What does it mean that I have post hooping acidification?

Having both the correct level of moisture and acidity in a cheese that is 24 hours old is very important in making good quality cheese. The 24 hours’ time is the point where you will have a fairly good idea of how well your cheese is going to turn out. Simply the cheese is now in its finished state and it is at day 1 of the journey down the path of maturation. But unfortunately, there is not a lot that you can do to remedy any deficiencies with how the cheese is made. It is important to know, that when you add the curds to the hoop, both the moisture and acid level are very important to the outcome of the cheese. The cheese quality at day one will be heavily influenced by the size of the curd particle when those curds were placed into the hoop 24 hours earlier and the temperature that the hooped curd was held at over the 24 hours after hooping.

When you add your curds to the hoop, those curds still contain water (moisture), and lots of it. Where there is cheese moisture in curds there is also lactose. Think, how much moisture comes out of your hoop in the next 24 hours after you have hooped the curd. The cultures in the curd at the time of hooping have grown to much larger numbers compared to when you started making that cheese. And these cultures are at their most active just coming out of warm curd and whey. So, with lots of lactose and lots of very active cultures, there will be ongoing acidification of the curds over the next 24 hours. If the curd particle at hooping is larger than the required size at hooping, you will have an excess of lactose for the curds s they continue fermenting. This will result in excessive lactic acid produced, particularly in the first 24 hours after hooping. This will result in an over acid cheese. The reverse is also true if the curds are smaller than what they should be, the cheese may end up with less acid in it.

The second thing that is important at hooping is the temperature that the curds are held at over the next 24 hours. The acid produced over the next 24 hours will cause the curd to shrink and that shrinkage helps gradually expel the moisture from the cheese. Have you noticed how much whey has come from your cheese overnight? If you have a lower temperature overnight you will have a lower level of starter activity, resulting in a lower acid level in your cheese. Which means you may have excessive moisture in the cheese on day 2. For example, if the ambient temperature is colder than 20°C then the starter cultures will start to slow down the rate of acid production. If the temperature drops to below 10°C there will very little acid production and an even lower acid level in the cheese. An ideal temperature to keep cheese at overnight may be between 25°C to 28°C for mesophilic cultures and low 30°C for thermophilic cultures. Note that while minimum overnight temperatures are important but very hot summer days and nights are not. While ambient temperatures may be 40°C in some places, the cheese temperature will be well below this and will not be heavily affected.

In summary, the size of the curds at hooping and the temperature that the cheese is held at overnight are both interrelated and very important to the final quality of your cheese.