This wiki article discusses the aging phase of making cheese, thus non-aged “fresh” cheeses are not discussed. Aging is the art of aging a shaped cheese, which depending on cheese type and age wanted can vary from weeks to years. Other common names for aging the French word affinage and ripening. However ripening is the process from start to end of making and aging cheese thus ripening or to ripen is sometimes used for the curd making phase of making cheese and sometimes for the affinage or aging phase.
Aging at warmer than recommended temperatures such as 60F will age faster and often develop undesireable aftertaste from bitter peptides.
During this time, bacteria continue to grow in the cheese and change its chemical composition, resulting in flavor and texture changes in the cheese. The type of bacteria active at this stage in the cheesemaking process and the length of time the cheese is aged determine the type and quality of cheese being made.
Sometimes an additional microbe is added to a cheese. Blue veined cheeses are inoculated with a Penicillium spore which creates their aroma, flavor and bluish or greenish veining. Such cheeses are internally moulded and ripen from the inside out. On the other hand, cheeses such as Camembert and Brie have their surfaces treated with a different type of Penicillium spore which creates a downy white mould (known as a bloomy or flowery rind): this makes them surface ripened cheeses.
Many surface ripened cheeses have their surfaces smeared with a bacterial broth. With others the bacteria is in the atmosphere of the curing chambers. These cheeses are called washed rind varieties as they must be washed regularly during their ripening period (longer than for Camembert or Brie) to prevent their interiors drying out. The washings also help promote an even bacterial growth across the surfaces of the cheeses. As this washing can be done with liquids as diverse as salt water and brandy, it also plays a part in the final flavor of the cheese.