The cheesemaking supply and equipment lists in instructional books can be overwhelming – in sheer number of items and prospective cost. While all are useful items, these lists tend to be exhaustive about you potential needs. Until you become a committed cheese maker and/or want to make the financial investment, you can comfortably make cheese with a surprisingly few number of items. Many you may already have in your kitchen.
All items should be easy to clean and sanitize. Avoid equipment that has too many seams or rivets. Matter can get trapped in those crevices and be a breeding ground for bacteria. Metal and glass is preferable, but most non-porous materials are acceptable. All metal items should be made of a non-reactive metal like stainless steel (don’t use aluminum). Bigger is better. From experience I can tell you, extra room in a pot is far preferable to spending hours of stirring intently focused on not splashing the milk. For oversized items, check out your restaurant supply store. They have great items for reasonable prices. Specialty items like cultures and rennet can be purchased from cheese making supply companies and sites like Hoegger.
Buying things as you need them or as you progress in your skills is an effective way to manage you costs. For example, I only buy different molds as I make cheeses that require them. Or, if your handy you might be able to recycle or fabricate your own supplies. As you progress it may easier to have a “cheese making only” set of equipment. Then, you’ll be able to make cheese regardless of your dinner plans while improving your sanitation practices.
Curd Knife: A straight frosting knife or a roast/carving knife (like the kind you see at restaurant carving stations) works well. Ten inch length is a good size for larger pots. They can be purchased at restaurant supply stores or some cheese making sites.
Curd Ladle: This is basically a perforated ladle used to transfer curds. One that can hold a fair amount of curds and had a sturdy handle will serve you best.
Pots: If you are using a gallon of milk or less you can get by with a 6 quart pot (fairly common stock pot size). If you plan on doing larger volumes you will be a 10 plus quart pot. Make sure you have a lid that fits well (preferably clear)
Colander: The maximum size that will fit in your pot is best. The colander size usually limits the amount of curd you can fit in your cloth. More holes will improve your draining.
Thermometer: Most food safe thermometers will work fine. Just make sure it reads to at least 220 and check its accuracy. I like one I can stir with to get a more accurate reading.
Timer: Any household timer will do. I like one with a clip on so I don’t walk away and leave it somewhere.
Hygrometer/Thermometer: This measuring the temperature and humidity in your house. Very useful when you hanging cheese or other processes that affected by humidity and temperature.
Cheese Cloth: Most cheese supplies will carry one of several types of cheese cloths. I’ve found they can be of varying quality and usefulness. Floor sacking is an affordable and durable alternative (you can even run it through you washing machine). You can also cut up an old pillow case for cheese cloth.
Measuring Spoons: The most important spoons for the home cheese maker are the 1/8 and ¼ teaspoons, although, the whole set does get used. Make sure whatever set you buy includes the 1/8 teaspoon.
Measuring Cups: A glass cup with different measurements written on the side will be the most useful. I keep 1 and 2 cups ones.
Culture: The isolated “good” bacteria of cheese making that acidify the milk and develop flavor. There are many cultures out there but you can’t go wrong with mixed strain mesophillic – the workhorse of home cheese maker. Today most cultures are sold as direct set – freeze dried and ready to add directly to milk. Sore these in the freezer unless otherwise noted.
Renet: Milk coagulant. Can be animal derived or microbial (vegetarian safe). Store in fridge.
Lipase: Animal derived enzyme added to some cheeses to add “picante” flavor. Most commonly used in Greek feta. Comes in calf (mild), sheep (medium), and goat (strong). Also stored in freezer.
Calcium Chloride: added when using pasteurized milk to bump up the calcium for chemical reactions. Stored in fridge.
Vinegar: Many basic fresh cheese use vinegar. Apple cider or white will work.
Salt: Cheese salt can purchased from specialty supplies, but kosher or sea salt work equally well.
Bleach or Other Sanitizer: Remember, sanitization of equipment is a very important part of cheese making. Follow label on bottle for proper dilutions. A spray bottle with diluted
sanitizer is handy for work spaces.
Molds: A few very basic molds are good to have until you move up to press. Twoor more ricotta or fresh cheese molds work well for most semi-firm/low pressure cheeses. You can make weights yourself with household items like water bottles or brinks wrapped in foil. You can also make molds by punching holes in the bottom of left over plastic containers.