The need for cheese grading

This article explores a model using simple chemical and physiochemical components that can be used to predict the quality of Cheddar cheese and whether a batch of cheese is suitable or extended maturation to yield a high value mature cheese. The model can be freely evaluated using an On Line calculator.

Assessment of cheese quality is essential in order to determine if the cheese conforms to legal standards, meets the requirements of the buyer and ultimately the customer and to grade the cheese for payment. A cheese may meet all legal and safety requirements but have appearance, taste, flavour and or texture defects that make it unpalatable or only suitable as an ingredient in e.g. sauces. Because cheeses like Cheddar require extended maturation in some cases for as long as 18 months or more to give extra mature high value cheese, assessment of quality through a grading scheme is used to exclude cheeses with defects. Storage is expensive and companies cannot afford to waste money storing inferior quality cheeses.

The traditional method of assessing cheese quality combines visual, organoleptic and physical assessment by a cheese grader and is called grading. Until relatively recently the suitability of cheese for end consumer use was judged almost entirely on flavour and texture assessments by commercial cheese graders. To assess the cheese, the cheese grader uses a cheese iron to extract a core of cheese. The grader visually examines the outside of the core, and breaks the core to examine a cross section of the core. The hardness or softness of the core and its resistance to deformation are also determined. The 'smell' of the sample core, immediately on withdrawal from the cheese and after working (squeezing a portion of the core into a malleable mass), also provides the grader with information on aroma. 

The author coring cheese at a cheese show

The author coring a cheese at a cheese show in Dublin.

These typically form the basis of traditional approaches to cheese grading.

Chemical differences between cheeses

What makes one cheese e.g. Cheddar different from another e.g. Gouda or Emmental?

Can you explain why Gouda cheese is different than Cheshire or what makes Emmental different than Cheddar?

What about other cheeses too? And, we need an answer that is more sophisticated that saying the level of starter addition is different! There are many ways in which traditional cheeses can be described or classified.

Test your knowledge and understanding of cheese science and technology

The questions below have been designed to test knowledge and understanding of cheese science and technology. They are based on an E-book that I will eventually incorporate into the site. In the meantime 'browsers' can test their knowledge and understanding of cheese technology by attempting the questions below. A link to most of the answers is also given at the end of the question section. Professor Arthur Hill's E-book on Cheese is also a major free resource and is available at .

Cheese science and technology questions.

There is increasing interest in farmhouse cheese making in the UK and Ireland and Jongia (UK) Ltd., a supplier of equipment and ingredients to the UK and Irish dairy industry, offers study tours to German dairies. These study tours offer existing and potential new businesses an opportunity to see equipment in action and to discuss cheese production and marketing with farmhouse producers.

The study tours are offered as intensive one or two day trip, depending on flights and and are planned to be low cost.

Study tours take place in the spring and autumn each year.  Participants can select from 3- routes, each with a different accent for a different market. Many cheese makers have joined all of the trips, even a few coming twice! Participants have included seasoned cheese makers, novices and hobbyists.


Berlin area, 3 - 4 dairies, with the accent on fresh products, like drinking milk, yoghurt, curd cheese (quark) and soft cheese. Two of the dairies are organic (one bio-dynamic) and one is goat milk dairy. Depending on flights we can execute this as a day trip

Westpahlia (Dortmund area), 5 or more dairies. The accent is on Gouda/Edam type cheese and curd cheese (quark).

Bavaria/Austria border. 4 dairies with the accent on soft cheese and mountain cheese. The latter is an Edam type process with a red smear coating.

Our participants are always very enthusiastic after the trips, having not only seen new ways to solve problems they might have, but also having made new contacts and friends. All have indicated that the interactions with the other participants were an important part of each study tour.

Examples of  technology and developments seen on study tours

The Westphalia trip visits exclusively cheese makers who are also farmers and run farm shops as well, while a few also run restaurants. These farmers are now entrepreneurs of the first degree and are eager to share their experience with us. Images of a dairy shop are given in plates 1-3 below.


 Exterior of farm dairy shop at Thomashof in Burscheid


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