Medicinal Plants: The $12 Tincture Press

(As featured in the June 2011 issue of Practically Seeking)

The $12 Tincture Press

When making tinctures and infused oils you want to be sure and get every last drop of goodness from the plant materials you are using. For most of us, the traditional "solution" has been to put your plant material into fabric or cheesecloth and then proceed to squeeze by hand as hard as you can!

While this method does work, it leaves a LOT of your precious liquid behind.

Commercial presses are available, but they cost anywhere from $50 to $500 and for most of us home herbalists this is just not cost effective. Now you can call me cheap if you want to, but after a little pondering and a bit of good ol' southern engineering I created my own press (which works remarkably well) out of a couple of scrap pieces of 2x4, two metal bowls out of the kitchen cupboard, and a couple of nuts and bolts from the hardware store. Total cost to me: $11.34. 
Now that's more like it!

Here's what I did…

Step-by-step Instructions on How to make a Tincture Press:

  1. You will need to pull together the following items that can be found in any hardware store:
    — Two pieces of 2x4, each 10 1/2 inches long
    — 2 - 1/2" hex bolts, 10 inches long
    — 4 - 1/2" fender washers
    — 2 hex nuts
    — 1 - 6" x 3/4" hex bolt
    — 2 - 3/4" hex nuts
    — 1 - 3/4" fender washer 
    Now head over to the Plumbing department around the iron pipe fittings and obtain an Iron "1/2 inch flange". (Your looking for a flat metal thing with 4 holes in it.) You will also need two small stainless steel bowls of the same size — inexpensive kitchen bowls or pet dishes work great.
  2. What you need

  3. Take your 2x4 pieces and measure in 1 inch from the end and mark that point with a line, then measure and mark the center of that line. Do the same thing at the other end so that each piece as two marks on it, one at each end. These are your drill points. Now drill out a 1/2 inch hole all the way through your board on each mark. You should have a total of 4 holes, two on each board, and they should line up when you place one board on top of the other.
  4. Draw line one inch from end Mark the center of each line Drill the center point of  your line Drill second piece

  5. On one of your 2x4 pieces draw line diagonally from corner to corner in both directions, making an "X". Drill a 3/4 inch hole at the center point of your "X".
  6. Draw an X on ONE piece Drill through the center of your X

  7. Place a 1/2" fender washer on to each of your 1/2" bolts and then insert the bolt through the drilled holes in each end of the 2x4 that has only 2 holes in it. Put a hex nut on each bolt and screw it about two inches down the thread.
  8. Thread bolt through end hole Repeat with second bolt Add hex nut

  9. Slide the 2x4 with 3 holes on the bolts on top of the other 2x4, place another fender washer on each bolt on the outside of the piece of wood and screw a hex nut on each bolt. You now have a fender washer on the outside of each piece of wood, and hex nuts holding the top piece in place. You do not need to tighten the hex nuts down at this point.
  10. Slide 2nd board on top Put fender washer and nut on top Both boards in place

  11. Put your 6" long, 3/4" bolt down through the center hole of your top 2x4. Put on the fender washer and both hex nuts. Tighten the top hex nut up against the bottom side of the 2x4, holding the fender washer in place against the wood.
  12. Insert 3/4-inch center bolt Put on both hex bolts

  13. Screw the 1/2" flange onto the 3/4" bolt until the bolt is flush with the bottom of the flange, then tighten the lower hex nut down against the flange.
  14. Placing flange

  15. Put your 2 stainless steel bowls under the flange. Place your plant material in your bottom bowl with the second bowl sitting on top. Adjust the center 3/4" bolt as needed to seat the flange and upper bowl firmly down on the material to be pressed.
  16. Place plant material in bowl Place first bowl in press Place second bowl atop first Seat flange firmly against second bowl

  17. Tighten the nuts on the two OUTER bolts, evenly and a little at a time, causing the flange to press down on the top bowl squeeze down on your plant material. (Use a wrench as necessary.)
  18. Tighten down the outer bolts evenly Tighten with wrench if necessary

  19. Continue to slowly tighten down on the two outer bolts and pour off the resulting liquid a little at a time.
  20. Slowly tighten outer bolts Lift press to pour off liquid in bottom bowl Collect resulting liquid

  21. Repeat steps 9 and 10 until you can no longer get the nuts to tighten down any farther. THEN, open the press by loosening the center bolt to raise the flange high enough to remove the bowls, re-bundle the plant material and repeat the process another time or two until you are not extracting any more liquid.
  22. Continue to tighten down Pour off resultant liquid Remove bowls and re-bundle plant material before returning to press

  23. By the time you finish your plant material should be virtually dry, and can be tossed in to your compost to help nurture future medicinals. I have successfully used this press to extract an additional half cup to almost a full cup of liquid that would have otherwise been lost — what can be the most potent part of the medicine!
  24. Dry cake of remaining plant material The most potent liquid!

Until next time, enjoy the bounty of plants,
and Have Fun!

Interested in learning more about Medicinal Plants?
Come check out the workshop on June 18!