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How to set up the box:
1. Star San solution as the source of humidity – There are two ripening pans in the kit, one with side cut outs, and one without. The pan without side cut outs should be filled with a cup of sanitizer solution made with 1 cup water and 1/8 tsp of Star San.
2. Spongecloths bring moisture into the cheese enviroment –Place the two spongecloths on each side of the sanitizer-filled ripening box. The bottom of the spongecloths should be submerged in the sanitizer solution so they can wick water up and keep the cloths moist. They also need to completely fill the cut out spaces in the modified ripening pan. This will create wet walls in your humidity box.
3. Optional Humidity and Temperature Controller – The Inkbird ITC-608 controller solves your temperature and humidity requirements. For most of our home cheesemakers, this unit will be your solution to turning a small refrigerator into the perfect cheesemaking space. The controller will allow you to select the temperature of your cheese "cave", and the humidity sensor will allow you to monitor the humidity inside your ripening space. Calibrate the controller, then install the sensor through the hole in the pan cover. Seal with the foam stopper.
4. Drainage – To ensure the excess cheese moisture will drain during ripening, the kit includes a drainage tray as well as a nylon mesh mat sized to sit atop the drainage tray. Be sure all equipment is sanitized before the cheese is introduced into the box.
5. Ventilation – We modify the solid lid by drilling a hole, and then supplying an auto-clavable laboratory foam stopper to fill the hole. This allows ventilation during aging without exposing the cheese environment to outside contaminants.
6. Calcium chloride to remove excess moisture – This salt is very hydrophilic, which means it loves water and will absorb it out of the air. As it absorbs moisture from the air it will liquify and drain into the lower pan. Fill the aperitif mold with calcium chloride salt when you wish to have a lower humidity in the ripening box. Be sure the liquified calcium chloride is properly draining to the lower ripening pan.
To get comfortable with your ability to monitor and maintain humidity in the box, we recommend that you work with the box for a week or so before making cheese. Try to manipulate and maintain appropriate humidity for the cheese you want to make. Try a couple different temperatures and see how that impacts the relative humidity (RH). Is the internal fan in your refrigerator causing any impact inside the box? Try with the calcium chloride in the box, and try it without for a couple days. Once you have the ability to set and maintain the proper temperature and humidity for your cheese, you are ready! Remember that when you place a fresh-made wet cheese into the box, the humidity will spike at first. The calcium chloride, along with the drainage system of the box, will help you bring the RH back down in a relatively short period of time.
With proper maintenance of humidity, temperature, sanitation, and ventilation, you are on your way to making world class cheese! Have fun!
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