Adding Cultures (Starters) – Let’s Get This Thing Started

By on 12/04/2011

This post is Part 2 of the continued basic home cheese making instructions. See the Curd Nerd Beginner Page or the Basic Instructions category for previous parts.

Cheese cultures are a form of bacteria used in the production of cheese. They are added to the milk at the start of the cheese making process (not for all cheeses though, there are exceptions such as Haloumi) in order to determine taste, smell, texture and mouth feel.

The main cultures are Thermophilic and Mesophilic. Thermophilic cultures can handle being heated to higher temperatures, Mesophilic cultures  suffers at higher temperatures. There are also specific culture strains made by commercial manufacturers which fall into each of these types (Therm and Meso) and each subtly changes the results you will get with your cheese. Your recipe should tell you which culture type you need.

There are other cultures which affect the final look and texture of the cheese such as creating the ‘eyes’ (holes) in cheeses such as Swiss or Gruyere. As you get more experienced at making cheese you may want to investigate and give these a go.

Recultured or DVI? Some cultures need to be recultured first or you can get DVI (direct vat innoculation) cultures which are much easier as you just drop them into your pot and stir them in.

Your cultures are likely to have been freeze dried when you receive them and you should store them in the freezer, sealed in a zip lock bag or container when you are not using them.

During your cheesemaking be careful when measuring your quantities as cultures change the acidity of your milk. Too much culture and your pH levels could end up too high, impacting the final product.

I personally use the Chr.Hansen brand of cultures but there are others out there so look around. And support your local cheese making supply companies where you can by buying your products from them.

Finally it is possible to create your own cultures with Buttermilk (Mesophilic starter) and Yoghurt (Thermophilic starter). Many new cheesemakers start off using these and it is most certainly cheaper to do so but with commercial cultures you are more likely to get the results you are expecting and hoping for.

14 Comments

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  6. Ali hossainy

    01/08/2012 at 2:21 pm

    Where I live I can not find any ready Cultures (Starters) packs can I make the Cultures (Starters) myself and how?

    • curdnerd

      09/08/2012 at 5:34 pm

      Hi Ali

      I have recently added a post about making your own cultures, but from pre-purchased starter cultures.

      Can you get your hands on ANY starter culture, just to get going?

      If not, there are recipes online for making cultures from scratch but many people find the results are somewhat unpredictable.

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  8. Monique

    10/05/2013 at 11:11 pm

    I bought a package of chr-hansen mesophilic culture but there are no instructions as to the dosage and my recipe doesn’t provide these either as it advises you to use “a package” of the culture sold by the website owner. So I am lost. Do you know how I can find out what the dosage for the chr-hansen cultures is? Tried googling and so far haven’t found anything.

    • Curd-Nerd

      17/07/2013 at 3:52 pm

      Hi Monique

      What cheese are you making? I may be able to give you some guidelines once I know that.

  9. Danny

    27/11/2013 at 6:43 am

    Is it possible to subculture certain fungi and bacteria from existing cheeses? I am interested in making a blue. Could I not simply add blue cheese crumbles from my favorite blue to introduce the roqueforti?

    • Curd-Nerd

      03/02/2014 at 4:23 pm

      Hi Danny. You can certainly try this method, though how much cheese to add, and how true to flavour and texture it will end up is the big question. If you are a new cheese maker I would start by using store bought cultures first so you understand the processes and likely outcomes of making blue cheese. And then, when you’ve got that in hand, try making it with your own cultures.

      We’d love to hear how you get on.

  10. Lisa

    02/06/2014 at 11:04 am

    Where can I order the cheese cultures you refer to?

    • Curd-Nerd

      18/06/2014 at 10:29 am

      Hi Lisa, it depends where in the world you are. Cultures are available on Amazon, but you can also just Google search for cheese making supplies and your area and you should get options come up. Let me know if you need further help tracking a supplier down as I have contacts I can put you in touch with.

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