Beginners Cheesemaking Equipment
The following is a list of cheesemaking equipment that you need to get started making some basic cheeses. With these, you will be able to make a nice variety of cheeses. Once you have mastered some of the basic cheeses you can move on to the more advanced cheese making equipment list and pick what you need to purchase based on the type of cheese that you want to make. The Cheese Maker’s Pantry (16G) from Hoegger Supply is a great place to start.
- Stainless or Enamel Pot
- Long knife to cut curds
- Salt non-iodized
- Citric Acid Powder for Mozzarella Cheese
- Tartaric Acid Only for Mascarpone
This basic list of supplies will make the following cheeses:
Soft French Style or Chevre (similar to cream cheese)
Soft molded or Herbed Soft Molded Cheese (will need 5-6 small molds)
Cottage Cheese small and large curd
Basic Cheese making Equipment information
- Stainless or enamel Pot
A good stainless pot for making cheese is an investment. Depending on how much cheese you plan to make, having a couple different sizes is helpful. I personally own 2, 3 and 5-gallon pots specifically for cheesemaking. Never use aluminum, as it will leach into your cheese. If using enamel, it must be un-chipped.
You will need a muslin or cotton type cheesecloth. It can be washed and reused for years. Make sure you get it from a cheesemaking supply source; this is not what is sold in stores as cheesecloth. The stuff sold in stores will not work for draining cheeses. Cheesecloth is used to drain many cheeses and also in lining molds for pressing cheese. The new plyban is a plastic cloth that also works pretty well. Having both on hand would be great. If you have to choose just one, pick the muslin cloth.
Cheesemaking rennet is available in both tablet and liquid form. The liquid is available in both animal or non-animal. The non-animal one is usually a chymosin, which is a laboratory-manufactured rennet. I have used them all and can find no difference in the taste of my cheese. Liquid rennet needs to be refrigerated. Liquid calf rennet and will lose about 2% per month in strength. Rennet doesn’t really die it just gets weaker. Just just adding a little more rennet can compensate this for. One way to test your rennet to see if it is still active is to take a tablespoon of warm milk and add a drop of rennet. It should set in 5 minutes or less. If it doesn’t set in 5 minutes take another tablespoon of warm milk and add 2 drops. This should give you some idea how much extra rennet you need to add to get a good set.
The Liquid is the easiest to measure and mixes with water faster than tablet. If you plan to make the soft French style cheeses, then the liquid is a must have. I always recommend the liquid because it can make every variety of cheese.
Tablet rennet is more stable at room temperature and has a shelf life of about 1 year.
Note: Rennet must always diluted in water before being added to the milk.
A floating cheese thermometer can be purchased. This can be put directly into the milk. There are several kinds of thermometers available and for very reasonable prices. A quick read thermometer is a good one. Also a candy-making thermometer will fine for cheesemaking. When looking for a thermometer keep in mind that you will need to read temperatures in the range of 80-200 degrees Fahrenheit so choose one or two that can cover that range of temperatures.
- Long knife
Used to cut the curds, any long knife that can reach the bottom of the pot will work just fine.
Use Kosher, canning or any non-iodized salt. Using salt with Iodine will produce cheese with a greenish tint.
- Cultures (also see Cheese Cultures 101)
All cultures fall into two categories.
Thermophilic and Mesophilic, there are many variations within each one such as a specific bacteria added to create a slightly different flavor, but they are still either a Thermophilic or Mesophilic culture.
Thermophilic is a heat loving culture and take higher temperatures. Mesophilic is a non-heat loving culture and would be dead at cheeses that are processed using higher temperatures.
90% of cheeses use a Mesophilic culture so that is the most common one that you will be using. Many Italian cheeses such as Mozzarella, Provolone and Parmesan use a thermophilic. In addition Swiss and Monterey Jack use the Thermophilic as well.
I have tried many of the different kinds of Mesophilic cultures and had good results with them all. If a recipe calls for a Mesophilic culture you can use any that you have on hand. Most of them will make a variety of cheeses even if they are labeled specific such as feta culture, Chevre culture, Farmhouse culture, Mesophilic starter etc. The differences in a particular bacteria may give a slightly different flavor, but is not one that is noticeable to the average cheese maker.
These cultures are available in as freeze dried powder. They are live living cultures so keep them in the freezer for a longer life. These are DVI cultures, which stands for Direct Vat Inoculant. They are added directly to the warmed milk.
You can also use many of them for a mother culture. That means that you make a mother culture and you use that to make the next culture. This is more work for the average cheese maker because they have to be re-cultured often to keep the bacteria live and active. I personally recommend that you use the Freeze dried DVI cultures as they are easier to use and can be kept frozen until ready to use. You take out what you need for cheese making that day and put the rest back in the freezer.
- Citric Acid Powder
Citric Acid is used in Mozzarella to raise the acidity quickly. With the high acidity level mozzarella will not have the beautiful stretch. This is a must for the quick Mozzarella recipe. It can also be used to make ricotta.
- Tartaric Acid
This is used to make Mascarpone only. This is a rich desert cheese used to make Tiramisu. Tartaric Acid will give this cheese its creamy thick texture.