Microbe Guide: Scopulariopsis

When I first met Sister Noella Marcellino, the artisan cheese maker and advocate who is the star of the documentary The Cheese Nun, she enthusiastically declared that Scopulariopsis is one of the most important, but also most poorly understood molds in artisan cheese. Four years later, after observing hundreds of cheese rinds and thousands of isolates of cheese molds, I wholeheartedly agree with Sister Noella. This mold is incredibly widespread, often well-behaved, but sometimes causes severe problems for cheesemakers.

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Microbial diversity of kombucha

In the most comprehensive study of kombucha microbial diversity to date, a team of scientists recently uncovered new microbial dimensions of this popular fermented tea. In this Science Digested, I provide a summary of what you need to know from this exciting new work and how it may change our understanding of how kombucha is produced.

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Beyond B. linens: How cheese rinds get their color

When it comes to giving credit for those pungent orange rinds, most people cite the bacterium B. linens (formally Brevibacterium linens). But recent research suggests that B. [click to view the full story]

Techniques: Using a microscope to explore fermented foods

Many producers and home fermentors often ask me what simple DIY tools are available to better understand the microbiology of their products. Unfortunately, identifying most microbes is challenging and requires some expensive equipment, extensive experience, and access to DNA sequencing technologies. But the use of a simple microscope has the potential to teach you a lot about the microbes in your product. [click to view the full story]

Surveying cheese rind microbial diversity

What happens when you collect 137 cheeses from around the world and sequence their DNA? You end up eating a ton of cheese. But more importantly, you learn a lot about what bacteria and fungi live in a typical cheese rind, that sea salt may be a previously unrecognized source of cheese microbes, and whether the notion of ‘microbial terroir’ holds up in artisan cheeses. In this Science Digested, I provide a digested version of recent research that used new DNA-sequencing approaches to broadly survey the microbial diversity of artisan cheese rinds.

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Microbe Guide: Fusarium domesticum

Washed rind cheeses are hostile places for most molds. The continuous washing of the surfaces of these cheeses breaks up the networks of molds (mycelium) and generally favors the growth of yeasts and bacteria. But one mold, Fusarium domesticum, has figured out how to cope with this highly disturbed cheese environment. [click to view the full story]

Profile: Sayer Dion – Microbiologist at Jasper Hill

In the Fall of 2013, the Cellars at Jasper Hill built a state-of-the-art microbiology lab inside of their expansive cheese aging facility in Greensboro, Vermont. In June of 2014, Sayer Dion joined the Jasper Hill team as the first on-site microbiologist in the United States working on artisan and farmstead cheeses. I talked to Sayer about what projects she is working on in her new position as well as how her background as a home brewer and former employee of White Labs influences her approach to cheese microbiology. [click to view the full story]

Microbe Guide: Sporendonema casei

If you’ve ever spotted bright orange patches on the rind of a cheese, there’s a good chance it was Sporendonema casei. While orange may instill a sense a fear, this orange mold isn’t out to get you. It’s a benign mold species that contributes unique aesthetics and flavors in cheese rind ecosystems. [click to view the full story]