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The Science of Cheese: Basic Level

The course begins with an online lecture component covering the key areas related to basic cheese making techniques, cheese culture basics, milk defects, cheese defects, cheese marketing, and cheese making activities.


This course is a required course for attaining the Basic Cheese Making Certificate through Cornell University’s Dairy Foods Extension Certificate Programs. This course begins with an on-line lecture component followed by a live session.

This course will provide attendees with information in the key areas that are listed below, along with key learning outcomes in each area:

Importance of Pasteurization

  • Name key foodborne pathogens that can be transmitted through dairy foods and describe the most likely entry points of these pathogens in the dairy foods continuum
  • Identify dairy processing practices that prevent or reduce the likelihood of biological, chemical and physical hazards in dairy foods.
  • Define classes of dairy spoilage organisms and describe most likely entry points of these in the dairy foods continuum.
  • Describe key characteristics of bacteria and viruses relevant to dairy production and food safety, including factors affecting microbial growth and survival (e.g., temperature, salt, pH).

Basic Cheese Making Techniques

  • Identify key equipment needed to produce quality and wholesome cheese
  • Understand the basic science behind each step of cheese production
  • Apply good manufacturing practices during the cheese making process
  • Demonstrate the ability to calibrate and use a pH meter and a thermometer
  • Maintain an accurate and comprehensive record of the cheese making process

Cheese Culture Basics

  • Identify desirable culture characteristics needed for high quality cheese production
  • Express how bacterial cultures are categorized
  • Discuss how cheese varieties are defined
  • Understand how cultures are selected for different cheese varieties
  • Summarize how temperature influences culture growth
  • Identify when a culture is not functioning properly using scientific methods and identify potential reasons

Milk Defects

  • Identify the basic tastes that humans can detect
  • Identify several flavor defects by their description and their taste
  • Explain how milk quality can affect product quality and shelf life
  • Understand and identify the different causes of defective milk (absorbed, bacterial or chemical) causes
  • Be able to differentiate between high quality milk and defective milk

Cheese Defects

  • Identify prerequisites of milk that are needed to make high quality cheese
  • Understand basic cheese composition and key characteristics of quality cheese
  • Discuss typical cheese body, texture, and flavor defects and their causes

A test is administered at the end of the course; this test is an open book test, but is timed such that there is only limited time to search for information. The course also includes a pre-course test to determine the knowledge of all attendees before the start of the course. Test questions will include multiple choice, short answer, and true/false questions.



  • Importance of Pasteurization
  • Raw Milk Quality
  • Food Safety

Day 1: 

  • Cleaning and Maintenance of Cheese Equipment
  • Culture Microbiology
  • Steps in Cheese Making
  • Cheese Make
  • Affinage

Day 2:

  • Sensory Evaluation of Cheese
  • Cheese Make
  • Cleaning and Sanitizing
  • Cheese Judging


  • $650-$725 for in-state registrants
  • $725-$880 for out-of-state registrants
  • Enrollment is limited to the first 20 participants


Lead Instructor

Robert Ralyea
Senior Extension Associate
rdr10 [at] (rdr10@
(607) 255-7643

Additional instructors come from academia and industry.


Course Dates


  • Hybrid course: online modules and one-day live session (both online and live course participation required.)
    • Online course open Sept. 23, 2022
    • Live session on Oct. 19, 2022

Course Contact

Louise Felker
Program Coordinator
lmf226 [at]