Over the past several years, I have become quite interested in cheesemaking as a hobby and have made a wide range of cheeses, both soft and hard. I am the founder and president emeritus of Queso Diego - San Diego's Cheese Club.

My Cheesemaking System

For aging cheeses, I made a cheese cave from a 4.4 cu ft mini fridge. Temperature is controlled using an external digital controller. Humidity is contrlled with an external controller and a small ultrasonic humidifer.

For smaller batches, I usually just use a couple large pots on the stove as a 2-4 gallon double boiler.

For larger batches, I use a homemade electric cheesemaking system that also doubles as my homebrew system. It consists of a 15.5 gallon heated outer pot made from a converted sanke keg and a 5-7.5 gallon inner pot (interchangeable), along with a March pump and control box.

The outer pot has 2 electric water heater elements mounted into it, providing a combined 3500 watts of heating power. For recirculation, it has a stainless ball valve with camlock quick disconnects. A March pump (with quick disconnects) is used to pump water from the bottom of the pot to a recirculating arm near the top, creating a whirlpool around the inner pot to maintain even temperatures. A RTD thermocouple is mounted into the pot as part of the temperature control system. A thermometer and sight glass are included for convenience.

The control system is a custom-designed PID control box that I built, which controls 2 separate 120V circuits that power the heating elements. An Auber auto-tuning PID is used to control the temperature by duty-cycling power to the heating elements in the outer pot based on the reading from the RTD probe. A switched auxiliary outlet is provided on the control box for easy control of the March pump and any other accessories.

When I use it, I can simply dial in the temperature I want on the PID controller and the outer pot will hit that temperature and hold it. I can ramp up the temperature as needed. With the 5 gallon inner pot, the usable capacity is about 4 gallons; with the 7.5 gallon pot, 6+ gallons should be possible. A future upgrade will be to switch to a PID with the ramp/soak feature, which will allow me to program in the temperature steps and ramps for the entire cheesemaking session at the start.

Partial List of Cheeses I Have Made:

  • Gouda
  • Sheep Milk Gouda
  • Goat Milk Gouda
  • Coconut Gouda
  • Orange-vanilla Gouda
  • Manchego
  • Ossau-Iraty
  • Roquefort
  • Valencay
  • Farmhouse Cheddar
  • Swiss
  • Monterey Jack
  • Blue Cheese
  • Ricotta
  • Mozzarella
  • Burrata
  • Armenian String Cheese
  • Feta
  • Chevre
  • Queso Fresco
  • Drunken Chevre
  • Lactic Goat Cheese
  • Drunken Goat Cheese (Cabra al Vino)
  • Ziergerkase
  • Mascarpone

©2017 Chris Banker