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The cheese counter, Neals Yard Dairy, Borough market

This page is about the classification of the various types of cheese

We have a separate cheese category which gives information about 2,457 individual cheeses by country (and in the case of the UK, France, Spain and Italy, by region) and also a list of recipes or articles that contain cheese.


Apart from classification by the animal of origin, one can also classify by the way the milk is processed or heated before the cheese making process begins:

  • Unpasteurised milk: This is cheese made from milk which has not been heated to a temperature over 40º C, nor submitted to a process which would have the same effect
  • Pasteurised milk: They are those cheeses made with pasteurised milk, where the milk is heated to a temperature between 72°C - 76°C for 15 seconds or 61°C - 63º C for 30 minutes, followed by an immediate cooling
  • Thermised milk: They are those cheeses made from milk which has had a consistent thermic treatment by raising the milk temperature to between 57°C - 62°C for 15 to 20 seconds, followed by an immediate cooling
  • Micro-filtered milk: They are cheeses made with milk which has been micro-filtered. This process initially consists of separating the cream from the milk and then filtering the skimmed milk through very thin membranes that trap the bacteria and finally the cream is incorporated in appropriate proportions to the filtered milk


Based on where they are produced, who produces them and what procedures are used, we can classify under the following headings:

  • Fermier or Farmhouse cheeses: These are made using traditional methods on the producers’ own farm or in mountain chalets or huts, using only unpasteurised milk from the cheese maker’s own herd of animals. The resulting cheeses are of high quality, have limited production in quantity and where the seasons affect the uniqueness of the cheese. The cheese maker is involved in all parts of the process from the handling and feeding of the animals to the production and maturation of the cheese. Like artisan cheese there are no automated and continuous processes, but they may have some type of mechanical support.
  • Artisan cheeses: These are made following traditional methods and generally by small concerns usually ranging from 1 to 5 people. The milk comes from local farms and is controlled by the cheese maker. They can be made with pasteurised or unpasteurised milk, although it is more usual and desirable that it be unpasteurised milk. During production, the cheese maker is constantly involved, without using automated processes, although at some point some mechanisation can be applied
  • Creamery or Co-operative cheeses: These are made with milk from the co-operative members and have a wider dimension in the range of milk collected from farmers and this diversity results in a mixture of milks. The production is semi-automated and standards are based on concerns for an average performance which combines safety and productivity.
  • Industrial cheeses: These are industrial products made from milk purchased at different farms, sometimes a long way from each other, with an automated manufacturing process which takes place on a large scale. Hence the need to standardise the raw material (milk) with the use of pasteurisation, thermisation or micro-filtration.


Flavour or taste, which is conditioned by our eating habits from an early age, is so personal, subjective and cultural, that one has to construct a classification in terms of intensity so that consumers can understand suggestions for one cheese or another

Level Intensity Descriptor
1 Fresh - Sweet Cream, fresh milk
2 Slightly pronounced Fresh butter
3 Pronounced Cooked milk, cereals, nuts, vegetation
4 Strong Animal, savoury, washed rinds
5 Very strong Blue, stinging, excessively savoury
  • 1 – Fresh or Sweet: For cheeses with a fresh intensity, there are those whose flavour is lightly acidic and lactic, while those of a sweet intensity are characterised by a high level of creaminess. Those of fresh intensity are found in fresh cheeses which have a smooth, yet granular texture, like for example Burgos cheese, curd cheese, Petit Suisse, and lactic goats’ milk cheeses. Those of a sweet intensity are found in cheeses which have been enriched with cream such as Brillat-Savarin, Chaource and also in cheeses which have little maturation
  • 2 – Slightly pronounced: This intensity relates in general to all of those cheeses whose maturation is short and with marked flavours of, above all, milk and butter. We find it in those which have soft interiors, such as Camembert, Brie and Coulommiers and also in pressed cheeses which have been matured for less than 2-3 months, eg Reblochon and Cantal
  • 3 – Pronounced: The cheeses with this intensity we could also term as being “Cheeses with character”, and they are those which are matured to their peak and the prevailing flavours are cooked milk, cereals, nuts and vegetation. In this group we could include cooked, fruity cheeses, for example Gruyère or Beaufort, soft blues such as Cashel Blue and pressed, semi-matured goats’ milk cheeses
  • 4 – Strong: When this intensity is reached the flavour has a spicy touch, which mixes with the aromatic properties of the cheese itself, predominated by animal and stable, in addition to a reasonable savouriness. Amongst others, this is frequently found in soft, rind-washed cheeses such as Livarot, Maroilles, Époisses and Munster. Also in blue cheeses such as Fourme d'Ambert or Montbrison and matured, pressed cheeses
  • 5 – Very strong: This intensity of flavour is something spicier than just "strong" intensity, much longer lasting on the palate, perhaps even slightly aggressive and has a more pronounced savouriness. It is found in some blue cheeses or in very mature cheese (vintage) and in cheeses with a double fermentation eg Tupí and Gatzazarra


A classification made particularly widespread by the French, which divides cheeses into 8 large families, depending on the technology used in their production. The families are:

• les fromages frais et fromages blancs • les pâtes molles, à croûte fleurie • les pâtes molles, à croûte lavée • les pâtes persillées • les fromages de chèvre • les pâtes pressées non cuites • les pâtes pressées cuites

  • Fresh cheeses - "Les fromages frais et fromages blancs"

These are lactic fermented cheeses with the addition, in some cases, of very little rennet. Draining is slow and it is packed as soon as this is finished. They are cheeses with a high moisture content, sometimes salted or enriched with cream.

  • Soft cheeses with a bloomy rind - "Les pâtes molles à croûte fleurie"

This cheese family is characterised by its mixed curds, its good lactic eg Brie de Meaux or enzymatic characteristics. The curds are not cut and draining is done spontaneously without mechanical pressing. After salting, they are moulded and sprinkled with moulds Geotrichum candidum and Penicillium candidum that encourages the emergence of a type of “skin or bloom” on the rind throughout the maturation period

  • Soft cheeses with a washed rind - "Les pâtes molles à croûte lavée"

They are cheeses with a mixed coagulation, full of lactic or enzymatic character, eg (Pont-l'Évêque). Whilst maturing, the cheeses are frequently turned (two or three times a week), and washed with brine (salt water solution) and / or enriched with a specific bacterium (Brevibacterium linens) and / or beer or spirits. The rind become progressively soft, supple and shiny, taking on a reddish-orange colour. All of these cheeses are characterised by their putrid aroma or as is commonly said “smell of feet”, however, the flavour is mild and characteristic

  • Blue cheeses - "Les pâtes persillées"

Their distinctive characteristic is the presence of blue mould in the interior of the cheese. There are two types of blues: those named as “strong blues” such as Cabrales and “mild blues” with commanding enzymatic qualities eg Gorgonzola. This mould Penicillium roqueforti, can be injected spontaneously or can be added in the formation of curd. Once the cheese has been moulded, it can be pricked with needles to facilitate air circulation and to stimulate its development

  • Goats’ cheese - "Les fromages de chèvre"

Goats’ cheeses are not distinguished by their method of production, but for their milk and thus, may belong to different production families. Classically, they have a soft body and a mouldy rind, coated in ash

  • Pressed, uncooked cheeses - "Les pâtes pressées non cuites"

They are identified as those cheeses having a key enzymatic character and containing a humidity of between 44% and 55% in dry matter. The draining is rapid as the curds are cut and agitated and the pressing is mechanical, achieving more compact curds and a faster evacuation of the whey.

  • Pressed, cooked cheeses - "Les pâtes pressées cuites"

They are those cheeses, which once the curd has formed, goes through a “cooking” stage, ie heated to 53º-55ºC for between 30 and 60 minutes, thus increasing the drainage of the curd


Irrespective of their maturity or not, the cheeses are named as follows:

  • Fresh cheese: is one which is ready for consumption at the end of the manufacturing process
  • Matured cheese: is one which, at the end of the manufacturing process, requires to be kept for a certain time at a temperature and under conditions which produce physical changes and chemical characteristics
Level Weight > 1.5kg Weight < 1.5kg
Mild Under 7 days Under 7 days
Semi-matured 35 days 20 days
Matured 105 days 45 days
Fully matured 180 days 100 days
More than 270 days


Visual examination

  • The colour of the rind: homogenous, heterogenous, white, ivory, pink, saffron, yellow, straw-yellow, pale yellow, orangey-red, golden, red, brown, dark brown, green, grey, with spots
  • The colour of the interior: white, ivory, pale yellow, straw yellow, orangey yellow, orangey red, light brown, dark brown, blue veining, grey, black
  • The rim: pronounced, dark, light, white, differential, soft, hard, with mould
  • Holes: small, medium, large, round, from fermentation, crushed round, regular, irregular, cracks, openings, sporadic, caverns
  • Type of interior: soft, semi-soft, semi-hard, hard, firm, elastic, spongy, supple, ductile, mouldy, dry and soft centre
  • Texture / structure of the interior: compact, closed, rough, flaky, granular, fine, creamy, open, with calcium crystals

Olfactory examination

  • Intensity of the aroma: None, very mild, mild, medium, aromatic, intense, very strong, strong
  • Quality of the aroma: Subtle, very subtle, pronounced, refined, elegant, simple, original, complex, ordinary, rugged, commonplace
  • Character of the aroma: wood, fruit, vegetables, herbs, lactic, yogurt, butter, mushrooms, earth, dry straw, damp straw, vinegar, spices, hay, leather, caramel, olive oil, nuts, stable, sweat, fermented fruit, beef stock, potatoes, cabbages, ammonia
  • Abnormal aromas: lack of smell, strong ammonia in the nose, mould, sour, butyric acid (rotten eggs), rancid, sour

Tasting examination

  • Texture in the mouth: soft, hard, very hard, elastic, plastic, liquid, melting, oily, spongy, buttery, doughy, fatty, fresh, moist, dry, sticky

Granularity: fine, floury, sandy, coarse, crystals

  • Elementary flavours:

Sweet: none, very slight, noticeable, too much

Savoury: none or very slight, a little, just right, too much

Sharpness: none, noticeable, too much

Bitterness: none, noticeable, too much

  • Aromatic characteristics (retronasal):

Intensity: none, very slight, slight, médium, aromatic, potent

Quality: very fine, with character, elegant, agreeable, disagreeable, heavy, complex

Reference: Poncelet

Para leer este artículo en castellano, visite Cosas de Quesos o Poncelet

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