General Culture FAQs

Adding Meso and Thermo Cultures

Q. What is the benefit of using both Mesophilic Culture and Thermophilic Culture in a recipe? A lot of cheese makers, particularly the French, use them both in Camembert and blue cheese even though these cheeses are not aged for long and the curd isn't cooked.

A. In traditional raw milk cheeses, both the mesophilic and thermophilic bacteria come into the cheese from the milk itself. These can then be selected for activity by altering the process temperatures. MA 4002 is a good example of this, and it is often referred to as the farmhouse culture.

So, today folks add both in varying amounts. Even when temps are not ideal for some of these, they will populate and provide enzymes for even a short aging.

Measurements for Small vs. Large Culture Packs 

Q. I have begun using a large culture pack, MA11 Mesophilic Culture, for my hard cheeses. As you know, for someone who makes a lot of cheese, the bulk culture is more affordable than using the C101 Mesophilic Culture packets. Most of the recipes call for a small packet of starter instead of a measured amount. How should I convert a recipe that uses packets instead of teaspoons?

A. The amount of culture to use from a large culture pack will be somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 teaspoon per 2-gallon batch, depending upon the milk quality and the cheese being  made. Raw milk will require less culture.

Expired Cultures

Q. I have cultures in my freezer that are over a year past the "Best By Date."  What will happen if I use them to make my cheese?

A. Cultures have a working life, and when they get old they can become weak or die off completely.

Weak, older cultures will work very slowly compared to fresh cultures. This can expose milk to other, not-so-healthy, bacteria that could populate faster than the bacteria you intended to use for cheese making.

Also, when cultures are weak, they may not convert all the lactose before forming and pressing the curds into cheese. This would result is a cheese that did not drain well and can be problematic while aging.

Usage Rates

Q. I know the directions for the Chevre culture state 1 gallon to 1 packet. Is this literal, or is there a range that can be used, like up to 2 or 4 gallons? I ask because I have seen other cultures sold where their directions will state a specific amount is good for 2-4 gallons but the actual culture amount does not change.

A. There is always a specific amount of culture to use. It usually depends on the specific cheese and milk being used.

The info on those other packs you mention is a very general guide and not targeted to a specific cheese. Our packet is designed for that specific amount of goat milk

Using more or less milk will result in under or over ripening. 

Difference Between Aromatic Cultures

Q.Your C21-Buttermilk, C30-Ricki's Sour Cream, and C11-Flora Danica appear to have the same cultures, with Flora Danica being different only because of it's lack of lactose. Are these actually the same? If they are different, could you elucidate the differences?"

A. The differences in these is the degree to which they work. These are all classed as heterofermenters, meaning that many components not only convert lactose, but also produce gas and aromatic/flavor compounds.These are also referred to as Aromatic or Buttermilk type cultures

They are all made up of several bacteria that do different things, but the strain of bacteria and ratios in the blend can vary and create some different results. The Flora Danica produces the most open texture of all of these because it produces small gas holes.

Flora Danica Storage 

Q. We make chèvre with raw milk using 1/8-1/4 tsp of Flora Danica. We have been using the 50 unit pouch and keep it in the freezer since we only make it once a month. We are happy with the cheese. However, the culture starts to get sticky near the bottom, probably from age. Could I divide/seal it up for longer storage? Or is there a smaller package for this culture? 

A. Every time you open that pack you allow air and moisture into the culture, and the nutrient base absorbs this. Once you see the clumping, the culture should be replaced. These packs were intended to be used as whole packs for larger batches. Unfortunately, there are no smaller packs for this culture. Dividing the pack and only working out of one at a time may help a bit but can lead to similar issues with moisture and air as they are transferred. You should notice the effect of a culture losing viability in the curd/cheese process. Slow acid development and curd weakness would be the indicators, as well as slow drainage.

If you are only making one gallon, once per month, you may want to try our C20G-Chevre cultures. These come with 5 individually sealed packets, and each packet will set one gallon of milk. 

Mesophilic Culture for Brie/Camembert

Q. I'd like to try Brie and Camembert, but the directions I have only specify "mesophilic culture." How do I decide which culture to use? What would be the differences in the outcome? 

A. There are a couple options for this:

MM100 and Flora Danica are good choices, as they are aromatic cultures and will give a more buttery taste to the final cheese. The Flora Danica produces a bit more gas and will give more openness to the cheese body.

For those that want a less buttery, more neutral flavor, the MA11 or C101 would work well. 


Q. I got a pack of your Sweet Yogurt Culture and it is working out very well. Can I use it like an heirloom culture, taking a sample from the last batch to start another batch, and on and on? 

A. As you can tell looking at our Y5 culture list, it is a more complex culture than others. This diversity is good but creates problems in re-culturing because, unless conditions are perfect in the process, certain of these strains will dominate and the final balance of the yogurt will change.

A true heirloom culture would be one that has evolved from a natural source specific to an area and carried out for many generations without changing it's characteristics too much. A good example of this would be the cultures used in Parma where they retain their whey from each day and use it the next day for their new cheese.

Traditional yogurt cultures were exactly this and could be re-cultured generation after generation. The closest we can come to it is our Bulgarian Yogurt Culture because it is less complex, so there are fewer bacteria strains in competition with one another. It is essentially the ideal mother culture and will survive many batches without losing its viability.

Propionic Shermanii

Q. When I was making a two gallon batch of Gruyere, I added a tablespoon of Propionic Shermanii instead of a teaspoon. Should I toss it out or is it salvageable?

A. This should not be a problem because Propionic Shermanii is an adjunct culture, not an acid producing culture. The extra Propionic Shermanii will just sit there when it exhausts itself. It's worth aging to see how it goes.

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