Sunday, June 26, 2016

Low-Cost Tincture Press Options and Homemade Tincture Press Instructions

After you've made your amazing tinctures and they are ready to use, the question always becomes--what do do next?  To get every last bit of goodness out of your tincture, a lot of people choose to use a tincture press. But tincture presses can be extremely expensive--costs of several hundred dollars is common for commercially available ones. And so, this post will look at three options that can be extremely low cost and can serve you well for your tincture pressing needs!  We'll also include information on how to build your own tincture press for less than $20.

What kinds of tinctures to press

One of the things that's important to realize is that not all tinctures can, and should, be pressed.  Spongy material that absorbs the water in alcohol, or that had water in it to begin with, should be pressed.  This includes some mushrooms (reishi), all flowers and berries, and much other plant matter.  This is because most of the alcohol is being held in the plant matter.

On the other hand, there is no point is pressing hard or woody material: most roots and barks, for example.  You won't get much more out of it by pressing, and I've found it's easier to just put a bark tincture in a small strainer and let it drip for a bit.

You can also press infused oils of spongy material.  This is better for pressing oils made from dried ingredients. Otherwise, you'll press the water right into your oil, and then you've got another problem on your hands!  If you do decide to press your oil with fresh ingredients, you can let the oil settle in a mason jar and then pour off the oil from the water (the water will make it go rancid).

What not to use as a press

The two things that I found that are not appropriate to use are a french press (the glass can easily break with too much pressure) or anything made out of aluminum, as the high proof alcohol can easily erode it and make a funky aluminum tincture.

Option 1: Stainless Steel Potato Ricer

The simplest option for a tincture press is to purchase a stainless steel potato ricer. I like this option, and I use it fairly often when I need to press just a little bit of something and sheer arm strength will be enough. You can usually find these second hand, or you can purchase one new for about $25.

Pros: Extremely easy to acquire, easy to use, easy to clean up.
Cons: You don't get as much "press" with this as you will the other options I present here.

A simple stainless steel potato ricer with three "disk" options for pressing.

Option 2: Small Fruit Press

A second good option, if you can find one used, is a small fruit press.  I was lucky enough to find one at a local thrift store in really good condition for $47.  If you can get one of these, I would highly recommend it for "big pressing" jobs or jobs that are not easily done by hand.  This thing is a workhorse, and not only can I press large volumes of tincture easily, and with minimal muscle effort.

Pros: Presses a very large volume of plant material easily and completely
Cons: Can be more expensive upfront, can be hard to find at a reasonable cost, requires more work to clean
Here's my badass fruit press--the inside of the press itself is about 8" in diameter

The fruit press disassembled. 

Option 3: Build Your Own Tincture Press for $30

Both of the above options have some problems, so I have come up with a third option that is actually my favorite of the three, but that does require some initial work.  This combines the cost-effectivenss of option 1 with the pressing power of option 2, and can do smaller amounts of pressing.

Pros: Very reasonably priced, can be customized to your needs, very good pressing action, works for small batches (depending on the size you build)
Cons: You have to build it (although I think the process is fun). 

Now, I'll walk you through how to create it, step by step!

Supplies:

  • One very large C-clamp (probably the largest you can find); I found mine at a home improvement store
  • One stainless steel cylinder (you can get this at a restaurant supply store; I bought mine online).
  • Cheese cloth for pressing (can be reused if washed carefully)

Tools:

  • Coping saw or other way to cut two wooden circles
  • Pencil for drawing lines
  • Sand paper
  • Drill and large-ish bit
  • Epoxy or some other glue (ONLY for outside of the press, see instructions below)

Steps to Make Your Press

You will be creating a press from two wooden disks, a c-clamp, and a stainless steel cylinder.

1.  You will need one wooden disk to support the bottom of your metal cylinder, and you’ll need a second to function as the “press” inside.  And so, start out by figuring out what size of wooden disks you will need to fit on the outside.  I found that a canning jar lid worked well for the size I was looking for.

 2) Cut out your circles.  I learned through this process that my coping saw skills leave much to be desired–but in the end, I had two circle-ish wooden disks.

3) Drill some holes in one of your disks; the one designed to go into the press itself.
4) Sand your disks, making sure your pencil marks are sanded off and the edges are smooth.


5) Glue your second disk onto the bottom of the metal cylinder–this will hold it in place and make pressing much easier.

Now you are ready to press!

Using your Tincture Press

1) Start by straining off your herbs into a clean jar (I use a simple plastic strainer, and I let them drip out for a bit). These are hawthorn “haws” that I made into tincture last November.
 2) Place the cheese cloth inside your metal cylinder, making sure it will be sufficient to cover your herbs (I’m using a lot here because there are a lot of haws). Take your herbs out of the strainer and add them into the cheese cloth.  I'll note that for larger stuff, you might not need the cheesecloth, but it is a really good idea for small bits of herbs.

3) Get your press ready–make sure your wooden disk is supporting the bottom (I took this photo before I glued it!) and put your disk with the holes in top of the press. Get your c-clamp into place for the pressing action.


4) Begin pressing, spinning your handle of the C-clamp in a clockwise fashion.  You’ll feel the tension as the herbs are pressed down.

5) After pressing for a bit, tilt your c-clamp and pour your tincture off.  You can continue to press and pour off your tincture till its too hard to press further.  You’ll notice I’m sending it through a strainer to get out any plant material–but I didn’t see any coming out of the press.

A few other notes about using this homemade tincture press:

1) Some of the alcohol will absorb into the wood. I sealed my wood with melted beeswax and that helped quite a bit!

2) You can use this press to press other things, like an herbal oil, if you desire. I’d seal the wood for sure if you are pressing oil (and I'd suggest that you cut yourself a third disk for oils and use that exclusively with the oils).


*Please note: this post was updated and expanded from my original post on the Druid's Garden Blog!

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