We first met Steve when he sent us a couple of pictures of his modified equipment with this note:
What a great hobby! I just want to thank you for showing and supplying the best information and supplies. I’ve moved to a 40 quart pot – adapting home brewing equipment for cheese making. Kind of a double boiler arrangement. I also made a temperature controller to hold milk within +\- 1°C. (OK I’m a electrical biomedical engineer by day – a cheese maker by night.)
We posted his note in our February Moos-Letter (News From Our Customers section), then we asked him for more information. From his replies, we learned just how talented and resourceful Steve is!
How did you get started?
My wife (Karen) her step mother (Sue) gave me one of your cheese making kits, 30 Minute Mozzarella for Christmas. That was three years ago. After that, I wanted to learn more, and was hooked.
What kinds of cheese are you making?
All types – some of my (and friends) favorites – Alpine tomme, asiago with black truffle, Bel paese (one of my wife’s favorites), Belper knolle, brie, cheddar, feta. Oh, I’ve had some flops, but it’s all learning. It’s a fantastic hobby – I may look into selling someday.
What kind of “cave” are you using?
Only modified small refrigerators. I’m building a larger cave in the corner of the basement.
How did you adapt your equipment from beer making?
When I first graduated from making mozzarella to making other cheeses, I was using my largest kitchen soup/stock pot – about 12 quarts. It worked ok, but temperature control was always a problem. You see, we have a copper sink in our kitchen. It acts as a large heat sink, and the warm water bath cools quickly around the pot of milk.
That’s where I had the idea of a double boiler arrangement, a pot inside a bigger pot. But large stainless steel pots can get expensive. Checking secondhand and consignment shops, I found a 4 gallon pot. I had a slightly bigger aluminum pot to hold the water. This worked well, but was about as big as I could go on the kitchen stove.
Then, I broke the thermometer that came with my first Mozzarella Kit. So, I was on the hunt for a good large-dial thermometer. That’s when I came across beer making equipment. The thermometer for beer making was ideal for cheese making. It was long, accurate, and easy to read. They also have pots – stainless steel pots, in every shape and size. Some with drain valves, built in thermometers, heating elements. I started thinking, all this stuff could easily be adapted to cheese making.
The people in the store were very helpful, but probably thought I was crazy, putting pots in bigger pots to find my right combination. That’s how I settled on a 40 quart inner milk pot and a 15 gallon outer pot for the warm water bath, complete with a drain valve. In beer lingo, these pots are known as wort boilers.
Of course, at this point, these pots were too big for stove top, so an electric heating element was needed. In beer brewing there are all types of heaters. I chose a European style which was temperature adjustable.
An ideal stand-alone setup. A pot in a pot with its own heating coil.
Also, in beer making they have hand pump syphons with stainless steel filters on one end – great for syphoning off whey. The whey is syphoned off in a smaller pot, of course the curd goes in to the molds, and the large water bath pot can be drained by the drain valve. Even though the pots are large, everything is easily managed. No heavy lifting.
So, thanks to my wife’s step mother for giving me Ricki’s cheese making kit. And, after breaking the thermometer that was in that kit, I discovered beer brewing equipment and it’s adaptability to cheese making.
Of course, being an engineer, I couldn’t stop there. So, I built a temperature control system. Yes, they have them for beer brewing also.
Three digital thermometers, one for the milk, one for the bottom of the water bath pot and one for the top of the water bath pot. And, a very small fish tank water pump to keep the water in the outer pot moving (more even water temperature around the milk pot). It’s all automatic – the pump and heating element are switched off-and-on to hold the milk at a steady selected temperature.