Are you having problems with forming curds? Is your cheese moldy or bitter? Here are some solutions to common cheesemaking problems.
Cheesemaking is a cross between art and science. It requires a certain amount of meticulousness for success. However, the best tasting cheese doesn’t involve precision, it requires an understanding of how the flavor and texture of cheese develops.
This post is part of a series of posts on how to make cheese.
Here are some solutions to common cheesemaking problems:
1. Problems with forming curds
There are a number of problems that can arise with forming curds. Curds might not set a clean break, can be too crumbly or soft, coagulate too quickly, or fall apart during stirring. All of these problems are fixed by the following:
- Follow your recipe carefully: It takes time for milk to curd properly, whether you’re curding with acid or rennet.
- Temperature: Use a cheese thermometer to maintain the right temperature throughout the cheesemaking process. If it’s too warm the curd will set too quickly and might have problems knitting together. If it’s too cold, it will take longer to form good curds and they might fall apart during stirring.
- Rennet: Age and quality of the rennet will affect how well the curds form. Soft, crumbly curds may be caused by expired rennet or low-quality vegetarian rennet.
- Type of milk:
- UHT pasteurized milk shouldn’t EVER be used to make cheese. In general pasteurization and homogenization will decrease cheese yield.
- Non-homogenized milk can separate into milk and cream, giving you a dry-tasting cheese made from low milk fat.
- Raw milk contains its own bacterial culture, which will compete with any culture you add to the milk. If you are going to use raw milk, it’s best if it is REALLY fresh, because the natural bacterial culture in raw milk increases over time.
2. Cheese is too bitter
Cheese becomes bitter when it has too much whey. Always add enough salt to draw out the whey. Then drain the whey and press the cheese according to your recipe.
3. Moldy or holey cheese
Moldy and holey cheese is perfectly fine if it was what you expected. However, if your cheddar has large Swiss cheese-like holes or blue veins of mold, then it has been contaminated by mold or yeast (the holes are usually caused by yeast.)
Sanitation of all the equipment is key to preventing contamination. This also means avoiding cross-contamination between your ferments. Don’t make cheese in a kitchen that has sourdough starter or kombucha in it.
A good rule is to move your other ferments to a different room in your house at least 2 days before making cheese (especially hard cheese.
Never eat anything that doesn’t smell, look or taste good. It’s not worth the risk of illness.
4. Hard cheese releases liquid during ripening
It is important to monitor your aging cheeses. If they start to leak liquid, then stop aging the cheese before it starts to mold or go off. Stick it in the fridge and eat it as fresh cheese instead.
There are several reasons why hard cheeses will release liquid during ripening.
- There is still too much whey in the cheese. Make sure you press the cheese for the right amount of time with the right amount of weight.
- If the liquid is oily, then the cave is too warm. This causes the fat to rise to the surface of the cheese.
- It is unlikely that an aging cheese will start to release moisture because the cave is too humid. However, humidity will prevent the cheese from drying properly and might cause it to start growing mold.
Hi There ,
I got this email posted on from you.
I have some hard time on stretching my curds and make them elastic enough to form mozzarella cheese.
The process started very good and I followed the recipe every step but I dont know what went wrong.
may be didn’t cook sufficient time the curds ? Now how to correct the curds at this stage ? The curds looking good apparently but how to proceed make the stretch part .
Hi, I also struggle with mozzarella. It’s why I haven’t posted my own recipe, because it never really works that great for me. Have you tested the acidity? It needs to be acidic in order to stretch properly. Also, (my personal theory for my lack of success) maybe pasteurized milk doesn’t work for mozzarella?
Even if it doesn’t stretch, the cheese will still be good to eat!
Someone I follow (Kate @ Venison for Dinner) makes mozzarella with pasteurized milk, and she said that there is this odd thing where you can’t stretch mozzarella made from pasteurized milk with hot whey—you have to do it with the microwave.
To be honest… I haven’t had good luck with mozzarella. It’s why I haven’t posted a recipe. 🙂 I don’t tend to share a recipe that I can’t reliably make each time. Thanks for sharing this bit of advice! Maybe it will help me the next time I try!
I have made halloumi for more than 10 years but lately have had 2 batches where the drained curd did not sink in the whey but immediately floated to the top. It then loses shape and runs and cannot be fried. What went wrong?
Maybe the brine is a bit too salty? The salinity would change how much the cheese floats. Just reduce the amount of salt by a little bit and see if that helps.
I’m a goat cheese maker (the cheese log)
And i’ve been making cheese for two months now. Using the same techniques as of pasteurizing at 75 C and at 26 C adding culture and rennet. What i don’t get is this silky and flat curd. It’s always different from one batch to another. Sometimes floating up and all the whey at the bottom, sometimes bits and pieces and today after few hours i got this bubbling and making sounds like breathing and full of holes like activated yeast
Pls can i know why.
Hum… the bubbling definitely sounds like it was contaminated with yeast. Yeasts are naturally found in the air, especially if you make other ferments or bake bread. Otherwise, it sounds like you’re struggling with getting the acidification the same every time. I have a few thoughts… you may want to be more particular about sterilization (to prevent contamination), especially if you’re selling the cheese. Also, are you reusing culture or making your own? That might lead to the variability in culturing. Lastly, if you’re using unpasteurized milk, that might also be an issue. Good luck!
Hi, I’m a new cheese maker, started at lockdown. I’ve made cheddar, Monterey jack Gouda Edam. They all taste the same, all dry and crumbly. Edible but not correct. Any idea what is the problem. I initially had problems setting, so I increased the calcium chloride and rennet. The store bought milk here in Spain maynot be the best.
Hi, You’ve definitely made a lot more types of cheese than I have! Do you have different cultures for each of those cheeses? Dry crumbly cheese is often due to over-acidification. If you are using raw milk, then that would add extra bacterial culture (resulting in over-acidification.) Using a microbial rennet will also acidify the curds. Perhaps try reducing the amount of culture or decreasing the culturing time? Then reduce the calcium chloride amount and follow the suggested amount for the rennet on the package. You may need to up the rennet if it’s old, but otherwise, you shouldn’t need to.
Dry crumbly cheese can be caused by too high of temperature, cooking too long, and stirring too much. Good luck!
I’m using frozen raw goats milk to make my first Chenna cheese. I’ve gotten beautiful curds but, no whey. The curds are floating in a milk bath???. Confused. I brought the milk to a boil, added lemon juice and turned off the heat while stirring for a good 10 minutes. Curds firmed but no whey??? Can it be saved or is it time to start over?
The whey is essentially the milk bath. If it’s still a bit milky, then that’s because it didn’t fully curd. Goats milk contains naturally homogenized fat (even fresh raw goat’s milk… just the way it is). I recommend adding calcium chloride to improve the yield. Good luck!
Hi Im making chevre from raw goat milk on oir farm in Colombia. It worked fine for rhe first 3 month and the curds always sank beneath the whey. Now there is no seperation and it always one big soft curd clump. Same with doing greek yogurt before there was whey on the top and the xursa below now it all one mass. Would my milk be contaminated for hygienic reasons on the goat care side ? Any ideas ? Pls help
Curds tend to float when they are contaminated with yeast (or unwanted bacteria). I have a few suggestions:
1. It could be that the goats have got a bit of yeast in their natural flora. Goats milk naturally changes across the season, so it might just be a variation in that. (I’m not a goat expert, but my sister drinks only goats milk, so I know that this is true for my local goats). You could try pasteurizing the milk prior to making cheese to kill off any yeasts.
2. If you are making other types of ferments (sourdough, milk kefir) then they may be contaminating your milk. Try keeping them in another room and wipe down your kitchen with bleach to prevent any unwanted yeasts.
3. Contamination with yeast is fine. I make most of my cheese with milk kefir culture so it’s always got a bit of yeast in it. However, it does add its own particular flavour.
4. If the cheese (or even the milk) tastes bad then you’ve got bad contamination. You’ll need to clean everything that touches the milk really well to make sure it isn’t contaminated.
Phew! Probably should add this info into my post!
Best of luck, Emillie
I am trying to make feta cheese from raw milk. I had success in making cottage type cheese already. The feta curds (kefir and rennet added to make curds) were put in light salt brine and aged for a month in the fridge bottom shelf. 3 pieces stayed at the bottom of the jar, one is on top (basically it did not fit) I discovered yesterday 2 small green mold patches and few tiny spots of orange mold. can the cheese still be saved by changing brine for example? It smells just like feta… Any advice would be very much appreciated.
Is the mold on the brine or the exposed feta? I would remove the cheese that’s above the brine. If it’s just on that cheese, then change the brine. I would be surprised if the mold is on the brine, as it should be salty enough to prevent that from happening. However, if the brine is moldy, then you should be a bit more careful with the cheese. If you think it’s OK to eat, then store it in the fridge and use it for cooked (heated) recipes only. Still… I don’t want you to get food poisoning, so always choose to be careful first!
I’ve been making cheese for a couple of years and most turn out great. Five months ago I made my first Swiss. It smells and tastes great and feels good on the teeth and tongue. However, for some strange reason the eyes all collapsed. I expected to find several large eyes but instead found dozens of very small eyes and they were all partially collapsed. In appearance it looks like Emmental. This is a two pound piece and I’m 100% sure I used only an eighth teaspoon of propionic shermanii. Can you tell me what else might have caused the eyes to collapse?
I’m not sure… my only thought is that perhaps it was aged at a too warm temperature? I don’t know for certain because I haven’t had that particular problem myself.
Why my cheese when I cut has a yellow spot in the centre
Sorry, I’m not sure. I would need more details about the type of cheese and your cheesemaking process to offer a guess. If this was a store-bought cheese, then you should ask the store. Cheers, Emillie
Hi, I am making cottage cheese. I heat my milk to about 90 degrees, let it stand in a 90 degree room for two days. Once the curds start to form I pour it in a pot and heat it too 100 degrees. I use raw milk and have never used a culture, and I never have a problem getting my curds to form. The last few times though, i will have beautiful curds floating at the top of my pot in a matter of minutes, but about half of them will set at the bottom and simply not harden. I have tried letting them sit for a whole day, heating them to about 130 degrees and just taking them out and letting them drain. Nothing works and they remain in the soft yogurty form and I am extremely frustrated. Please help!
Hello, If you aren’t using rennet or store-bought culture, then it’s probably due to something that changed in the raw milk. Raw milk can contain a variety of cultures (yeast and bacteria). Like humans, the microbiome of the cows can change with the season, based on what they eat and what else they are exposed to in their environment. I recommend adding a bit of rennet to help the curd form.
First time cheese maker.
I’m using fresh raw goats milk.
Medophillic direct set culture, rennet and calcium chloride.
I’ve made cheddar, Gouda and Monterey Jack and they all taste the same! I tried them at sixty days old.
They all taste like feta to me really tangy
What did I do wrong?
Hum… I’m guessing it’s two things: 1 Goat milk is pretty tangy. There’s a reason why there are only a few traditional types of goat cheese. 2. Raw milk brings its own culture to the milk. So that is likely contributing to the flavour. You’re lucky to have access to that milk! If it was me, I would probably stick with feta and soft goat cheese. It just is hard to make slicing goat cheeses. Cheers!
I make Swiss cheese – same recipe I’ve always used…everything was the same except the outcome. According to the recipe it is to be pressed at 10 lbs for 15 minutes, flipped, pressed again at 15 lbs for 30 minutes & flipped, pressed again at 15 lbs for 2 hours & flipped, then pressed at 15 lbs for 12 hours. This morning when I came to unwrap & brine my cheese I was shocked to see that the curds, while stuck together, are not smooth. What I mean to say is that I can still see the individual edges of each curd – it looks like a brain! What would make that happen? I was very careful about the time and temperature so I’m not at all sure what happened. What would make the curds retain their individual formation and not ‘smoosh’ into that smooth surface?? It’s a 6 pound wheel of cheese and I am loathe to throw it out. Do you suppose it’s safe to eat??
Huh… that is unusual. My only thought is that maybe the temperature was different? Either the curds cooked too hot. Or it’s colder than usual in your home, so they were too cold during pressing? I’m not an expert. However, I think the curds should be just fine to eat. It doesn’t sound like a mold, bacteria or yeast issue. So feel free to use it as a fresh cheese. Cheers, Emillie
walter a baker
when making feta using goat milk , sometimes when curd is ready to cut there is whey on top & the curd has sank other times the curd is on top why ?
In general, floating curds are not a good thing. It probably means that there is some unwanted culture in the cheese (yeast or bacteria). However, if you’re using raw goat milk, it might be due to seasonal changes in the goat milk bacteria. Cheers, Emillie
the milk I used never made curds…what happened?
What did you use to set the curd? Acid (lemon juice, vinegar), culture, or rennet? If it was culture or rennet, then it might be expired. If it didn’t curd with an acid, then I’m guessing you used a high-temperature pasteurized milk? (UHT or long-life milk)? The other reason why curds sometimes fail to set properly is if you stir the milk too early. That breaks up the curds and stops them from setting properly. Hope that helps! Cheers, Emillie
My Jack cheese did not press together. Can it be warmed up and try pressing again?
Hi Jane, Did the curds form properly? If so, then you could try heating before pressing again with more weight (15 lbs). The easiest way to warm up the curds is by putting them in warm water. Good luck!
Hi! I tried making cream cheese + whey from raw milk and both came out bitter. It’s my first time making this and not sure why that happened. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
Hi Sophia, What did you use to set your cream cheese? Most cream cheese recipes only use rennet, but I’m guessing you didn’t pasteurize your milk, so did you have both rennet and culture? There are a few things that could be at play. Have you tried simply letting your raw milk self-culture (to test the flavor)? Raw milk can have different combinations of yeast and bacteria depending on the season and the cows’ health. If you set the milk with both culture and rennet, (similar to my recipe: https://www.fermentingforfoodies.com/homemade-cream-cheese/) then you may need to drain the whey sooner.