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How Does Temperature Affect Cheese Aging?

Gruyere aging
How does temperature affect cheese aging?

As cheeses age, proteins and fats from the milk break down gradually to create the wonderful flavors and textures we crave. This process requires more than just time; temperature and environment play roles, too. The optimal maturing temperature for most cheeses is about 50 to 55°F (12 to 15°C). Any warmer and the cheese may age too rapidly and, in the case of high-moisture cheeses, might even spoil. Colder temps prevent spoilage but slow the aging process dramatically—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, some cheeses, such as blues and bloomy rinds, benefit from a slower, colder ripening period, which allows microbes to alter the cheese without growing too quickly. Most cheddar produced on a large scale is aged in vacuum-sealed bags at temperatures of about 35 to 40°F (1.6 to 4.4°C). Temperature changes, just like other tweaks in the make process, can produce subtle differences in the resulting cheeses. All hail variety!

Gianaclis Caldwell

Gianaclis Caldwell is the author of Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking, among other books. She manages the goat herd and cheesemaking operations at Pholia Farm Creamery in Oregon.