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Whole Leaf Tobacco

"Containerless" Pressing of Pipe Tobacco

deluxestogie

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#1
Making a Crumble-Cake



By placing a pipe blend into a (in this case, quart-size) freezer Ziploc bag, it can be pressed for general melding, or pressed into a crumble-cake between two planks, without devising a sturdier container for the pressing, or a complex press. Pressing between a counter top (or the floor) and a plank of wood, with weight on top (say, a 5 gallon bucket filled with water = 40 pounds) will work. But by using a wall-mounted lever arm, I could apply 65 pounds of weight using only a 1 gallon jug of water.



If more moisture is added to the tobacco, a crumble-cake can be made into a solid plank, from which a chunk can be crumbled off, rubbed out, then smoked. The purpose of crumble-cake is to prevent smaller bits (like Latakia) from sorting to the bottom of a container of tobacco during handling or shipping. The Brazil nut effect tends to leave you with a pile of fines at the bottom of a tobacco tin or pouch. (Brazil nut effect: within a container of objects with equal surface friction, agitation causes the larger objects to "float" to the top.) The higher the Latakia percentage, the greater the benefit of storing it as a crumble-cake.

In this demo, I did not add moisture to the tobacco blend (a Balkan Sobranie knockoff, with added Perique). With the tobacco in the lower half of the Ziploc, the bag was folded in half, with the top left unsealed. I pressed for 3 days under 65 pounds, spread over the area of the quart Ziploc folded in half. Surface area (4" x 7") is 28 in[sup]2[/sup], so the applied pressure was 2.3 psi. [psi = applied weight / surface area] The result is a soft crumble-cake that will not settle, if left alone, but readily rubs-out. I think this is adequate pressure to make a hard crumble-cake, provided that there is more moisture added to the blend, and it is pressed for a week or more.

I built this wall-mounted press as a cheese press (for merging curds into a solid cheese, like cheddar) a number of years ago. I've posted about it before, but it's been a long time.

It's simply a wood press arm on a wall-mounted pivot. The arm (poplar) has notches cut into the bottom at various distances from the wall, and its end extends beyond the kitchen counter surface, so that weights can be suspended from it. The suspended weights can be varied, and the press "piston" (just a pointed hunk of wood) distance from the wall can be varied. I determined the applied weight by placing a bathroom scale beneath the piston for each position and each weight jug.



The mounting board is anchored into the wall with 4 heavy anchor screws.



The pivot was purchased as a "Patio door roller" at Lowe's, for ~$7. (https://www.lowes.com/pd/National-2-01-in-Plastic-Sliding-Patio-Door-Roller/3034107) The wheel was replaced by my press arm, with a bronze bushing pressed into the pivot hole of the arm.



Since the press lives on the wall immediately above my kitchen counter, I added a keeper hook to make sure it doesn't bonk me in the head unexpectedly.







This modest amount of tobacco pressed to about 1/2" thick.





I could probably double the quantity of tobacco in the folded Ziploc without difficulty. What is noteworthy is that the 2.3 psi did not burst the open freezer Ziploc bag.

Bob
 

deluxestogie

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#2
The drawing below (a freely available, shrunken version of the real drawing) shows the basic construction of a wall-mounted press. Although I ordered the full-size drawing, by the time it arrived, back in 2010 or so, I had already built my press from the one shown here.



You can purchase the full size drawing for ~$5 here: https://www.cheesemaking.com/shop/cheese-press-plans-off-the-wall.html

Nothing about the measurements is particularly important, since you can easily determine the applied weight at various points along the arm by simply trial and error, then cut the notches where you want.

[It turns out that the indicated distances for notches, and the resulting applied weights on the formal diagram are incorrect. The designer failed to account for the weight of the wooden press arm itself, which is significant, given its length.] Also, using a wooden follower at the foot of the piston is an icky thing to use on cheese.

Bob
 

Charly

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#3
Thanks for sharing :)
The good point with this press is that you know exactly how much pressure you put on your tobacco, this way (when you are happy with the results) you can easily apply the same weight to another batch.
The only drawback is that you may not be able to put a lot of pressure (but I don't know how much maximum pressure can be usefull for tobacco).
 

deluxestogie

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#4
It's All About the Surface Area (or cross-section) of the container

Familiar equations:
For a rectangular cross-section, using length L and width W, the area A is computed as:
A = L x W

For a circular cross-section of radius r, the area A is computed as:
A = πr[sup]2[/sup]
where π (pi) is ~3.14 [Tobacco blenders are given a special dispensation to use just 3 as the value of π.]

My wall-mounted press, at its max load, can simultaneously suspend two 1 gallon jugs, which is ~16 pounds at the end of its 35" arm. At notch 1, which is the closest to the wall, that translates to over 134 pounds of applied weight at the "piston". Dividing that applied weight by the cross-section area gives me the pressure, psi.


About 4 ounces of blended tobacco.

Applied pressure from that 134 pounds can generate 134 psi if the cross-section of the pressed material (e.g. tobacco) is 1". Roughly 35 psi is sufficient to create Perique. So a container with a cross-section of 4 in[sup]2[/sup] would achieve that. Creating a firm press-cake of layered tobacco leaf can likely be achieved with less than 5 psi, so long as the tobacco is moistened, and the pressing sustained for a few days to a week or more.


Bag squeezed by hand.


Quickly compresses to ~1" thick.



This round cross-section is about 4" across, or 2" in radius. A = πr[sup]2[/sup] = π x 4 =~12.5 psi.

Findings:
  1. The quart-size freezer Ziploc is still intact at 12.5 psi (albeit a very brief trial)
  2. The wall-mounted press can easily generate 12.5 psi against a 4 ounce batch of tobacco
For making soft or hard crumble-cake, as well as unshredded press-cake, this method using a freezer Ziploc bag can get the job done.

To make Perique, a taller, cylindrical container, such as a fat, polycarbonate vitamin pill bottle with its shoulder sawed off should work well (using a slightly smaller polycarbonate pill bottle for the follower). This approach would not be quite as "containerless", but would only require readily available containers and a fine-tooth saw.



Bob

EDIT: Keep in mind that, with a wall-mounted press, whatever weight is applied to your tobacco is also being applied upward by the wall mounting, attempting to lift the wall from the counter. So there are limits.
 

ras_oscar

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#5
Interesting process. I've always wanted to press a cake into a puck shape that can be dropped into an 8 oz mason jar.
 

deluxestogie

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#6
Bucket Press Trial for Making a Plug



This project is to demonstrate if ~3.5 psi is sufficient to form a plug of tobacco. 5 gallons of water provides enough weight to generate that pressure onto a surface area of 12 in[sup]2[/sup]. So leaf segments of the tobacco blend were cut to 2" x 6" rectangles, using a plastic template. It would have been less tedious if I had stacked the leaf, then cut out a stack all at once, but I didn't anticipate how slow a process cutting the rectangles would be.



The Basma leaf was generally too small to provide a 2" x 6" rectangle, so assorted pieces were arranged for each Basma layer. The assemblage of fragments for each Basma layer were kept separate from each other by enclosing them into folds of baking parchment.



No binding agent (glue, sugar, etc.) was used. The casing is just Seagram's VO Canadian Whiskey and distilled water (50:50). This may or may not have been a wise choice.



The stacks of the 5 varieties of leaf rectangles were soaked in 8 ounces of casing mixture for 6 hours, in a 1 gallon Ziploc bag (resting within the sink).



This plug consists of a total of 41 leaf layers. Probably two or three times that number would make a nicer plug, but my primary interest is in seeing if this method works at all.



It seems thick enough now to make some decent flake, but after pressing, it will be like a piece of matza. The varieties are layered in a fancy sequence, with the single strip of burley red tip in the middle. Other than having a nice, bright leaf on the top and bottom surfaces of the plug, just for appearance, I don't think the sequence of the layering makes a bit of difference. I could have placed some Lemon VA stems lengthwise, to create birdseyes in the final flake, but I decided not to introduce yet another variable.





This 1 quart freezer Ziploc bag is 7 inches wide, and the tobacco plug is 6 inches, but due to its thickness, it barely squeezes in.



The pressing is performed between two wooden planks, resting on a cement floor. The bucket was filled by pouring water from 1 gallon jugs. I don't want to be hauling a full bucket.



I'll leave this in the press for a month, then dry down the plug, slice it into flake, complete the drying, then see how well it holds together.

I plan to remove the bucket by bailing it with a plastic bowl, until I can comfortably lift it (~half-full).

Bob
 

deluxestogie

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#9
The Seagram's VO is my attempt at adding a gentle background flavoring. It is definitely not an essential ingredient for the process. I should have used plain water, just to simplify the results.

Ziploc bags are LDPE (low density polyethylene), and are rated as "suitable for prolonged or repeated contact" with ethanol (ethyl alcohol, i.e. booze).

Two chemical reactivity charts:
https://www.spilltech.com/wcsstore/...ore/Attachment/documents/ccg/POLYETHYLENE.pdf
http://www.cdf1.com/technical bulletins/Polyethylene_Chemical_Resistance_Chart.pdf

Bob
 

deluxestogie

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#14
The water is being squeezed out. The plug will be under pressure for the duration. I believe that all plug and press cake are made with wet tobacco, though usually with more toxic components.

Bob
 

mwaller

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#15
How does this process differ from making perique? Is it just less pressure?
The water is being squeezed out. The plug will be under pressure for the duration. I believe that all plug and press cake are made with wet tobacco, though usually with more toxic components.

Bob
 

deluxestogie

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#16
Perique requires a minimum of about 3 months, at around 35 psi, and is maintained beneath a liquid seal. The Pichia anomala growth, which gives it its fruity aroma, depends on extremely high osmolarity in the liquid.

But I suspect that the "fruitiness" of press cake and plug may depend on a similar process (and maybe the same organism), though not carried out to its endpoint. The resulting product usually does not have the notably higher pH that Perique shows.

It sounds like I know what I'm talking about here, but I'm really just offering my best guess, based on limited data and a limited experience with pressing plug and press cake.

Bob

EDIT: I'll add that the pressure used in Perique (10 times higher than what I'm using here) guarantees that the laminar cells are disrupted. At 3.5 psi, that seems much less likely.
 

deluxestogie

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#18
Bucket Press Result



After pressing for a month with the filled, 5 gallon bucket, my press "block" was ready to come out. It was also time to get that bucket full of water out of my way.

As I had expected, the block of tobacco pressed to a flat sheet, only about 1/3" thick. The pressure on the open freezer bag did not damage it. The bag also served as a seal against air. So the soggy tobacco did not mold. I flayed the bag with scissors, to remove the press block.



The aroma was not that of Seagram's VO, but more of a soft, fruity smell. This was not the aroma of 1 month old Perique, but there was a suggestion there. In order to cut this into flake, I sliced the block into quarters, giving me 4 pressed plugs.



The plugs were then stacked two high, for slicing. It still retained a slight moistness, but there was not much to squeeze onto the cutting board, even under the pressure of the blade.



Here, you can better appreciate the layers of the flake.



I spread this onto a seedling heat mat. I'll probably allow it to completely dry, so that I can judge the adhesion achieved (and whether that really matters). I'm sure that if the casing had included a sugar of any sort, this would all be glued together.



Bob
 

greenmonster714

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#19
Interesting project. I'm curious as to what it tastes like. If you would have add a sugar. What type would you have used? A natural like honey or some raw sugar concoction?
 

deluxestogie

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#20
I just don't add sweetener to any of my tobacco blends, and rarely use a casing of any kind. That's just personal preference. So it's an area of ignorance on my part.

If I really wanted to glue the press block, so thin flakes would stay together, I would ask our experienced members for their recommendations. And they are certainly invited to chime in here.

My general notion is that the simpler the sugar's chemical structure (say, the mono-saccharide fructose instead of di-saccharide sucrose [table sugar, and many fruit sugars]), the more completely it will combust. Honey is about 3/4 mono-saccharides (fructose and glucose), though it does have a distinctive aroma.

High fructose corn syrup would seem ideal, but the readily available Light Karo Syrup has salt and vanilla added. One approach would be to heat to boiling a saturated solution of table sugar, then add citric acid to it to convert most of the di-saccharides to mono-saccharides. [That's often done in making jelly or jam, using lemon juice. In the absence of pectin, you end up with a very sweet tasting, colorless syrup.]

Bob

EDIT: The opposite logic is true of sugars that you will eat. You want them to "combust" more slowly. So table sugar is less of a metabolic problem for the body than high fructose corn syrup.
 
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