Demystifying Colby – How This Tasty Cheese is Made

For cheese lovers, Colby is a familiar name. This mild, mellow cheese has a distinctive orange color and a bit of a fuzzy rind. But have you ever wondered exactly how this popular cheese is made?

As a cheesemaker and farmer, I’m going to demystify Colby and explain the process of crafting this versatile cheddar-style cheese. Understanding the production methods helps you appreciate the care and skill involved in bringing Colby to your table So let’s dive in!


Colby cheese was originally produced in Colby Wisconsin in the 1880s by Joseph F. Steinwand. He named it after the township where his cheesemaking facility was located.

Steinwand wanted to create a cheddar-style cheese that was softer and more suitable for warmer climates than traditional cheddar. Through experimentation, he developed a washed-curd manufacturing process that resulted in a mellower, moister cheese that melted smoothly when cooked.

This new cheese quickly gained popularity nationwide. Today, Colby is mass-produced around the world, though many artisan cheesemakers still craft batches the traditional way.


The main ingredients in Colby cheese are simple:

  • Cow’s milk – Usually full fat milk is used to get the richest flavor.

  • Mesophilic starter culture – This is a bacteria that acids and thickens the milk.

  • Rennet – An enzyme that causes the milk to coagulate and form curds.

  • Salt – Salt is sprinkled on the curds to flavor them and slow moisture loss.

That’s it! Just four basic components transform fluid milk into solid, sliceable Colby cheese through some science and technique.

The Cheesemaking Process

Now let’s take a walk through the steps to make Colby cheese:

1. Acidification

First, the milk is heated and bacterial culture is added. As the bacteria multiply, they produce lactic acid which lowers the pH of the milk. This acidification kickstarts the gelling process.

2. Coagulation

Next, rennet is mixed in. This catalyzes the formation of curds, which are soft, gelatinous blobs of casein (milk protein) suspended in whey (the watery milk liquid).

3. Cutting the Curds

Once the curds form, the vat is cut using wire knives to slice the curds into smaller cubes. This allows more whey to drain out.

4. Cooking & Stirring

Then, the curds are cooked to around 100°F and stirred constantly. This firms them up while expelling excess moisture.

5. Draining and Salting

After reaching the target moisture content, the whey is drained off. Salt is sprinkled over the curds and incorporated by hand to season them.

6. Pressing

The salted curds are packed into molds and pressed to fuse them together into one solid block. Pressing also expels residual whey.

7. Aging

The cheese is aged for at least 3 months at 40-50°F. This allows flavor compounds to fully develop. Colby is often coated in wax or plastic while aging.

8. Packaging

Once aged, the cheese is cut into smaller portions, packaged, and shipped to stores for sale. Enjoy your slice of tasty Colby!

What Makes Colby Unique

A few key steps give Colby cheese its characteristic properties:

  • Washed curds – Washing the curds removes more lactose, creating a milder flavor.

  • Higher cook temperature – Heating the curds to 100°F makes them drier and pull together smoothly.

  • Shorter aging – Just 3-4 months of aging keeps Colby’s flavor mellow. Long-aged cheddars get sharper.

  • Smaller blocks – Colby is pressed into smaller blocks to minimize openings for bacteria to grow.

Through small tweaks in the process, Colby emerges with a softer, silkier texture and approachable flavor profile.

Colby Cheese Varieties

Today, Colby cheese comes in a few different forms:

  • Mild Colby – The most common type, made from cow’s milk. Orange color comes from annatto seed added during production.

  • Longhorn Colby – Shaped into a log or wheel and dipped in red wax. Has a firmer, drier texture.

  • Marbled Colby – Made by blending white and orange curds to create an marbled effect. Milder flavor.

  • Monterey Jack – Similar to Colby but with a more buttery, sweet flavor. Some is spiced with peppers.

  • Colby-Jack – A blend of Colby and Monterey Jack curds results in a robust, well-balanced cheese.

No matter what type you pick up, you can be sure each wedge took skill and care to craft into the classic cheese we know as Colby.

Nutrition & Health Benefits

Colby packs a big punch of nutrition! Here are some of the top nutrients found in a 1-ounce serving:

  • Calcium – 20% DV – Helps build strong bones and teeth. Also aids muscle and nerve function.

  • Protein – 7g – Provides steady energy and helps repair and build tissue.

  • Phosphorus – 15% DV – Supports bone health and kidney function.

  • Vitamin A – 10% DV – Keeps eyes, skin and mucous membranes healthy. An antioxidant.

  • Vitamin B12 – 15% DV – Essential for neurological function and red blood cell formation.

  • Zinc – 10% DV – Boosts immunity and growth. Needed for DNA and cell repair.

As a fermented food, Colby provides probiotics that benefit digestive health. The conjugated linoleic acid in dairy fat may also have cancer-fighting effects.

Of course, enjoy Colby in moderation as part of a balanced diet. It’s higher in sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol than many foods. Those with lactose intolerance may experience discomfort from the milk sugar.

Tips for Enjoying Colby Cheese

Here are some of my favorite ways to eat Colby cheese:

  • In grilled cheese sandwiches. It melts beautifully!

  • Diced in salads for a protein and calcium punch.

  • Baked into casseroles or mac and cheese.

  • On cheeseboards with fruit, nuts, and bubbly wine.

  • Melted over steamed vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower.

  • In omelets, quiches or scrambled eggs.

  • On top of burgers or tacos for a tasty accent.

With its rich heritage and incredible flavor, it’s no mystery why Colby remains a staple on the cheese scene. Understanding the cheesemaking process gives you new insight into this orange beauty. Next time you take a bite, remember the care and craftsmanship that went into it!

Day in the Life of a Japanese Wagyu Beef Farmer


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What is so special about Kobe beef?

Kobe beef boasts a distinct and captivating flavor profile that sets it apart from other types of beef. Its hallmark is an exquisite marbling of intramuscular fat, which contributes to its exceptional tenderness and a rich, buttery texture. Its flavor is best described as sweet and lean.

How are cows raised for Kobe beef?

At the fattening farms, wagyu cattle are raised in ventilated barns and each one is given a name instead of just a number. They will be fed a high-fibre diet of rice straw, maize, barley, whole crop silage, and concentrate.

What breed of cow is used for Kobe beef?

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