Putting in a small on-farm creamery, trying to determine how big our cave/aging room should be. Quite a few variables go into this, namely amount of cheese made, size of cheese wheels/molds, and length of time aged.
We are aiming to milk 10 jersey cows per year, under a managed grazing system. I'm figuring about 10,000 pounds of milk per cow per year, hopefully that's the low end. So that's 100,000 pounds of milk, roughly making 10,000 pounds of cheese. We may buy-in some milk as well, maybe an equal amount, thus 20,000 pounds of cheese per year. This purchased milk could also be weighted more for the grazing off-season, so figure a roughly consistent use of the aging space.
We're wanting to establish a dairy CSA, and to provide a diverse product line-up: bloomy rinds, washed rind, washed curd, hard aged, alpine, hard grating. I would estimate that the average length of time aging would be 6 months, with some shorter and some much longer. This would mean at any point, there is 10,000 pounds of cheese aging (20,000 / 2).
Next would be figuring out how much space a wheel requires. The hard part is not knowing for sure how big the wheels will be - a question in itself. I suppose 10lb wheels for the hard cheeses would be about right, though I would like to do even larger for the Swiss and Grana types, but we'll see (the big wheels would require a sizeable or powerful press). Of course, bloomy and washed rinds are flatter and lighter, requiring more shelving per pound of cheese. But if I figured on 10lb wheels, which are about 8 inch in diameter, plus some space in between wheels, I could probably figure 10 inch square per wheel? So 10,000 pounds of cheese, divided by 10 lb wheels, equals 1,000 wheels. At 100 square inches of space, 1,000 wheels require just shy of 700 square feet of aging space.
Then we figure shelving. With shelves spaced roughly 12 inches apart, this could enable 6 rows of shelving. So divide 700 by 6, for 117 square feet of floor space. That would be 117 linear feet of shelving at 12'' wide, but if wheels only need 10'' (or even 8'' depth, but we'll say 10''), then that's 168 linear feet of 10'' deep shelving. If the shelving were to be 2 wheels deep however, that halves the length to 84 linear feet. But I'm not sure how easy or hard it is to work behind wheels, to e.g. flip back wheels. Maybe I'd want more space between wheels, so perhaps a figure in between the two, say 126' linear feet of shelving? That would be 10 12' rows, or 12 10' rows, etc., or 20" deep shelving, six rows high.
And yet, I probably need a separate area, maybe a two or three door fridge for aging the bloomy rinds, vs everything in the same aging room. Though I have visited one cheesemaker that basically drapes shower curtains over the shelves where he ripens his blue cheeses.
But if I kept with the above figures, say 10 rows 12' long, and factored in space of 3' between the rows, that would mean 20" + 36" + 20" + 20" + 36" + 20" + 20" + 36" + 20" + 20" + 36" + 20" = 25 feet wide, for 8 rows. Could then make the space 12' long, for the shelves, plus another 3' for walkway, and then 25' of 20" deep shelving along the back wall. With a walkway along the front wall as well, another 36". For a depth of about 17'. Could go deeper (another 20''to 24'') for another partial row along the front wall as well (need some space for door, and vents, hose, maybe cart or work table, etc). Could add a wall/divider halfway, for two separate aging areas, to better control different humidities and molds.
17' by 25'...that's a big cave! (to a current home-scale cheesemaker)
Would love to hear thoughts from the cheesemakers here. Especially from the current commercial cheesemakers as to the size of the cave, layout and depth of shelving, aging different types of cheese, etc!