How NaCl and water content determine water activity during ripening of Gouda cheese, and the predicted effect on inhibition of Listeria monocytogenes

E. Wemmenhove, M.H.J. Wells-Bennik, A. Stara, A.C.M. van Hooijdonk, M.H. Zwietering

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This study describes the diffusion of NaCl and water in Gouda cheese during brining and ripening. Furthermore, we established water activity as a function of the NaCl-in-moisture content in Gouda cheese during ripening. We determined NaCl content, water content, and water activity in block-type Gouda cheeses that were brined for 3.8 d and foil-ripened for a period of 26 wk, and in wheel-type Gouda cheeses that were brined for 0.33, 2.1, or 8.9 d and subsequently nature-ripened for a period of 26 wk. The calculated diffusion coefficients of NaCl during brining were 3.6·10-10 m2s-1 in the block-type Gouda cheeses and 3.5·10-10 m2s-1 in the wheel-type Gouda cheeses. Immediately after brining, gradients of NaCl and water were observed throughout both types of cheese. During ripening, these gradients disappeared, except for the water gradient in nature-ripened cheeses. An empirical model was derived for Gouda cheese, in which water activity is expressed as a function of the NaCl-in-moisture content, as established for different brining times, locations and ripening times. Moreover, the effect of reduced water activity on inhibition of growth of Listeria monocytogenes in Gouda cheese was calculated. In addition to the presence of lactate and a pH of 5.2 to 5.3, the reduced water activity as seen in Gouda cheese can substantially contribute to inhibition of microbial growth and even to inactivation when cheeses are brined and ripened for extended times and subjected to nature-ripening.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5192-5201
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2016



  • Gouda
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Salt content
  • Water activity

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