Aging Caves and Other Spaces
Cheesemakers who have the desire to begin to age cheese must first asses their needs and realistic options for aging spaces. Regardless of venue, the purpose of these aging spaces are to control and improve the development of the cheese, with close attention to the materials used for this process.
Measuring Humidity and Temperature
The cheese maker can measure humidity with a hygrometer, a tool designed to measure and report relative humidity in a controlled environment once installed in your aging space. Regardless of wether you are using a closet, basement or refrigerator, you must have complete control over both humidity and temperature of your space. Some hygrometers include a thermometer, which is what we have included in our inventory.
Wood Shelving for Your Aging Space
Check out our full article regarding wood shelving in your aging space here
We recommend the following wood types to use with brief notes on what to expect:
- Ash | Good and strong with an open grain structure for seed microbes
- Bamboo | Quite neutral
- Beech | Very tight surface, slower to absorb and release moisture
- Birch | Similar to beech
- Cedar | It can be very aromatic and interfere with natural cheese aromas
- Larch | Similar to spruce but not as aromatic
- Oak | May work but is heavy to move when cleaning or transporting
- Pine | Good but only use clear without a lot of knots and resin
- Spruce | Very open surface with a positive aromatic quality from the resins
These are the woods varieties to avoid:
Mahogany | May cause staining and is too heavy
Maple | Can cause staining of the cheese
Redwood | Will stain the cheese
Teak | May stain and impart an incompatible flavor
Walnut | Will impart an off flavor and stain the cheese
Wine Cooler/ Refrigerator Aging Space FAQ
Some of the more popular and accessible options for a home cheese aging space, is using a wine cooler or refrigerator. These work great and allow for easy control and manipulation of the temperature, relative humidity and over all conditions of your cheese’s temporary home. Monitoring daily and opening and closing the aging space door will allow for air flow in an otherwise stale environment.
How do I control my refrigerators temperature? In order to properly age your cheese, you will most likely have to override your refrigerators factory settings by installing your own thermostat. These are easy to use, self installed thermostats used by cheesemakers and home brewers throughout the years for controlling their fermentation environments. Most wine coolers are already equipped with a controllable thermostat.
Can I use the included racks in my cooling unit for aging my cheese? It is okay to use refrigerator racks as well. If you are utilizing your cooling units included shelving, make sure the proper sterilization takes place prior to use, and follow the cheese recipe's suggested guidelines for storage. You can use the plastic coated racks included in your refrigerator or wine cooler, however if your shelving is glass, they must be replaced. Glass shelving does not allow for the proper circulation of air needed, and will prevent the surface of the cheese in contact with the glass from developing evenly.
What if my racks are glass or I just need new ones? Usually if your racks need replacing, you can use bakers racks. Just remember to measure twice, cut/purchase once. Otherwise, you can source and choose wooden slabs with help from the list above.
I am a nervous, soon to be first-time home cheesemaker. If I am successful at some of the beginner cheeses, I will want to try some that require a bit of aging. Could I possibly use a wine fridge as a small cheese cave? Many of our customers have used a wine fridge for aging their cheese. One of the most important steps is to make sure you can monitor the temperature, and the moisture accurately. A good hygrometer, such as the one sold on our website will give you this information.
Most people need to modify the cooler somewhat. Adding enough moisture seems to be the biggest challenge.