Domain Three: Cheese Ripening (Affinage)

Domain Three: Cheese Ripening (Affinage)

Affinage is a French word that comes from the French verb Affiner, which comes from the Latin “ad finis”, meaning “towards the limit”. The Affineur is the person who ages cheeses.

In cheese terms, affinage is a French term that describes the ageing and maturing of cheese. It is during this period of time that flavor and texture development take place.  Each cheese has a set of unique requirements for temperature, humidity, and treatments (such as washing, brushing, or turning) that, combined, will ensure its proper development.

As this Body of Knowledge is a product of the American Cheese Society, it was preferred that the title of this domain be Cheese Ripening, which is the closest translation for the French term, though within the body of the text the term affineur/affinage will also be used.

Aging and maturing is not a precise science: the animal, the flora, the quality of the milk, the terroir, the season have an influence on the cheeses; the skill of the affineur is to be able to adapt his techniques and methods to the cheeses. This knowledge comes with time and experience.

AGING FACILITY DESIGN AND OPERATIONS

  • ESSENTIALS OF CAVE DESIGN
  • TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT FOR TEMPERATURE AND HUMIDITY
  • ROLES OF AIR IN AFFINAGE (SPEED, OXYGEN CHANGE, HUMIDITY, AMMONIA EVACUATION, ETC.)
  • DESIGNING A SPACE AND CHOOSING TOOLS WITH FOOD SAFETY IN MIND

AFFINAGE PROCESS

  • DESIGNING CARE BASED ON GENERAL CHEESE TYPE/STYLE
  • ADJUSTING CARE BASED ON UNIQUE BATCH PARAMETERS (moisture, pH, salt, inherent microflora, etc.)
  • EVALUATING CHEESE DURING RIPENING- SENSORY AND TECHNICAL READINGS
  • DETERMINING RIPENING TRAJECTORY FOR PROPER TIMING OF RELEASE
  • SANITATION PROTOCOLS AND TRACEABILITY
  • BATCH TRACKING AND HACCP
  • RIND MANAGEMENT
  • IDENTIFYING DEFECTS
  • FEEDBACK LOOP TO CHEESEMAKERS AND HERD MANAGERS

CHEMISTRY OF AFFINAGE

  • UNDERSTANDING FAT AND PROTEIN BREAKDOWN/METABOLIC PATHWAYS TO FLAVOR COMPOUNDS
  • EXPLORING THE PREDICTORS AND CHEMISTRY BEHIND TEXTURE DEVELOPMENT
  • UNDERSTANDING PATHOGENS- THE CHEMISTRY AND MICROBIOLOGY OF SAFE CHEESE