What is Cheese Brine?

Cheese brine is a saltwater solution used in cheesemaking to flavor, preserve, and texture cheeses.

What is Cheese Brine

Brining gives cheeses like feta, halloumi, and gouda their distinctive salty taste.

The high salt concentration also inhibits bacteria growth, allowing these cheeses to be aged without spoiling.

While cheese brine has a simple list of ingredients - water and salt - it serves several crucial roles in transforming fresh curds into delicious aged cheese.

How Brine is Used in Cheesemaking

There are a few different ways that brine can be utilized during the cheesemaking process:


Many cheeses are soaked in brine after the curds have been pressed into a wheel or block. The cheese is submerged in the brine solution, allowing the salt to slowly diffuse into the cheese. This method produces an even distribution of salt throughout the interior. Cheeses like feta, halloumi, and havarti are often brined this way.


Some cheesemakers spray brine over the cheese using an atomizer. This helps control the salt content on the surface and aids in rind development. Spraying can be done in addition to soaking brines for a more well-rounded salting.


Brine can also be used to regularly wash the outside of aging cheeses. These brine washes help inhibit mold growth and prevent the surface from drying out. Washed rind cheeses like époisses and taleggio benefit from regular brine rubdowns during aging.

Key Takeaway: The three main ways to use brine in cheesemaking are soaking, spraying, and washing. Each imparts a different salting effect on the finished cheese.

Why Use a Brine?

Brining offers cheesemakers several advantages not found with other salting methods:

Deep and Even Salting

Brine solutions allow salt to fully permeate the cheese, salting it from the interior to the rind. Dry salting curds or rubbing a wheel with salt cannot achieve the same level of deep, uniform salting.

Surface Preservation

The high salt content in brine solutions creates an inhospitable environment for unwanted mold and bacteria growth. This allows cheeses to form beneficial rinds while inhibiting harmful microbes.

Moisture Control

As salt diffuses into the cheese, moisture migrates out. This controlled moisture loss helps cheeses like feta achieve the perfect texture. Dry salted cheeses can lose too much moisture.

Unique Flavors

The wet environment carries subtle flavors into the cheese that would not occur otherwise. Things like wine, beer, and spices can all be infused into the brine solution.

Simple Process

After pressing, cheeses can simply be placed in a bath of brine. No rubbing, turning, or special equipment is required. The brine does all the work!

How to Make Cheese Brine

Making brine for cheese is easy, requiring just two ingredients - water and salt. Here are the basics:


  • Non-chlorinated Water - It's important to use non-chlorinated water, as residual chlorine can inhibit good bacteria growth. Bottled spring water or boiled tap water work well.
  • Non-iodized Salt - Look for cheesemaking or pickling salt without iodine or anti-caking agents. Kosher salt also works.
  • Calcium Chloride (optional) - A small amount of calcium chloride solution helps maintain firmness during brining.


  1. Gather a non-reactive container large enough to fully submerge your cheese. A food-safe plastic bucket or ceramic crock work well.
  2. Fill the container with cool non-chlorinated water, about 50-60°F. The amount of water depends on your container size and number of cheeses to be brined.
  3. Slowly add salt while stirring until no more will dissolve. This saturates the brine solution.
  4. Check saturation by floating an egg. If it sinks, add more salt until the egg floats.
  5. Optionally, add 1 tsp of 30% calcium chloride solution per gallon of brine.
  6. Cool brine to 50-55°F before adding cheese.

Brine Strengths for Cheese

Cheese brines can be formulated to different concentrations depending on the desired effect:

  • Light Brines (10%) - Provide light salting over shorter durations. Used for brief soaks.
  • Medium Brines (15-20%) - All-purpose strength for most brined cheeses. Imparts moderate salting.
  • Saturated Brines (23%+) - Very high salt content for specialized long-aged cheeses. Allows complete saturation.

The saturation method described above will yield a saturated brine. To make lighter brines, add less salt. For example, you can dissolve 5 oz of salt per gallon of water to make a 10% brine.

When brining, test regularly with a salinity meter to ensure your target strength is maintained. Add a bit more salt if needed.

How Long to Brine Cheese

Brining time depends on several factors:

  • Salt Concentration - The stronger the brine, the less time needed to absorb enough salt.
  • Cheese Density - Dense cheeses require longer brining than soft moist cheeses.
  • Size & Shape - Large wheels take more time than small chunks. Complex shapes make salting uneven.
  • Temperature - Cooler brines penetrate slower. Optimal temperature is 50-55°F.

For example, halloumi might brine for 8 hours in a 20% brine at 55°F. While an aged gouda wheel could soak for 24-48 hours in saturated brine at the same temperature before achieving the desired salt content.

During brining, regularly take pH readings with a cheese iron to monitor salt penetration over time. Once you achieve the target pH, the cheese is properly brined.

Reusing and Maintaining Brine

The same brine can be reused multiple times if properly maintained:

  • Filtering - Pour brine through a cheesecloth to catch any crumbs between uses.
  • Topping Off - Check salinity and add salt as needed to keep brine saturated.
  • pH Monitoring - Test and adjust pH to 5.2-5.5 with vinegar or citric acid if needed.
  • Cool Storage - Keep brine refrigerated between uses for food safety.

With proper care, a single batch of brine can be reused for 1-2 years. But if any mold or off-odors develop, discard and make a fresh batch.

Common Brined Cheese Varieties

Many popular cheeses rely on brine solutions during their make procedure. Here are some of the most common:

  • Feta
  • Halloumi
  • Havarti
  • Gouda
  • Edam
  • Cheddar (for clothbound traditional cheddars)
  • Provolone
  • Parmesan (for some finishing steps)

These represent just a fraction of the many cheeses improved by brine. From fresh cheeses like paneer to aged Dutch styles, brining imparts a signature salty flavor and improved preservation.

Brined Cheese Defects

Most cheese problems related to brining come from improper concentrations or procedures:


  • Caused by weak brine strength or too little time brining
  • Allows excessive mold growth during aging
  • Fix by increasing brine strength and duration


  • Caused by strong brine or excessive time brining
  • Creates an unpleasantly salty flavor
  • Difficult to reverse once over-brined

Surface Rots

  • Caused by contaminants in reused brine
  • Creates offensive odors and undesirable slime
  • Prevent by filtering brine after each use

Hidden Molds

  • Caused by poor surface coverage when brining
  • Allows mold to develop in spots not fully submerged
  • Avoid by fully submerging cheese & flipping during brining

Key Takeaway: Most brining issues can be prevented by closely monitoring brine strength, brining time, and following good sanitation practices.


What is brine made of?

The basic ingredients in cheese brine are non-chlorinated water and non-iodized salt. Optional ingredients can include calcium chloride and flavorings like wine or beer.

Does the water temperature matter when making brine?

Yes! Always use cool water around 50-60°F to allow the salt to fully dissolve. Never use hot water, which can dissolve too much salt.

How long can I reuse the same cheese brine?

With proper filtering between uses and monitoring of pH/salinity, the same brine can be reused for 1-2 years typically. Discard earlier if off-odors or mold develop.

Can I flavor my cheese brine?

Absolutely! Many complementary flavors can be added to the brine like wine, beer, peppercorns, herbs, and spices. Get creative with your favorite flavor pairings!

How can I tell when my cheese is fully brined?

Using a cheese iron to regularly check pH gives the most accurate indication of when brining is complete. For most cheeses you want to achieve a pH around 5.2-5.5.

Why does my cheese float in the brine?

This is common in fully saturated brines. The high salt concentration increases the brine's density causing the cheeses to float. Make sure to flip cheeses halfway through brining to evenly salt both sides.

What cheese styles are brined?

Popular brined cheeses include feta, halloumi, gouda, havarti, provolone, and cheddar. Many Mediterranean, Greek, Dutch, and British cheese varieties involve brine during their make procedure.


While it only contains two basic ingredients, humble cheese brine serves a vital role in crafting many of the world's most popular styles of cheese.

Properly concentrated and utilized, brine provides the distinctive salty flavor, improved preservation, and ideal texture that sets these cheeses apart.

AGAH Productions
AGAH Productions