cheese types

A Small Guide to Cheeses Types

Cheeses can be classified according to many different criteria: type of milk, treatments, fat content, just to name a few. Discover more on Sensibus!

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There are many characteristics to be considered or criteria to be respected when trying to classify cheeses: just to name a couple of them, the acidity, the content of fat, the area of origin, the aging period...

The diversity of cheese by type of milk

First of all it is necessary to distinguish cheeses according the type of milk.

  • cow's milk cheeses
  • sheep's mil cheese
  • goat's milk cheese
  • buffalo milk's cheese
  • mixed milk cheeses, made by mixing various types of milk (cow-sheep, cow-goat, sheep-goat, cow-sheep-goat).

cheese by type of milk

Cheeses by milk treatment

Depending on the heat treatment of milk during cheese-making we have:

  • raw milk cheeses
  • pasteurized milk cheeses.

Generally, the big companies tend to use pasteurized milk, but the choice also depends on the type of cheese to be obtained, the production regulations for that type of cheese, from local traditions and organoleptic characteristics to be achieved. The result is that raw-milk cheeses are more tasty than pasteurized cheeses, and widely appreciated by consumers. 
In raw milk cheeses, the milk is not subjected to pasteurization, so that the positive bacterial microflora is kept unchanged giving specific organoleptic characteristics to the cheese. Instead, those made from pasteurized milk are subject to a heat treatment that eliminates any pathogenic bacteria and reduces the microflora. 

milk pasteurization

Cheese by fat content

Cheese can be classified according to the fat content:

  • fat cheeses
  • semi-fat cheese
  • low-fat cheese.

A cheese with a content of lipidic substances higher than 42% is defined as a full fat cheese type, when the percentage ranges from 20% to 42% it is a medium fat cheese; while a low fat cheese if produced with skimmed milk.  

low fat cheese

Cheese by texture

Depending on the consistency of the paste we have:

  • soft cheeses
  • semi-soft cheeses
  • semi-hard cheeses
  • hard cheeses.

The cheeses with a content of water exceeding 45% are considered as soft cheeses (Stracchino or Mozzarella) , those with a content between 35 and 45% are semi-hard cheeses (Manchego), those with a lower content of water are defined as hard cheeses (Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino).

hard cheese parmigiano reggiano

Cheese classification based on the type of processing

The cheese paste is also classified according to the way in which it is processed during production. According to this criterion, we can distinguish:

  • raw-curd cheeses
  • semi-cooked curd cheeses
  • cooked-curd cheeses
  • stretched-curd cheeses.

Raw curd cheeses are those products that do not involve the cooking of the curd after its break. Fresh cheeses and soft cheeses generally belong to this category. In the case in which the curd is cooked at a temperature of 44-45 ° C (not higher than 48° C), the cheeses are classified as semi-cooked cheeses, and when they are cooked at more than 48° C, they are defined as cooked-curd cheeses. Finally, when they are cooked at a temperature of 80-90°C/176-194°F they are classified as stretched-curd cheeses (like Mozzarella!).

stretching curd to make cheese

Cheese by type of rind

Cheese classifications based on the type of rind:

  • natural rind cheeses
  • washed-rind cheeses
  • bloomy-rind cheeses
  • smoked cheeses
  • blue-veined cheeses.

In washed-rind cheeses, the crust is washed with a solution of water and salt or sometimes oil. Paraffin as well as other materials based on wax or synthetic substances are also used and in these cases the rind is not edible. 

In bloomy-rind cheeses spores of Penicillium candidum are used for the treatment of the crust, recognizable by the layer of white microflora that covers the whole cheese. 

 

Smoked cheeses are subject to a smoking process which gives them the classic smoky aromas during the ripening stage. Yet, the smoking process has been replaced in many mediocre commercial cheeses by treatment chemicals which confer a smoky flavor to the product. 

Blue-veined cheeses are obtained thanks to the injection of molds into the cheese paste (Gorgonzola, Stilton...).

bllomy rind and wash rind cheeses

Cheese classifications based on ripening

Finally, the aging also defines the classification of cheese.

Unripened cheeses (fresh cheeses) are not aged at all and after production are immediately ready for consumption (Robiola, Stracchino...); medium aged cheeses are aged for a period from 1 to 6 months (Piacentinu Ennese D.O.P.); long aged cheeses are ripened for more than 6 months (Parmigiano, Pecorino cheese...).

parmigiano cheese ripening

 

Images: Milking by Abhisek Sarda | Parmesan Series by Thor | Heating the milk by Rebecca Siegel | Mozzarella - Stretching by Rebecca Siegel | Parmigiano Reggiano by Kelly Hau | P4175338 by insatiable munch | dscn4219.jpg by febs