Understanding the

Cheese Making Process




I. Warming the milk

The milk has to be warmed to a temperature that will encourage the cheese starter cultures (bacteria) to grow and multiply. This will result in a thick mass of happy healthy lactic bacteria. Understanding why you use different temperatures will make it easier for you to understand the process better

There are many strains of cultures today developed for making cheeses. All of these cultures fall into two basic types, Mesophilic or Thermophilic.

Mesophilic means middle - these cultures grow best in temperatures ranging from 68F - 102F.

Thermophilic means heat loving - these cultures grow best at temperatures ranging from 104F - 128F.

II. Inoculating the Milk (Adding the Bacterial Cultures)

Inoculating the milk is a simple procedure by which the bacterial cultures and molds are measured out according to the recipe are sprinkled over the milk and stirred in or sprinkled over the milk and allowed to rehydrate for about 5 minutes then mixing into the milk. Ether methods works just be sure to allow cultures to warm to room temperature for about 30 minutes before using.

There are seven basic strains of lactic bacteria. A mentioned earlier they all fall into two main types; Mesophilic or Thermophilic. Theses strains may be sold separately combined and sold in packages for use in making different type of cheeses.

The Mesophilic Strains which are normally added at temperatures between 77F to 86F are:

Lactococcus lactic ssp latis

Lactococcus lactis ssp cremoris

Lactococcus lactic ssp diacetylactis

Leuconostoc mesenteroides ssp. Cremoris

The Thermophilic Strains which are normally added at temperatures between 95F to 105F are:

Streptococcus thermophilus

Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp bulgaricus

Lactobacillus helveticus

III. Allowing the Milk to Ripen

Once the milk has been incoculated It must be allowed to ripen. That means that the bacterial culture must be allowed to multiply and acidify or sour the milk. The time it takes to do this will depend on what type of cheese you are making. Generally it will take between 20 minutes and 2 hours.

IIIa. Adding Calcium Chloride

If you are using pasteurized/homogenized milk purchased from a store you may need to use Calcium Chloride (sometimes listed CaCl2 in recipes). Calcium Chloride works to add calcium ions in the milk that were lost during the homogenization process. This will allow the curds to become firmer and will increase the amount of cheese obtained from the milk. If you are using Raw milk you can over look this step.

Calcium Chloride used in cheese making is generally sold in liquid form. To use it mix the recommended amount with 1/4 cup of pure un-chlorinated water, then pour into the milk and mix well. Bottled water works well for this if you have a public water supply.

If you are using goats milk you should always use calcium chloride because goats milk is naturally homogenized.

NOTE: Calcium Chloride should always be added before the rennet!

IV. Coagulating the Milk (adding Rennet)

After the milk has ripened it is time to add the rennet. Rennet is an enzyme used to thicken the milk so that it may be cut into curds. Rennet comes in liquid and tablet form and may be animal or vegetable. I highly recommend liquid rennet's but in any case go by the manufactures recommendations for suggested use.

Rennet should be mixed or dissolved 1/4 cup of pure un-chlorinated water then added to the milk and stirred in to mix completely.

After a bit of time usually between 20 minutes and 1.5 hours the curds are checked for a clean break before cutting the curds to the prescribed dimensions. A clean break is when the milk has thickened to a point where it looks like a thick glassy pudding.

To test for a clean break insert a long bladed knife or your clean finger into the curds at a 30 degree angle and lift straight up. If the knife or you finger comes away cleanly and the curd cut leaves a distinctive puddle of whey around the cut you have achieved clean break. If the curds are runny or drippy wait another 10 to 15 minutes and try again.

V. Cutting the Curds

Once the lean break in achieve you mat cut the curds. Different cheeses require different sizes of curds so check your recipe for size then proceed as follows:

Using a long knife or spatula first cut the curds vertically by sliding the blade all the way the bottom and cut long rows all the way across the pot. Then make cross cuts again going all the way to the bottom of the pot.

As you cut the curds the whey will begin to separate surrounding the curds with an opaque yellowish liquid.

Once the vertical cuts are made the insert the blade into the side of the curds to cut the curds into cubes.

Once all the curds are cut gently stir the curds to stir up any that need to be cut that are to large or were missed during the initial cutting. For finely cut curds a wire whisk may be used for this step to help cut the curds.

VI. Cooking the Curds

If you are making a soft ripened cheese like Camembert or Brie skip this step and go right to step VII.

Most cheese except for soft ripened cheeses require cooking or scalding to firm up the curds. This is done by slowly raising the temperature over the course of 20 minutes to an hour. If the temperature is increased to quickly the curds will release to much whey making the final cheese brittle and dry.

This process has two affects on the curds:

1. scalding cause the curds to shrink and release more of the whey still held inside of them, making them firm and spongy. This will allow the curds to knit together better when pressed.

2. The heat also acidifies the curds lowering the pH to a level acceptable to making a good cheese.

During the scalding process the curds must be stirred frequently to prevent them from matting together.

VII. Draining the Curds

Before the curds can be pressed into cheese the whey has to be drained. This is generally done by lining a colander or the molds with clean sterilized cheese cloth and pouring or scooping the curds into the colander or molds.

Some molds such as kadova style molds have the nylon liner built in. If you are using this type of mold you do not need to line them with cheese cloth just scoop the curds into the molds.

VIII. Pressing the Curds

Scoop the curds into the molds as tightly as possible pressing occasionally with the follower to pack more tightly.

Once the molds are filled pressure based on the type of cheese being made is placed on the mold to expel more whey and knit the curds together. The pressure applied to the molds are generally expressed in PSI (pounds per square inch) of the surface area of the cheese. As the diameter of the mold increases so would the pressure needed for the mold. As most recipes do not mention the size of the mold, so the pressing of the cheeses can a mystery to home cheese makers.

IX. Salting the Cheese

Once the cheese has been pressed the salting of the cheese can be done in one of two ways:

1. Dry Salting - rubbing salt over the entire surface of the cheese.

2. A Saturated salt brine solution - A mixture of salt and water are mixed together and the cheeses are left submerged for a given length of time. Common solutions used based on the percentage of salt saturation as shown below:



Table only goes to 26% as at 26.395% brine is fully saturated (at 60F) and any additional salt will not dissolve. The table below is at standard conditions of 60F/15.6C. When using salt for cheese you should only use NON iodized salt.


% NaCl Salt

kg NaCl Salt / liter Water

pound NaCl Salt / US gallon Water













































X. Aging the Cheese

Cheeses are age to allow the flavors to develop and can take from weeks to years depending on the cheese. Cheese is a living breathing entity and requires the right balance of moisture and humidity to thrive. Most cheeses require a temperature of around 50 to 60F and a relative humidity of 70 to 95%.

This can't not achieve in a normally used refrigerator. Refrigerators may be used if setup separately using special controllers and humidifiers.

Johnson Controls makes a controller that may be purchased through several Home Brew stores and Cheese Suppliers. It runs around $70 and will keep the temperatures down in the refrigerator to the range you select.

The humidity in a refrigerator may be increased by placing a container of water filled about 1/3 full with salt.

A thermometer to monitor temperature and hygrometer to monitor humidity must be used to for the safe aging of your cheeses. These can be purchase inexpensively at Wal-Mart in the Home and Hardware section.





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