Easy To Create Cheese Aging Environments

By on 08/10/2012

When I last wrote, I asked for your help in sharing with the Curd Nerd readers what other home cheese makers are using to ripen and age their cheeses.

There comes a time when most home cheese makers decide to move on from making fresh cheeses, to aged cheeses, but one thing that often holds them back is the seemingly difficult task of creating the right aging environment for their cheeses to mature in.

But it really doesn’t have to be that hard, or too expensive.

From the emails I received, a number of Curd-Nerds agreed that using a wine fridge was one of the simplest and more effective solutions to set up, but I also received an equal number of responses from Curd Nerds who use an old refrigerator to store and age their precious cheeses.

In some cases these fridges were newer, fully functional fridges. In others, the fridges were older and weren’t required to actually work, being used turned off as an insulation box, rather than a cooling mechanism, just like a large chilly-bin.

Curd Nerd Carmen Gray’s cheese aging environment was created in this manner.

She is using an old refrigerator, which is left unplugged and is instead cooled with 2.5 litre bottles, filled with water and frozen.

These frozen bottles also serve as a means of providing humidity, as they melt and produce condensation. Carmen turns her cheeses every day and, at the same time, replaces the frozen water bottles to keep the temperatures cool, and the humidity levels up.

Carmen uses separate containers to store each cheese, which is not only useful for protecting against cross contamination of molds, but also makes it possible to raise the humidity for each cheese, if necessary, with a lid and an increase in moisture in that one container.

cheese fridge

Looking at the great progress Carmen’s cheeses seem to be making, this solution is obviously working well and is cheap, and easy to maintain. The only problem cheese makers in warmer climates might have with this solution, is keeping the fridge cool enough without it being turned on. Keeping the fridge in a cool spot in a garage or basement would certainly help if this is a concern though.

And of course if you use a fridge that does still work perfectly well, you can save power in the cooler months by using it turned off, and then power it back up in the warmer months to keep things cooler. The best of both worlds.

Another Curd Nerd, Naor Walloch, takes a slightly different approach by using his fridge turned on, but for only a certain number of hours each day.

cheese fridge

He found that when the fridge was on all day, the temperatures were too low for his cheeses. By adding a cheap timer to the socket the fridge runs off, he now controls the power so that the fridge is on for 8 hours, and then off for 4 hours, on for 8 hours, off for 4 hours, and so on.

Naor also monitors his humidity levels with a combined thermometer and hygrometer, and as necessary, he raises the humidity levels by filling the drinks tray at the bottom of the fridge with water, and wicking it out with a hand towel draped in the water.

Naor has found this to be necessary when there are only a couple of cheeses in his fridge, but when he is closer to filling his ‘cave’ with cheese, the humidity levels self stabilize at 80-90%.

As you can see, neither Carmen nor Naor’s cheese aging solutions are overly complex, or laden with expensive and technical equipment. Which is why I particularly chose to share their cheese caves with you. They really do demonstrate how simple and cheap creating a cheese cave can be, instead of scaring new home cheese makers away with set ups that are over engineered and cost prohibitive.

Thanks for your help Naor and Carmen : ) Naor and Carmen are both receiving one of our Curd-Nerd At Work Aprons for their contributions.

Oh, and if you want to get really inspired, check out this series of videos on the Culture website, where Kurt Timmermiester walks through the build of his own amazing cheese cave on his farm. I am happy to admit a tinge of jealousy over this amazing construction.

5 Comments

  1. Jan Steinman

    09/10/2012 at 2:04 pm

    If you have a bit of electrical expertise, it’s quite simple to wire an ordinary electric baseboard heater thermostat to a plug and outlet. The put the thermostat inside the fridge, route the wires through the door gasket, and plug it in through the thermostat. Now you can set the temp as high as you like!

  2. peter

    29/01/2013 at 11:03 am

    Hello,
    For aging camembert I used a Liebherr (drinks) cooler, (fks5000) the cooler is equipped with a fan. I bought a hygrostat and plugged the fan into it.
    When the humidity drops below 80% the fan starts (and stops at 95%). This keeps the humidity and the temperature at the required levels, worked very good.
    (the fridge is 500 litres so good for 50 kilo of camembert.)

  3. Mark Leisen

    21/04/2013 at 7:38 pm

    I use a 6 bottle wine cooler with digital temperature control. Easy to maintain an exact temp. Humidity controlled by water evapiration from a small open glass of water or damp cloth placed inside unit. Very small and quiet but quite large enough for many 4-7 inch cheeses.

  4. Pat

    10/05/2013 at 2:56 pm

    I have an old LG Freezer (bar fridge size) and I purchased on ebay a thermostat to convert the freezer to a wine fridge./cheese cave. It cost $45 and works well. Being a freezer the insulation is very good and it costs very little to maintain 15C. The instructions which came with the thermostat were very clear and it was an easy DIY job.

  5. Alex

    21/02/2014 at 4:53 am

    I am just thinking about getting into cheesemaking but have made beer for quite some time now. In order to keep the fermentation temperature constant I’ve built a temperature controller out of a aquarium temperature controller. you can set the temperature you want that is best for the cheese, plug in your fridge/freezer and the controller will turn the fridge/freezer on and off depending on the temperature inside. you can also plug in a heat lamp or other heating device to bring up the temp if it is too cold.
    Google “ebay aquarium temperature controller home brew talk” and check the forum posts on homebrewtalk. The controller is 20 dollar on ebay and is called stc-1000

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