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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, and cheese-making activities followed by a live session at Cornell University that focuses on in-depth cheese-making and sensory evaluation. This course grants 2 CEUs.


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 online lecture component followed by a live session at Cornell University.

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.


Online Modules:

  • Raw Milk Quality
  • Sensory Defects
  • Cleaning and Sanitizing
  • Cultures in Cheese-making
  • Cleaning and Sanitizing of Cheese Equipment
  • Affinage

In-Person Session:

  • Cheese-making in the pilot plant
  • Review of Online Modules
  • Food Safety
  • Steps in Cheese Making
  • Coagulants
  • Sensory Evaluation


  • $725-$880 for in-state registrants
  • $880-$1100 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.)
  • Course Dates:
    • 2023: Online modules and live session, October 17, 2023
    • 2024: Online modules and line session, October 15, 2024

Course Contact

Louise Felker
Program Coordinator
lmf226 [at] (lmf226[at]cornell[dot]edu)