The Role of Microflora in Cheesemaking

The world of cheese is a testament to the intricate interplay between science and art, and at the heart of this process lies the humble microflora. These tiny organisms are essential in transforming milk into the myriad cheese varieties we enjoy. Let's delve into how microflora contribute to the development of cheese, their role in flavour and texture, and why they are crucial to the cheesemaking process.

What are Microflora?

Microflora are microorganisms, including bacteria, yeasts, and molds, that naturally occur in cheese. They play a critical role in the fermentation process, breaking down lactose into lactic acid, which helps in coagulating the milk. The specific types of microflora present can vary greatly, depending on factors such as the milk source, the environment where the cheese is made, and the specific techniques used by the cheesemaker.

The Role of Microflora in Cheesemaking

1. Fermentation and Coagulation

The primary role of microflora in cheesemaking is to initiate fermentation. Lactic acid bacteria, such as Lactococcus lactis and Lactobacillus helveticus, ferment lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid. This acidification process lowers the pH of the milk, leading to the coagulation of milk proteins (casein) and the formation of curds. These curds are the building blocks of cheese.

2. Development of Flavour and Texture

As the cheese matures, different strains of bacteria, yeasts, and molds come into play, each contributing unique flavours and textures. For instance, Penicillium roqueforti is responsible for the blue veins in cheeses like Stilton and Roquefort, imparting a sharp, tangy flavour. On the other hand, Penicillium camemberti creates the soft, creamy texture and mild, earthy flavour of Brie and Camembert.

3. Rind Formation

In some cheeses, specific microflora are encouraged to grow on the surface, forming a rind. This can be achieved by washing the cheese with brine or alcohol, creating conditions that favour the growth of bacteria like Brevibacterium linens. This bacterium is responsible for the orange-red colour and pungent aroma of washed-rind cheeses such as Epoisses and Taleggio.

4. Enhancing Complexity

The complexity of a cheese's flavour profile is often a result of the diverse microflora involved in its maturation. For example, our Stilton develops its characteristic blue veins and robust flavour through the activity of Penicillium roqueforti, while the surface of our Brie is influenced by Penicillium camemberti, resulting in a creamy texture and white rind.

The Science Behind the Art

Cheesemakers, or affineurs, carefully control the environment where cheese matures to influence the activity of microflora. Temperature, humidity, and even the composition of the air can affect microbial growth and activity. For instance, higher humidity levels are necessary for the development of a good rind, while specific temperatures can enhance or slow down microbial activity to achieve the desired maturation.

Microflora and Terroir

The concept of terroir, often associated with wine, is equally applicable to cheese. Terroir refers to the unique environmental factors that affect the characteristics of a product. The local microflora, influenced by the region’s climate, geography, and even the plants the animals graze on, imbue the cheese with distinct flavours and textures. For instance, the microflora in the maturing rooms at Rennet & Rind add unique regional characteristics to our cheeses, creating a product that is truly a reflection of its origin.


Microflora are the unsung heroes of the cheesemaking process, transforming milk into a diverse array of cheeses with unique flavours and textures. Their role in fermentation, flavour development, and rind formation is crucial, and understanding their importance helps us appreciate the complexity and artistry involved in creating high-quality cheese.

Explore our collection of artisan cheeses at Rennet & Rind and taste the results of this fascinating microbial ballet. Whether you prefer the robust flavours of a blue cheese or the creamy richness of a Brie, the microflora have worked their magic to bring you a delightful cheese experience.

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