Introduction: Countertop Cooler Cheese Cave Conversion

Picture of Countertop Cooler Cheese Cave Conversion


We are aspiring cheese makers, and after having fun with fresh cheeses of all sorts, we decided to try to make simple aged cheeses such as Jack and Farmhouse Cheddar. After one failed experiment, we realized that in order to make these cheeses well, we would have to have a proper environment for aging (affinage).

Living in a condominium, we don't have a lot of space, so we needed a solution that fit on a kitchen counter and more importantly, fit within our budget. We also needed a solution that could keep the environment constant for 3-6 months at a stretch. Here is the result of our efforts. With a minimum of expense, we now have an environment we can regulate between 45-65 degrees (+/- 3 degrees) and 35-90% relative humidity (+/- 3%). It fits under a kitchen cabinet and takes up a little space next to the sink.

So far we have made a couple of amazing cheeses and are well on our way to more challenging and interesting possibilities.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials


One countertop wine cooler/refrigerator (we were fortunate to be able to use rewards points to get this 16 bottle Cuisinart model) $185
Three or Four 10" x 16" bakers cooling racks~$8 a pair
One Reptile & Terrarium Humidity/Temperature controller (we used a Zoo Med HygroTherm, also sourced online) $60
One Travel sized personal humidifier (we used a Suppentown, sourced online) $37
One plastic water bottle (free with a bottle of water) $0

*For convenience I have created a store link to these items on Amazon

Step 2: Step 1: Racking

Picture of Step 1: Racking


The first thing you will have to do is remove the curved chromed shelves from the wine cooler. This is straightforward as they are made to simply slide out.

Next you will need to trim the baking racks. We used a mini bolt cutter, but wire cutters or a rotary tool should work fine as well. The key here, since not all the shelf slots are the same width, and your tolerances will need to be smaller than the stock chrome racks. Why? Well, since the bakers racks are thinner wire and need to be rigid to hold your cheese wheels up, they need to fit tightly. In order to achieve this you will need to trim about an inch and a half off initially, then slowly snip in small (1/8th to 3/8ths inch) increments until your racks fit tightly in the shelf slots but don't scratch or bind the sides of the cooler.

Once you have the racks cut to size, you will need to cut a small square out to accommodate your chosen water bottle/humidifier. When choosing a humidifier, smaller is better since the front of the cooler is sloped but the center is raised. You will want your humidifier to fit in the sloped section, or you will loose too much rack space to fit large cheese wheels.

Step 3: Putting the Countertop Cooler Cave Together

Picture of Putting the Countertop Cooler Cave Together


Almost there! Next you just need to plug in the temperature/humidity control. Since our wine cooler has a temperature control, we only needed to plug in the humidifier into the humidity side of the unit. Programming the unit for a specific humidity range is straightforward, and you will need to follow the instructions that come with the unit.

Finally, fill the water bottle with water (use filtered, or in our case, distilled since we have our own water distiller), and place it in the humidifier. Turn the humidifier control up all the way. Be sure to route your cords through the door (including the temperature/humidity sensor). We also placed our cooler on a boot tray we had lying around to catch any spills, you can just as easily use a dish tray. The point is, water is going to be condensing on the inside of the cooler, and draining out the bottom. You can rely on the very small, very rear mounted standard drip tray (which will easily overflow in an evening) or put something under the unit that can handle a bit more water and deliver it safely to the sink.

Well, that's it. Good luck and happy cheese making!

Comments

AlmaA11 (author)2016-09-27

This is really, fantastic idea. Like cheese very much with chill wine. I always appreciate studying about these kinds of designs. Thanks for discussing. Moreover, an under counter wine cooler will help you to serve your wine at the perfect temperature.

Under Counter WineF (author)2016-01-20

Really this is awesome idea! I like it. Recently I bought a under counter wine cooler for my home bar from this site http://undercounterwinefridge.com/ Now I would like make Cheese with my wine cooler. Really this is cool idea!

Gilo (author)2015-06-08

Ugokind,

I have used the same set up for some time now. Made different cheeses, including the Manchego, brie, edam, cheddar, etc. w/o issues.

Cheese artisans have been making the cheese we make today for centuries w/o the tools we have today. Even with this instructable, we have at our finger tips to change the environment to mimick the cool dry air of the swiss mountains to the dry , warm air of the desert sands of africa.

but then you are right in saying one need to know the process and requirements of the kind of cheese. Then you tweak the home modified cheese cave shown in this wonderful instructable.

Whats your solution to the problem you posed?

ugokind (author)2014-10-10

this is fine for easy cheese.. but would damage any kind of cheese if you don't know the battery process of the aging, what kind of air/humidity/temperature it needs.

also the same cheese needs different environments depending on the real age it has.

it's a good game, difficult to use for a real old cheese.

TheCoffeeDude (author)ugokind2014-10-10

I'm not sure what limitation you are referring to. You can vary the temperature and humidity a great deal using this setup and you can make almost any cheese, regardless of age. Personally I use Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking by Gianaclis Caldwell as a guide. The only limitation I've run into is size, since you can't do giant wheels or longhorns in such a small cave.

craftclarity (author)2014-05-21

This is really, really cool. I think you might have hit upon a new and interesting product category.....

brittonv (author)2014-04-29

Cool! Look forward to the forthcoming "Cheese Making" instructable!

TheCoffeeDude (author)brittonv2014-05-03

Making cheese all day today and taking lots of pictures for a jack cheese instructable.

TheCoffeeDude (author)brittonv2014-04-29

We may do one this weekend for the type of cheese in the picture. It is a cool water washed curd cheese similar to jack style cheese.

allhopswindgen (author)2014-04-29

Would appreciate the design of the humidifier that the water bottle is attached to...(how it works), otherwise great instructable and YES would love to share your cheese recipes on 'Instructables' in the future. Excellent design and idea.

Its just a common "personal humidifier" available online and at many big box stores. Here is a link to one on Amazon: SPT SU-1051B Travel-Size Personal Humidifier, Black

They work using a small piezo electric element that ultrasonically vibrates the water into a fine mist.

bob3030 (author)2014-04-26

Great job. I always enjoy reading about these types of crafts. Thanks for sharing.

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