Author Topic: How critical is temperature and humidity settings for different cheeses?  (Read 1291 times)

Offline Fishhead

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I am new to cheese making and this forum. I have been reading Ricki Carroll's book as well as many web posted articles. I have obtained an small refrigeration to use to age cheese.  But when I step back from everything that I have read, I am wondering how critical the suggested aging temperatures and humidity's are for each type of cheese. I see Swiss should be at 45' F and 80% humidity, Parmesan at 55' F and 85% humidity, while Blue cheese should be at 50' F and 95% humidity.

Right now my little refer is running between 49'-55' F. I just place a hygrometer in today with a dish of water and will know more tomorrow about humidity. But I am concerned about the range that I see published for proper aging. I know it would best to be perfect, but how much variation can occur and still produce good results? Or do I need to think about separate aging systems for each type of cheese.

Thanks for any insights.

Offline linuxboy

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At what point in the process and to achieve what ends?

Before fancy gizmos, all we had to rely on were natural phenomena, such as caves, such as air flow that slowly became saturated with water by the time it reached cheeses, and such as isolated molds and other flora to help create distinct flavors and styles.

Using your examples, let's consider how each one is made classically, using the best original examples:
- Swiss is made to have a thicker rind to help slow moisture loss and control surface flora. Its relatively low moisture and target aging time means 80% humidity will result in accelerated moisture loss. Not the end of the world, but will lead to decreased profit for a 7" or so classic swiss height.
- Parmigiano-reggiano is aged in aging houses, now with temperature control. But in the past, using natural tools such as exposure and shading. The rind is also thick to help slow down moisture loss. The typical humidity hovers around 90%, and the temps do sometimes rise a bit.
- Blue cheese is classically a roquefort, aged in caves, which are naturally around 52F with a 90-95% RH. This helps the blue to bloom and grow, and slows down the maturation process to a manageable ripening.

The differences you cite are historical in nature given the different practices. With modern tools, you can dial in all the parameters, but you need to account for special requirements and understand the tradeoffs:
- Higher humidity means less water loss over time, but also means more mold growth
- Higher temperature means faster ripening, especially if a cheese is more moist. At times, this can lead to off flavors and cheese losing fat.
- With specific molds, such as p candidum or roqueforti, you need to provide an environment to support mold growth. For those, and other, this means take into account oxygen supply and air exchange. The peniciliums need oxygen.

In short, you can use the same environment. Generally 50-55F and 90-92% RH is a good middle ground.
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Offline Fishhead

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Thanks for the reply. This gives me a realistic target. That said, I also now know that I have problems to overcome. I had "salt tested" my hygrometer and it read 77% (off 2%). Last night I placed the hygrometer in my little refer with a tray of water with a shop rag sitting in the middle of the tray. This morning my reading was 70% (before adjusting for the 2% that it is off). Most of the water was gone.

I guess I should check the door seals, but barring some leak, this will not do.