How to make cheese with your BREWHA BIAC

This article was submitted by homebrewer Ken Noesgaard of Saskatoon, SK. He has one several medals for his beer and has been brewing with his BIAC for about five years.

I am a homebrewer and have, on occasion, thought about the process of making cheese. Since cheese is a process where milk has to be held at a controlled temperature for long periods of time I thought my BREWHA BIAC brewing setup could be adapted for that.

My brewing comrades warned me that if I am not very careful, my beer would all become funky cheese beer due to potential cross contamination. While the BIAC system is much better than traditional systems at reducing microbial infection (due to the heat of boil sanitizing the fermenter) – I didn't want to take any chances and allow bacterial cheese culture to contaminate my wort.

To eliminate the risk of contamination, I found a large 10 liter (~3gal) pasta pot that fit inside my 30L/8Gal (Small) BIAC perfectly, that I make my cheese in. Using this to hold the milk, I put it into my BIAC and fill the BIAC from the bottom tri-clover fitting with enough water to just about float the pot with 2 gallons of milk in it. This turns my BIAC into a temperature controlled double boiler. The entire process happens inside the pot without contaminating the BIAC. I have made soft cheeses and hard cheeses using this process and they have all turned out perfectly.

ingredients for making cheese

Homemade cheese, step by step: 

In this article I discuss making 2lb of spreadable cream cheese. It is as easy as cheese gets and demonstrates the basic process. My wife and my friends cannot get enough of this cheese – whenever I’m not making beer with my BIAC I’m supposed to make cheese!

I should mention my 'go to' website for cheesemaking - https://cheesemaking.com/ . There you can find all the supplies for cheesemaking and recipes too.

The cheese I will be making is https://cheesemaking.com/collections/recipes/products/cream-cheese-recipe

First, gather the ingredients:

  • 8L/2gal of whole milk (3.25% at my store)
  • 1/2 tsp calcium chloride,
  • 8 drops of rennet,
  • 1 small packet of buttermilk culture
  • Dilute Starsan in a spray bottle 

Calcium chloride improves the firmness of the curd for pasteurized milk. Rennet is the stuff that makes the milk separate. The culture gives cheese its flavor and aroma. For sanitizing I use good old Starsan.

adding ingredients when making cheese

Pretty much if you treat sanitation for cheese like you do for beer, you’re good to go.

Put the 10L pot into the BIAC and fill the pot with milk. Fill the BIAC with water until the pot just barely floats. Set the ETC to 30C/86F and connect the heater element. Cover the pot and let it sit until the milk reaches 30C/86F with a thermometer – approximately a couple of hours.

When the milk is up to temperature, add the calcium chloride and stir it in gently with a top to bottom stirring motion – I use a perforated ladle (ensure all utensils are sanitized before using -- placing them in boiling water for 5 minutes works well). controlling temperature when making cheeseThen sprinkle the bacterial culture on the surface (like you would with a dry yeast pack) and let it hydrate for 2 minutes – then stir it in with the up-down stirring motion. Finally, add 8 drops of rennet into ¼ cup of distilled water and stir that all into the milk for a full 30-60 seconds. Put the lid on the pot and cover with a towel to keep the heat in.

Now we leave it alone for 12-24 hours for the curd to set and the culture to develop its flavor. I start the culture the first evening and finish it the next. I’ve tried curds without culture and they're very bland.

Once the curds have set it will have formed a mass in the middle and will have pulled away from the sides and appear to be floating in the whey (which looks a bit like lemonade). If in doubt they say to slide a knife into the curd and lift. The curd should break cleanly. More rennet makes a stiffer curd and this is cream cheese.

removing curds from whey making cheeseNow we remove the pot from the BIAC and take it to the kitchen sink for the messy part. We have to separate the curds from the whey. In this case I was able to pour half of it off because the curd was well formed, but then you have to scoop. I use my perforated ladle to transfer the curds into a muslin bag (I love my muslin bag – cheesecloth works well too). The curds are then drained as much as possible to remove the whey. Remember to sanitize anything that touches the cheese. You can take the bag and hang it for several hours or overnight to drip, but I put the bag into a colander in the sink and put a weight on it to press it. I used a bowl with a lid filled with water.

Eventually you will have a nicely formed ball of cheese curd. I put this into the mixer with a teaspoon of sea salt and a pint of heavy cream and mix it until it is smooth. It makes a lovely spread.

Other cheeses require different cultures and more processing (see cheesemaking.com for other recipes). If you want to make Jack Cheese you use a different culture, let it ripen at 30C for 60 minutes, add the rennet let it sit for 40 minutes, then cut the curds into ½” cubes and stir slowly for the next 2 hours while slowly ramping the temperature up to 40C. Separate the curds from the whey, mix in salt and put the ball of curds into your handy dandy cheese press under 25 pounds of weight for 6 hours.Ken N making cheese in BREWHA BIAC Take it out of the press and let it dry on the counter for 2 days. Wash the cheese with brine and put it in your cheese cave (my wine fridge) at 55F for a week until the rind develops. Take it out of the cheese cave and coat it with olive oil every 3 days for a couple of weeks. In 3-8 months the cheese will be ready. Longer time develops stronger flavours.

I have made several hard cheeses and they are fantastic! The big problem is it takes 6 months to make it and 6 days to eat it. That’s why I make more soft cheeses than hard cheeses.

I will say that everyone who has tried my homemade cheese raves about it – give it a try!

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