Everything about cheese production

Dive into the production of cheese!


The complexity of the cheese production process and its long ripening make cheese an exceptional, high-quality food. Such a wheel becomes something very special once you see how much work and passion are behind it. Learn everything you need to know about it in the following article.

19 different cheeses are produced in our Brunico cheese factory: Large wheels have a weight of 8-10 kg and small wheels of about 2.5 kg. The cheeses are classified according to a variety of criteria: the type of milk used and milk treatment, water content, ripening, coagulation and fat content. But what is needed for cheese production? The most important ingredients are probably cultures to develop acidity and to promote ripening, rennet, salt and, of course, milk.

How is cheese made step by step…

Before a wheel of cheese can move from our factory in Brunico to the supermarket, it has a long journey ahead of it passing through various phases. After the fresh cow's milk has been collected from our farmers, it must first be prepared, i.e. filtered and pasteurized. Lactic acid bacteria and rennet are then added to ensure that the milk coagulates. In the next step, the cheese curd is cut and then heated before being pressed into its intended shape. After that, the wheel is immersed in a brine bath, which not only promotes the formation of the rind, but also influences its aroma. The last step is the ripening process, during which, through rest and intensive care by our cheesemakers, it can develop its unique flavor.

So much for the short version. In detail, however, there is much more behind the individual phases of cheesemaking.

Step 1: milk preparation and standardization

First, the milk is skimmed, which means that the cream is separated from the skim milk. The skim milk and cream are then mixed again so that the fat content can be precisely regulated for each cheese. The milk is also pasteurized during this phase.

Step 2: curdling and coagulation

In the second step of the production process, the milk is put into the cheese vat and the cultures (the lactic acid bacteria) are added so that they multiply. The task of the lactic acid bacteria is, among other things, to break down the lactose into lactic acid and to create flavor and aroma. They are also responsible for the subsequent formation of holes in the cheese. Different lactic acid bacteria are used for each type of cheese, usually a combination of several different cultures.

Then the microbial rennet is added. It ensures that the milk thickens and coagulates. This process is called "thickening" and takes between 10 minutes and several hours at different temperatures - depending on the type of cheese. The result is a solid gel, the so-called "coagulum".


Step 3: curd processing

Once the coagulum is solid enough, it is cut with a cheese harp. Through this process, the so-called "cheese curd" is formed. The finer the curd is cut, the more whey is separated from it and the firmer the final cheese becomes.

Therefore, the coagulum needs to be cut into a fine curd for semi-hard and hard cheeses. For the production of soft cheese, on the other hand, the coagulum is cut into larger pieces so that less whey can drain off.


Step 4: cooking the curd

Now the curd is heated to a higher or lower temperature, depending on the type of cheese: hard cheese, for example, up to a temperature of 55°C, so that even more whey and water can drain off. Afterwards, it is the cheesemaker who decides when the right time has come for the next phase in the cheesemaking process.

Step 5: shaping and pressing

This step requires experience! The cheesemaker has to estimate when the right consistency has been reached in order to transfer the curd into a vat: with whey for a closed cheese paste, without whey for a paste filled with holes.

The curd is then placed into individual cheese molds to give it its final shape. In the molds, the cheese is pressed again to remove the last of the whey. Acidification continues. After pressing, it remains in support rings until acidification is complete and the cheese is ready for the brine bath.


Step 6: brine bath

Now the fresh wheels need to relax for a little while and spend a few hours to days immersed in the brine bath, depending on the type and format of the cheese. This step is of great importance for cheese making, as the bath keeps away harmful bacteria and microbes and supports the formation of the rind. It also has a positive effect on the aroma and appearance of the cheese. As a natural preservative, the salt extends the cheese’s shelf life.


Step 7: ripening

The next and final step is the ripening process, during which the cheese wheels are left to mature and develop their full flavor. During ripening, the so-called proteolysis occurs, a protein breakdown by enzymes in the cheese. This process depends on the moisture content, the pH level in the cheese and the ripening temperature and type. The further the degradation of protein progresses and the more the highly complex protein structure is broken down into smaller peptides or even amino acids, the more intense becomes the cheese aroma. As a side effect, this process makes the cheese creamy. The wheels are turned, brushed and cared for repeatedly for weeks and months so that they can ripen to perfection.

A positive side effect is that lactose is completely converted into lactic acid by lactic acid bacteria during the first phase of maturation. This means that ripened cheeses are naturally lactose-free. In addition, smaller amounts of ethanol, acetic acid and CO2 are formed. The carbon dioxide is responsible for the holes in the cheese.


Close your eyes and enjoy

Once the different cheese production steps have been completed and the wheels have finished ripening, there is only one thing left to do – taste and enjoy the result. From spicy-aromatic or mild to some very special types: in the Mila range, cheese lovers will find the best hard and semi-hard cheeses, all inspired by the South Tyrolean mountains and purely vegetarian. For fine cheese pleasure made in South Tyrol!

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