Milk Types: Knowing What’s What

Milk Types: Knowing What’s What

What this is: Learn how different milks affect the flavor and taste of cheese.

Who it’s for: Curious cheese fiends who are looking for a deeper understanding of what they are eating.

There are many types of milk used to make cheese including donkey, yak and camel, but most readily available cheeses are made with goat, sheep, cow, or water buffalo milks. Each milk type offers a different cheese profile.

Goat Sheep Cow Water Buffalo

If you could make the same cheese with each of the different milks, goat's milk would give you a tangier cheese and it could be a little chalkier. The sheep’s milk will give you a saltier cheese with a more full fat feel. Cow’s milk will give a creamier texture and the buffalo’s milk will give you a bright milky taste and a full fat feel. 

Looking at the cheese can also give you clues to the milk type. Goat and buffalo cheese will be brighter and whiter. The Sheep milk will be more of a creamy off white to hay colored. Cow’s milk cheese falls somewhere in between. 

Some of the more interesting cheeses are mixed milk cheeses that have a combination of milk types. There are even cheeses that have all four milks in them! Many cheese makers will mix milk for the perfect flavor, like adding Cow’s milk to temper the taste of a tangy Goat’s milk or to mix Cow’s milk with Sheep’s milk to stretch the Sheep’s milk since cow’s produce a lot more milk than sheep. 

Many times when cheese professionals are helping customers curate a board they are considering different cheese styles and milk types.

Summary: Different milk types offer a wonderful array of tasting opportunities. 

Homework

Journal your experiences with different milk types.

  1. Start with one milk type, such as goat’s milk, and purchase three different versions.
  2. Grab a few pairings to enjoy with them and take notes, make a note of what you like about the milk type and the pairings that you like best with it.
  3. On your next trip to the cheese store, try another milk type and some more pairings. Do you have a favorite?
  4. Once you’ve made it through all the different milk types, look for some mixed milk cheeses and journal those tastings, too.

Here are some suggestions of cheeses to look for, but also feel free to take suggestions from your cheesemonger who always knows what’s tasting best in the case.

  • Goat | Chèvre, Bloomy Goat, Goat Cheddar
  • Sheep | Feta, Manchego, Pecorino or Roquefort
  • Cow | Brie, Cheddar, Gruyère
  • Buffalo | Mozzarella, Bloomy, creamy&funky

Downloads

Click the icons to download a pdf of this lesson and our two handy guides: How Cheese is Made and Cheese and Pairing Types.

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