Print Page | Close Window

Cultivation of industrial grade starter cultures

Printed From: Dairy Science and Food Technology
Category: Starter cultures
Forum Name: Starter cultures
Forum Description: Discussion about the microorganisms used in the manufacture of cultured products
Printed Date: 28 Jan 2023 at 3:33am
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 12.03 -

Topic: Cultivation of industrial grade starter cultures
Posted By: OrdinaryPerson
Subject: Cultivation of industrial grade starter cultures
Date Posted: 19 Mar 2011 at 11:13am
Hello everyone,

I would like to know, what grow media are used in industrial starter culture production? Especially, if there are commercial starter culture avaiable, which are grown on non-animal-based media (=vegan media). I know, that there is the possibility to grow cultures on agar-agar subtrates, but I guess that there are special mixtures, which could incorporate animal-based substance in such a media. Furthermore, it would be interesting to get a link to company selling such starter cultures.

Thanks in advance,

Posted By: Admin
Date Posted: 19 Mar 2011 at 11:35pm
Hello Marcus
Commercial dairy starter cultures are grown in media containing milk / milk based ingredients; there are good reasons for doing this. It is possible to use plant based media to produce starter cultures but I am not aware of any suppliers of such cultures. You could buy commercial culltures and propagate them several times in a plant based medium.
While some dairy starters have almost certainly originated from a plant environment others have originated from the - guts of animals .
Major suppliers of commercial cultures include Chr Hansen's, Danisco and DSL. The links section on this site provides information on companies that will supply small quantities of culture.
Interesting query!

Posted By: OrdinaryPerson
Date Posted: 20 Mar 2011 at 8:16am
Hello Michael,

thanks for your detailed reply. Unfortunatly, cultivating my own starter in plant media is not an option for me as I dont have the knowlegde as well as the laboratoy/material to do this. I am physicist working as post-doc in optics, so my knowlegde on microbiology is quite limited. I try to contact the companys given in your reply.

Basically, my goal is to develop a soy-based cheese, which may seem arwark, but there are some people not able to eat ordinary cheese. I have experimented with commercial starters and first tests were promising to me. I also found material that there was research in the past, but there is no commercial product available.

I have another question, no one was able to answer me yet. As far as I know, commercial starters are chosen, so that the microorganisms do not product toxins in the substrate they are growing in. Is it possible that the same cultures produce toxin in another than milk-substrate, e.g. soy-substrate?

All the best,

P.S.: i added an image of a soy-based cheese inoculated with camembert mold. It looks not eatable yet, but the mold seems to grow quite well within the substrate and the inner substrate changed to a creamy texture after three weeks of ripening.

penicillium camberti in soy-substrate

Posted By: Admin
Date Posted: 20 Mar 2011 at 12:43pm
Your posts have come at a very busy time for me so only brief responses- these are based on an imperfect memory!
1. Commercial DVI/DVS cultures while grown on milk based media contain minimal quantities of milk- to a non vegans the quantities of milk based substances added to your products would be insignificant. However I accept that there may still be issues for vegans. As I briefly mentioned some starter cultures originated from the gut flora of animals and people!
2. Moving to toxin production. Major dairy culture (bacteria) suppliers have a good understanding of the genetic makeup of some of their cultures and their scientists have some understanding of the common metabolic pathways that can produce toxins. You can be fairly certain that if you define your requirements you will get a culture that is safe. I would be somewhat more cautious about moulds.
3. I have not researched the availability of commercial soya cheese type products but would be surprised if they were not available commercially. I can recall reading about their manufacture 10-15 years ago. Soya "milks" and "yoghurts" are available in most supermarkets.
4. Bottom line I doubt if you are going to encounter any starter culture- toxin production issues if you ask major starter culture companies to supply you with cultures for your product development trials. I would be more cautious about mould use. Again discuss with the starter supplier. 
5. Thanks for the photos! Your product looks good- I like 'runny' mould-ripened cheese. 

Posted By: OrdinaryPerson
Date Posted: 20 Mar 2011 at 1:18pm
Thanks again for your replies, which are of great help to me. I have not had the opportunity to talk to someone, who is really into this subject of cheese and food manufacturing. Although, I have found good literature in our university library, I can only grasp a rough picture of the details discussed there due to my totally different educational background.

To 1.) It would be nice to have totally vegan product, which would increase the amount of potential consumers. I will see what the suppliers tell me.

To 2.) Thanks for this evaluation. My main problem is, that I believe it is quite difficult to get a dialogue going between me and the culture-producing companys, as I am not part of a company and the potential profit from my desired specifications is quite low. I will try nevertheless :)

To 3.) I have done an intensive internet search in the last months, and although there are products marketed as cheese-alternatives they are usually a pressed clump of spices, fat and food additives, which I would not mind, if their taste were good. I have tried at least ten different products and all of them were a very bad substitutes. My basic conclusion from these experiences was, that if I want to have the taste of a ripened product, the product has to be ripened. I found some sources stating that ripened soy-cheese has been manufactured in france around 1910, and in the usa around 1940, and one soy-blue-cheese was created and patented around 1980 (but not marketed), but that seems to be the only clues pointing in that direction. This lack of research and products made me curious (especially as the process of turning milk to curds is almost identical as turning soy-milk into soy-curds).

To 4). Sounds good

To 5.) Nice to hear such warm words from an expert :)

Thanks again for your time, have a nice weekend

Posted By: Admin
Date Posted: 20 Mar 2011 at 2:09pm

Hi Marcus

If I get some time over the next few weeks I will come back to your post- sorry can't do much at present.
Regretfully I have not worked with fermented soya products and hence am no expert. I also have no knowledge of the chemical breakdown  products produced from the hydrolysis of soya proteins by microbial proteases and their physiological effects- e.g. concentrations of biogenic amines. Hence I would be cautious about eating much of your 'runny' cheese! 
While there have been male fertility issues raised about soya products they like dairy products have been around for hundreds perhaps thousands of years and have GRAS status. You can use the search facility on this site to follow up on biogenic amines and GRAS status. 

Posted By: OrdinaryPerson
Date Posted: 20 Mar 2011 at 2:36pm
I have not touched my runny cheese yet as I am very cautious. I simply wanted to see, if standard cheese-making techniques can yield something similar using soy, as it actually did. At the moment I am looking for laboratories that are conducting food-analysis for myco-toxins, and I have found one in my hometown, although a simple test is quite expensive. I will read up on biogenic amines as suggested by you.

I will just wait for your follow up, when you find time. There is no hurry on my side. :)

Posted By: OrdinaryPerson
Date Posted: 02 Apr 2011 at 10:27am
Hi there,

I just wanted to check by to post my current status. I have tried a different mixture for the soy-based camembert, which yielded quite good results (photos below). I tasted the "cheese" after one week of ripening (prepared in oven to get rid of potential bacterias), and it was ok, the flavour was not very strong, but there was also no off-flavors, which is good I think.
If you have a look on the first picture, you can see little black spots at the right side, which I think are fruiting bodys. Can someone confirm that?

I had still no luck in contacting the culture-manufactures. They are simply not responding to my requests, which is somewhat disappointing.

All the best,
Marcus - - -

Posted By: Admin
Date Posted: 03 Apr 2011 at 12:07am
Hello Marcus
Be patient and  polite and you should get a response from the culture companies. Chr Hansen's prides itself on providing excellent customer service and you are a potential customer!
The New England Cheesemaking Supply Company does not make starters but does supply them.  They supply small quantise of starter. It may be worthwhile discussing your starter needs with them. They will try to help you.  Jongia UK provides Small scale equipment and arranges tours of cheesemaking plants; Jaap may know people making soy cheese who may be prepared to work with you. AB Cheesemaking in the UK provide consultancy and courses on cheesemaking. One of their courses could provide the underpinning science you need.
The URLs of the companies above are in the Links Section and the people are all easy to deal with and provide excellent customer service.
Providing you start with properly prepared soy-based 'milk' (heat treated as necessary, around 60C, 30 mins), your hygiene (manufacture) is excellent and the pH of the 'cheese' is less that 5.2 after 24 hours your soy-based cheese should be safe to eat. I have no knowledge of the protein products produced as a result of mould ripening and can offer no real insights into safety of mould produced 'soy-cheeses'. However I am not aware of  any safety issues- I probably would have heard of them by now.
Contamination with 'foreign' moulds can be a  problem and 'black mould' contamination is not unusual. Good hygiene is the primary control mechanism for home cheese making.

Good luck

Posted By: MrCage
Date Posted: 21 Apr 2011 at 9:24pm

Hello all, interesting post.  The degree of difficulty is rather high for your first choice of cheese.

Perhaps I can add a bit more to Michael’s thoughts.  DVS may be your most simple approach, the culture suppliers listed above are very good are increasing cellular mass.  Your addition rate is close approximately 0.005% (wt/wt) and the amount of “dairy” in that percentage is even lower.

But, if your heart is set on bulk media…..

As I understand, typical industrial starter cultures for the propagation of Lactococcus, ST or Lactobacillus will be either milk or whey based.  Depending on internal or external pH control your secondary ingredients will vary but to include: Phosphates, Citrates, Yeast Extract and minerals.  The goal industrial starter manufacturing is to increase cell mass sufficiently to achieve your processing expectations in your larger production facility.  As your culture will be transfer to milk there are advantages to growing them in a milk based media.

With that said I suppose you could craft your own starter media with Soy Protein, Yeast Extract, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Phosphates and Minerals; similarly to dry “dairy” formulations.  (Very intelligent people spend careers on perfecting these formulas).  You require macro and micro nutrients of which many may be already present in your product.


I would classify my knowledge of Soy close to zero.  Do I understand by your finished pH values of 5.2 that you achieved a pH drop?  If that is the case you have the basic nutrients already present in your product (I generally require a mammal’s involvement to use the term milk) to obtain a pH drop.


Can you share the basics of your process?  Are you starting with a liquid and what is the composition of that liquid?


Good luck

Posted By: Admin
Date Posted: 22 Apr 2011 at 7:42pm
Mr Cage delighted to see you back in the forums again! Your expertise has been missed.

Posted By: OrdinaryPerson
Date Posted: 23 Apr 2011 at 12:12pm
Thank you for the replies, they are very much appreciated. I will try to contact the firms given by michael, maybe they can help me to get a plant-based starter culture.

I have not yet measured the ph of my soy-milk after inoculation so I am not sure if the mass had a reduced ph-value. I have bought a ph-Meter now and will make some tests on the accidification of starters in soy-milk. I believe that there will be no problems at this point as soy-milk left alone in a glass becomes sour and transform into soy-joghurt after a few days, so the media should work well with starter cultures. After the ph-Meter has arrived I should be able to create an even better "cheese" as I can more closely follow the guidlines for conventional cheese-manufacturing.

@MrCage: The basic process is very simple and similar to conventional cheese-making. I will try to give rough description of the process, if you want to know more details feel free to ask.

1.) Soak soy-beans for about eight to twelve hours in cold water.
2.) Drain the soy-beans and grind them with twice the volume of water
3.) Now the liquid (soy-milk) has to be separated from the solid parts (Okara), which can be achieved by using a cloth  to filtre the mass.
4.) Heat the soy-milk to at least 85°C for more than 10 minutes (destroys harmful parts of the soy-bean).
5.) Use magnesium-chloride/calcium-cloride or calcium sulfat to start the coagulation process (soy-milk has to be at least at 85°C, use about one teaspoon of coagulant per litre of soy milk).
6.) The soy milk will start to coagulate immediatly. Cool down the mass to the temperature used in cheese-production and procceed like you would with milk-curds.

The main problems for me is to find the right part to inoculate the medium. As the soy-milk is heated to more than 85°C any starter culture would be destroyed. My approach is to first heat the soy-milk to destroy harmful parts of the soy-bean. Then i cool down the liquid to 34°C and add starter cultures. I leaf the liquid for inocuation time and separate a glass of soy milk. I reheat the soy-milk to 85°C to coagulate, try to cool down the mass rapidly and mix in the glass of soy-milk with active starter. The coagulated mass is then left to rest for about twenty minutes. Then I procceed with the instructions of conventional cheese recipes.

As I am doing all this at home, I have no knowlegde of the composition of my soy-milk, so my results will probably differ with different sources of soy-beans and my unitentional changes in the process I might conduct. As stated before, it was very convincing for me that although so little is known, I was able to reproduce the soy-"cheese" for three times in a row without problems. Nevertheless, I have not conducted any serious taste-tests as I am still afraid to poison myself.

All the best,

Posted By: MrCage
Date Posted: 26 Apr 2011 at 9:59pm

Micheal - Thank You...glad to be back!!!

Please confirm my understanding:
  1. Soy Beans must be heat treated to destroy the Trypsin Inhibitors among other harmful factors present in Soy.
  2. Soy Protein is globular and the most effective means to coagualte is with salts.
  3. The heat treatment and coagulations occurs at 85C.
  4. Lastly I wound not get too hung up on the source material of your starter at the moment.  If you can prove your concept with yogurt cultures you can work on sourcing non-dairy starters at a latter point.  Yogurt cultures that contain Strep Therm will be fine for testing your concept.  You will get basic acid production and be able to operate at high enough temperatures to keep you away from many troublemaking bugs.

Have you verified that coagulation must also occur at 85C?  After your heat treatment have you attempted to coagulate the Soy proteins after a bit of cooling at 40C?  If you can acheive a lower temperature coagulation then other options will exist for you.  We can discuss later.

Assuming that coagulation is temperature dependent.....
  • The process you have explained is not to different from Ricotta cheese.  Have you considered this option?  Ricotta is a heat/acid precipitated cheese that is often used in cooking?  Most Ricotta users will be prepared for this type of non-typical texture.
  • This is a depature from normal cheese making but have you considered fermenting prior to heating?  In a past life I made cream cheese following this process.  I would recommend heating your product to 63C for 30 minutes, cool to 40C and add 0.5% yogurt.  Once you reach your desired pH then you return to Step 4 as you have listed.
Lastly, is your fear to taste your product a microbiological concern or a soy factor?

Posted By: OrdinaryPerson
Date Posted: 27 Apr 2011 at 7:09am
Hello MrCage,

1.) Yes, there has to heat treatment to destroy harmful parts of soy-bean, and therefore the soy-milk has to reach at least 85°C otherwise, they will not be destroyed (it also better to heat it up to 100°C as the inhibitors will be destroyed more quickly according to literature.
2.) I don't know if soy-beans are globular, but the coagulation is usally done with salts, but it is also possible to use acid to coagulate the milk, nevertheless the curds have a different texture.
3.) Literature states that the coagulation is possible, when soy-milk is at least at 70°C (based on literature, I think coagulation using salts will not work at 40°C, I have not tested this yet though), depending on the temperature water content of the curds are different. I usually coagulate at 85°C, but there is no concrete reason to do this at this temperature, maybe other temperatures would yield better results.
4.) Thanks for the tip. Do you now what temperature the Strep Therm will survive in?

Ricotta: I have read about these possibilities, but at the moment I want to focus on one type of cheese. I think, that a cream cheese could be made more easily, but for marketing purposes a "real" mould cheese would be much more fascinating Smile Of course, it would be interesting to see all different kinds of soy-based cheeses (e.g. hard-cheese would be very interesting, but development cylce takes probably to long for a first product).

Fermentation idea sounds interesting, is put on my long list Smile

My fear concerns microbiological germs as well as potential toxics produced by them. Until now, I have not found someone, who could confirm to me, that established cultures are not producing toxics on this different substrate. For example, I have read recently that to this day there are people creating roqueforti spores, by using bread as breading media. Then they use these spores for cheese-making. I think (but I dont know) that the roqueforti produces toxics in bread, but dont produce toxins in milk, though the media seems to play an important role. As there is almost no experience concerning soy and starter-cultures I am a little bit worried Smile

Posted By: MrCage
Date Posted: 28 Apr 2011 at 12:22am

ST will often survive standard pasteurization temperatures in a milk based medium.  This will be strain specific along with other variables.  The D(72) for ST has a failry variable range during a quick lit review on the subject.

Optimum range for ST would likely land in the 40-48C range(again strain specific).

Good luck on your away more questions as they come.

Posted By: Admin
Date Posted: 01 May 2011 at 10:05pm
It is good to see that you are keeping your project alive. While as Mr Cage has stated you have started with a very challenging 'cheese' project you seem to have made a lot of progress.
At this stage you are proving concepts and trying to establish a manufacturing process so it does not really matter too much where your starters come from as long as your know their identities and characteristics.
Many strains of Streptococcus thermophilus (ST) are fairly heat tolerant and will generally stand a short period of exposure to 70C and consequently should be considered for starter use. Most dairy strains will stop growing close to 50C and will start growing (slowly) when the temperature reaches around 22C. So if you wish to use ST try to use a temperature greater than 30C  and ideally within the range quoted by Mr Cage.
Note the 'sugars' in soy "milk" are different than in cows' milk and that will place some restrictions on starters.
Providing quality raw materials were used,  hygienes was good, the inhibitors were destroyed and an active starter culture was used (one that bough the pH of your product down to 5.2 or less -e.g. 5.1- in a reasonably short period of time (time from heat treatment) say in <5 hours) I would sample product that was not mould ripened!
Good luck. An interesting project that deserves encouragement.
If you do not get any responses from the culture suppliers please let us know. We may be able to help using the PM system

Posted By: OrdinaryPerson
Date Posted: 08 May 2011 at 9:37am
Thanks for the encouraging words.

I think, I will follow your advise and first try to create an non-mold-ripened cheese, because of the uncertainties of potential toxin production.

From the experiments I made this week, I can say that the starter-culture I used is able to reduce pH to 5.2 within a day. I also found out, that coagulation at a ph of 5.2 using calcium-chloride will not work, so I have to induce the coagulation process earlier. Luckily, it was possible to coagulate soy-milk at 45 °C, which is a temperature most starters should survive in. So I am aiming at reducing the ph a little bit, carefully heating the milk to 45 °C, coagulate the milk, and then wait for drainage until pH has dropped to 4.6 .

"At this stage you are proving concepts and trying to establish a manufacturing process so it does not really matter too much where your starters come from as long as your know their identities and characteristics."

I agree with you, I will post-pone the starter-culture problem until I have found a way to create something tasty.

Posted By: OrdinaryPerson
Date Posted: 21 May 2011 at 11:39am
Here a little update concerning the results of the last weeks:

It is possible to induce coagulation using salts down to 30 degree, but the consistency is very soft, and the small "clouds" break easily apart. Coagulation by pure means of acidification results in a gel, which simply slips through my cheese cloth. A combination of acidifcation and coagulation at low temperature leads to a mass which I can handle with a cheesecloth.

I tried to ripen the mass with a red-smear culture, but my first approach was not successfull, probably due to several reasons:

- I have no means of controlling ripening conditions (temperature all the time about 20 degrees)
- I am not really sure, how big the watercontent of the final mass is, which seems to be a critical value for cheese production.
- I do not know, if the red smear culture survives for several weeks, in a mixture of salt, water and beer, so maybe I the culture died quite fast after the first smear and successive smearing simply added dead cells?

I have added some pictures of this first attempt. The last pictures shows a cross section of the mass after 12 to 14 days of ripening. The odor was not disgusting but it didnt smell tasty either. The inner volume of the mass had a pH of 4.6 and the outer area an pH of 5.2 (after 12 to 14 days). Is this to be expected or should the values be different?

Mass after brining

Mass after a smearing

Colour variation, due to spoilage or red smear?

cross-section after 12 to 14 days

Best regards,

P.S.: It would be helpful for me to visit a small-scale cheese-production to get some insights into conventional cheese production, so if someone would be willing to give me an opportunity for a short visit, this would be great (maybe one day to a week, preferably in germany)

Today, I found this patent application, where the inventor claims to have realized a process for soy-cheese camembert production. It gives interesting insights Smile

Posted By: MrCage
Date Posted: 21 May 2011 at 10:07pm

Your Successes:

You’re able to form a gel and ultimately a curd mass.

You’re able to ferment your product.


Congratulations….two basics that are obviously critical to move forward.



At what rate are you salting? This could lead to pH variation.

Have you added Streptococcus Thermophilus as well as the Red Smear culture cocktail for flavor?


If I understand correctly….the red smear cheese is similar to a Limburger?  If yes, this culture has highly proteolytic bacteria that’s break down protein into very aromatic compounds.  I wouldn’t expect the proteolysis to be the source of your pH differential but could contribute.   Brevibacteria is often associated with Limburger.


I cannot open your pictures and access the size of your product but if the rate of cooling is different that the rate of cooling on the outside you can expect some pH variation in  your product(moisture as well).


Good Luck

Posted By: Admin
Date Posted: 23 May 2011 at 9:25pm

Thank you for the update on progress. Smear ripening is interesting in any cheese!

1. Visits. Jongia UK Ltd arrange trips to cheesemakers in Germany and will be visiting cheesemakers in" rel="nofollow - Bavaria, Berlin and Westphalia in the autumn . More details are available from" rel="nofollow - Jaap .


2. You can get some more information on smear cultures from this article on" rel="nofollow - the Surface Microflora of Four Smear-Ripened Cheeses (free download). Mr Cage has suggested that at least part of the pH difference b/w the surface and the interior of your cheese may be due to the activity of your smear cultures. Initially smear cultures convert the lactic acid in the surface to water and CO2 (acidify surface) before the proteolysis really starts going and raises the pH.

3. I don't you have mentioned whether you 'salt' your cheese (after the coagulation process) with a brine or other method?
4. Can't see final cheese.

Best wishes

Posted By: OrdinaryPerson
Date Posted: 24 May 2011 at 8:10am
Thanks for the feedback.

I corrected my message, so that the images can be directly seen in my post.

Usually, I brine the masses in a 20% Salt to Water brine (weight). I have read that for every 100g of cheese it is common to leave it in the brine for about one hour, and I try to stick to this rule of thumb. Nevertheless, it is possible that due to the different material a longer or shorter brining time, would yield better results, but I have no means to control the salt content of the solution or mass.

I have the feeling that the mass before brining contains to much moisture, so that I probably need some kind of cheese molding-press. The patent I have found states that they press their mass with 5kg per cm^2, which is quite a big value, which I can hardly realize at the moment. As far as I have read conventional cheese are hardly pressed.

"Have you added Streptococcus Thermophilus as well as the Red Smear culture cocktail for flavor?"

At the moment I use a mixture of Lactococcus Cremoris und Lactococcus Lactis, Lactococcus Diacetilactis und Leuconostoc Cremoris. I have a thermophil starter ready to use, but as I only prepare small amounts of material at a given time, I want to use up this so-called Alpha starter first.

Posted By: Admin
Date Posted: 24 May 2011 at 10:59pm
Thanks for the updates.
I have no direct experience of smear cheeses so can't really comment on the colour / appearance except to say it looks OK! I think you have made a lot of progress in a very short time.
The culture you are using is fine providing you inoculate it into 'milk' that has been cooled ( <35C and as close to 30C as you can get)- some of the components are quite temperature sensitive.
Re the patent. Be careful when quoting from it (copyright etc!). Most cheeses are pressed.  You could make a cheese press for home use fairly easily e.g. fill a plastic pipe with tin cans (make holes in the cans)  and use spacers b/w them to ensure force is evenly distributed and use a home made lever or weights set up. I think you may find diagrams if you look. Last week I noted stainless steel drainers in Ikea (Swedish furniture store) that I though might be easily converted into cheese moulds. Your challenge to adapt home made equipment to give consistent reproducible results.
Brine concentration is OK!
It would be good if you could get the micro. department at your  University to do some free microbiological and chemical analysis for you.
Best wishes

Print Page | Close Window

Forum Software by Web Wiz Forums® version 12.03 -
Copyright ©2001-2019 Web Wiz Ltd. -