different pressures. I kept adding water to the jug, marking it at various intervals. That "whey", when I'm ready to make cheese, I just have to fill it up to a pre-determined line.

Step 13: Mounting the Scissors Jack

The scissors jack is what creates the pressure to separate the actual cider from the apple mash.

I mounted the scissors jack upside down on the side opposite the mash-box. I drilled four holes in the bottom plate of the jack and mounted it to a 1 x 4 board that was about a foot long. I then mounted that board to the cross brace with lag bolts.

Step 14: Making a Crank to Run the Rollers

To run the rollers that mash the apples up, I created a crank out of bike sprockets (see Step 10).

I fashioned a handle for this crank using a piece of scrap wood that was laying around. On one end for the handle part I put a big 5/8" x 8" bolt through it (with some treadlocker to keep the nut on). I drilled a hole in the other end of the crank-board and put it onto one of the shafts that was sticking out farther than the other . I intentionally left one shaft longer than the other to keep one sprocket from hitting the other one when it was rotated. I attached the crank-board to the shaft with two nuts that I used to pinch the board tight.

I connected all of the bike sprockets with a bike chain that was sized to fit. The chain runs through the sprockets and around a tensioner (which is a bike sprocket on a spring) that was taken off the back of the 10-speed donor bike that contributed all the parts. The tensioner was just bolted to the side of the mash-box. With all these parts in place, my crank mechanism was ready for apple season.

Step 15: Giving It the Ol' College Try

A friend gave me some large Wolf River apples, and I tossed them into the box. While I still need to build a hopper (a large scale funnel that will feed a bushel of apples into the masher) and fine-tune the sprockets, I was itching to give it a go.

When I fed the apples into the mash-box, they wanted to bounce on the rollers at first, but then started to grind up. I think that if I had a hopper, the weight of the other apples would help to push them through. Also, I need to get the rollers reoriented, but it was encouraging to see it chew the apples up some.

I'm happy with the way everything turned out, but eventually, I plan to hook up the mashing assembly to a stationary mounted bike and make it pedal powered! To be continued...

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    47 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    This is great! I have been looking for some direction on how to make a system for Bio-Mass logs (just moved and have a ton of cardboard). I'm thinking your roller apparatus could be modified to help shred cardboard, paper, leaves, ect. Then modifying the press to wet out the pulp wood products and press them to shape.

    I'm excited to try it! thanks for the motivation


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Washing the press with hot, hot water and a few tablespoonfuls of of boric acid will help prevent mold. rise after. Boric acid is a food additive used in pickles to keep them crisp. Available at most pharmacies or big box grocery stores that have canning supplies in the fall.


    5 years ago on Step 15

    You could toss a pvc sleeve over that handle to make the cranking smoother. Also, I take it you don't want to add a motor? This is an SHTF device?


    6 years ago on Step 15

    Nice Job but I was wondering if cutti ng the apples in half or maybe into Quarters might help. Also did the oak clean up OK after you finished and did you have any flavor from the oak??? MAPLE is the wood to use around food processes it is tight grained so it helps fight Bacteria. That is why there are very few Butchers Blocks made of OAK it is maple that they use.


    6 years ago on Step 8

    I agree, the galvanized seems iffy. No reason you can't use steel. It will rust, but a little iron in your cider won't hurt! or you can build a mash bin by putting a band around the outside.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Your work is absolutely lovely.

    I noticed there were a few comments about putting galvanized metals near food products; I would fourth that, including copper, and I would also separate the cheese processing from the yeast based processing (cider, wine, etc.) for bacteriological reasons.

    Stainless is the way to go for collecting fluids, or even plastic, in conjunction with your wood. Wood in conjunction with chlorine cleaners can enable the agents that create trichloroanisole (TCA) which is NOT good eats in wine - it also creates the flavor profile commonly called "corked".

    So cleaning wise, you must be careful unless you are after your own personalized microbial flora/fauna.

    A very good cleaner for wine and cider (and beer) areas is "eco-bleach" sold in grocery stores as a non-chlorine bleach, containing citric acid and hydrogen peroxide. Wonderful stuff - sterilizer and cleaner.

    We clean big wine tanks (stainless, mostly but plastic too) by starting with sodium percarbonate (available in beer and wine brewing stores) and then neutralizing the slight causticity of the percarbonate with citric acid (as in the bleach alternative). Now you know the secrets of big winery cleaning!

    Seriously, I love your craftsmanship.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    what about cleaning? would you hose it down? what about mold or wood rot? did you seal the wood in any way? e.g. olive oil nice instructable

    4 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Some Friends and I used a press this summer from around 50 years ago and the way it is kept clean is by hosing it down and allowing it to dry. We used it outside and it has no mold growing on it. As long as you clean it well just with water you should be good. It has no visible oils or anything on it, is very old, and very clean :) .


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I'm definitely not a wood expert, but from what I've read white oak is pretty good at being mold/rot resistant. I found some food safe gel for sealing wood that I'm going to apply to the press that should protect it- it's called EZ-DO by the John Boos company(I got mine online from Cutlery and More). They also make the food-safe oil for cutting boards that would also work. I'll probably wash it good with soap and water, and then seal it with the EZ-DO. One suggestion that I've read is to sterilize it before use by pouring boiling water on it , or at least wash it with soap and water. Then, reseal it at the end of the season. I think that any oil, such as olive would work, it would just be a matter of finding one that didn't change the flavor of the cider. I've heard that mineral oil works well, and is cheap. Thanks for checking it out!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Your vegetable oils and olive oils may turn rancid and spoil the product. Mineral oil works the best and won't impart any taste. I make cutting boards and use a combination mineral oil and beeswax to keep them in great shape and looking good.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Great instructable! I remember reading somewhere that olive oil can "go bad" if used to seal woods. I don't know if this is true; but I always use mineral oil on my cutting board. Might be safer to stick with that.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Your cider press looks about the same size as mine. How long did it take you to fully press out your apples? What did you use to pulp them with? Your press looks much nicer than mine. I just use a bottle jack for the pressure.


    8 years ago on Step 8

    How has the galvanized held up? With Honey Extractors at least, its a big no-no, as the chemicals leach from the galvanizing (zinc?) into the honey.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    It seems a bit difficult but I am going to invite a friend over and see if we can do this


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I want to see this in action and what about cleaning it and pests?


    8 years ago on Introduction

    What keeps the compression plate (under the jack) from hitting the bolt heads in the angle iron as it lowers into the basket? I'm looking into making a press but was going to skip the basket, but this looks like an easy way of making one!


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 14

    Hi- it's hard to explain, but if you look closely at the picture in step 14 you can see how I routed the chain around the gear on the main crank, and then ran it under the next gear, with the tensioner keeping it taut. So, when the main crank is turned the chain makes the next gear run in the opposite direction. I hope that helps...