This is how I converted a small refrigerator into a temperature and humidity-controlled "cave" for aging cheese. 

While traveling in Spain, I fell in love with aged Manchego cheese: the older the better.  I can easily find Imported 1-year old Manchego in the US, but it just isn't what I remember -- either the farms willing to do export aren't as good, the cheese hasn't been aged long enough, or maybe the context is all wrong and one can only enjoy Manchego in the dry winds of La Mancha.  Northern California has a number of artisan cheese makers, but doesn't have a strong cheese-aging tradition.  Most cheese here is measured in months, not years like in Spain.  So, I decided to try aging some locally produced cheese myself.

Step 1: Plan the Cave's Construction

Donna Pacheco of Achadinha Cheese Company told me that she ages her cheese at 55°F and 80% relative humidity.  That's about the same conditions you would find in a natural cave, perfect for aging cheese.  (See the last step for details on the cheese I'm aging.)

The crawl space under my house is pretty cool most of the year, and I even measured the temperature of the ground a few inches below the surface at 59°F.  However, there are vents to the outside, so the humidity is the same as ambient, and it rarely gets as high as 80%.  I briefly considered converting a pantry with an exterior wall into a temperature-controlled cave using a window air conditioner and CoolBot controller -- but you know things are getting out of hand when you consider cutting holes in the  wall for cheese you haven't yet tasted.  In the end, I decided to follow the rough outline of the Converting a fridge for fermenting beer Instructable, and use a small fridge with a temperature controller placed in the crawlspace.
<p>It's been several years since you did this- how has the cheese cave held up? Do you still use it? Was it worth the monthly hassle to age your own cheese?</p>
Great idea and instructable! How did the cheese taste?
Just a thought: If you added a humidistat to your setup, and hooked up a fogger or an ultrasonic humidifier, you might have an easier time controlling the humidity during the colder seasons of the year.
Blessed are the cheesemakers!
Come on! You have to taste it already! How will I know if this instructable is any good? The suspense is killing me, I've only been waiting for 5 minutes. : /
I'm very happy to have found this instructable, as I've been wanting to get one of those myself. <br /> <br /> As someone who is in the cheese business, and if the US system is any way like the Canadian one, its nearly impossible for cheesemakers to age cheese long enough to stand up to their European counterparts. The simple and sad fact is that their overhead is so low, they cant afford to just sit on their stock for year, even if it would make a better product. For most, a couple of months is all you get, unless its cheddar, simply because you can make different batches, so that you are more likely to make a profit anyways.<br /> <br /> The second thing is that the &quot;age&quot; of a cheese has not so much to do with time, as it has to do with taste. The age rating is determined by how strong it tastes as compared with existing products. Given that cheddar is the most likely candidate for aging, there are different processes that they put the product through to ripen it (like low heat/pressure combination.) as some local makers have experimented; under that system, a cheese may be rated &quot;2 years old&quot;, while it has only been ripened 6 months.<br /> <br /> And even the European stuff is not actually as old as listed; a 3 year old parmegiano regianno is actually 2 1/2 years old, at the time of packaging.<br /> <br /> Sorry about the rant, but I cant stop the craftman from venting :D I love Instructables and will keep an eye out for building this one and possibly its update if one is necessary!<br />
Thanks for your comment!&nbsp; I'd love to see some of your cheese making techniques -- even a &quot;tour&quot; of the process, if a full Instructable isn't appropriate, would be welcome. &nbsp; <br />
A &quot;from scratch&quot; operation is in the future (hence my appreciation of the fridge), but so far, what I've made involves more the &quot;value added&quot; process, like soaking in wine, or adding a chili crust to existing cheese. Maybe I would very well do an Instructable on the subjects when I start my next project batch :D<br />
its 9am, im at work, and now CRAVING some good, hard cheese!<br /> may i ask how much a wheel of the Capricious costs? that wheel looks enticing already. how soft is it now, at 9 mos?<br /> i have a mold allergy, in your opinion, doctor, is aging my own cheese a health risk??<br />
As my Grandfather used to say, &quot;It's after noon somewhere.&quot;&nbsp; Although I&nbsp;suppose that's more applicable to highballs than hard cheese...<br /> <br /> The wheel of Capricious was $90, or $19/pound.&nbsp; It's pretty firm, and from tasting similarly aged wheels, I&nbsp;expect it would still be slightly moist, but not yet fully crumbly.&nbsp; <br /> <br />
It is as risky as your allergic re-action to mold.&nbsp; Do you have an anaphylactic response, a rash, vomiting, sneezing, nausea...?&nbsp; I deal with allergies regularly and often what folks call allergy are simply side-effects not true allergy.<br /> <br /> All of that to say- exposure is one way of knowing if you will react- you just have to weigh the risk of re-action.<br />
Hmm, seems the old wiring and the new wiring may not be up to code.&nbsp; Exposed wall wiring should at least be in a hard conduit and no cable restraints on the wiring boxes.&nbsp; You might end up with smoked cheese and house.<br />
You should see some of the other junction boxes!&nbsp; But, you're right, getting all the wiring up to code is a worthwhile project.<br />
Ooooo cool !<br /> <br /> I am a fan of the ccchhhhhheeeeeseeeeeeesss too<br /> I like Jarlsberg the most http://s3.amazonaws.com/post.good.is/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/jarlsberg_em.jpg<br />
You should make a smaller one for cigars...
I really appreciate the efforts put forth.<br />

About This Instructable




Bio: Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through ... More »
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