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J Dairy Sci. 2009 Dec;92(12):5868-82. doi: 10.3168/jds.2009-2372.

A high-throughput cheese manufacturing model for effective cheese starter culture screening.

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  • 1NIZO Food Research, PO Box 20, 6710 BA Ede, the Netherlands.


Cheese making is a process in which enzymatic coagulation of milk is followed by protein separation, carbohydrate removal, and an extended bacterial fermentation. The number of variables in this complex process that influence cheese quality is so large that the developments of new manufacturing protocols are cumbersome. To reduce screening costs, several models have been developed to miniaturize the cheese manufacturing process. However, these models are not able to accommodate the throughputs required for systematic screening programs. Here, we describe a protocol that allows the parallel manufacturing of approximately 600 cheeses in individual cheese vats each with individual process specifications. Protocols for the production of miniaturized Gouda- and Cheddar-type cheeses have been developed. Starting with as little as 1.7 mL of milk, miniature cheeses of about 170 mg can be produced and they closely resemble conventionally produced cheese in terms of acidification profiles, moisture and salt contents, proteolysis, flavor profiles, and microstructure. Flavor profiling of miniature cheeses manufactured with and without mixed-strain adjunct starter cultures allowed the distinguishing of the different cheeses. Moreover, single-strain adjunct starter cultures engineered to overexpress important flavor-related enzymes revealed effects similar to those described in industrial cheese. Benchmarking against industrial cheese produced from the same raw materials established a good correlation between their proteolytic degradation products and their flavor profiles. These miniature cheeses, referred to as microcheeses, open new possibilities to study many aspects of cheese production, which will not only accelerate product development but also allow a more systematic approach to investigate the complex biochemistry and microbiology of cheese making.

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