Except for fresh cheese, the curd is ripened, or matured, at various temperatures and times until the characteristic flavour, body and texture profile is achieved. During ripening, degradation of lactose, proteins and fat are carried out by ripening agents. The ripening agents in cheese are:
- bacteria and enzymes of the milk
- lactic culture
- added moulds or yeasts
- environmental contaminants
Thus the microbiological content of the curd, the biochemical composition of the curd, as well as temperature and humidity affect the final product. This final stage varies from weeks to years according to the cheese variety.