The Right Climate for the Cheese Cave
Caves have been used to ripen cheeses due to the climate being the perfect environment to allow microbes to thrive. For our use-case, I'll be covering ideal temperature and humidity settings. There is more to your cave then these variables, but that is being saved for another article!
This article goes in a bit of detail on what you should be setting your "cave" at.
TL;DR: 9-15°c. 80-95% humidity.
Different types of microbes thrive better at certain climate conditions compared to others, and most bacteria become highly active at higher temperatures, but that is not always a good thing.
It is not always about microbes though as moisture in the air plays a role with how cheese wheels develop over the weeks and months.
Not Set In Stone
The right climate settings are not set in stone as ageing cheese is an art-form despite being surrounded by science.
As long as you understand the underlying science (I won't be going all scientific) of having the right climate, you will be able to tweak the variables to obtain different flavours, textures and aromas.
For example, some cheesemakers start ageing wheels at a higher temperature for several days to allow bacteria to become active and rapidly eat and let off extra carbon dioxide. Then the wheels are ripened at lower temperatures inline with the "norm" for the remainder of their time to develop and mature.
Depending on the tyle of bacteria and the variables involves, this type of varying climates creates different overtones of flavour and large "eyes" or holes in the wheels.
So, carrying on reading but remember you can play around with the climate to obtain something that suits you.
Average Recommended Temperature
Easy one - Between 9-15°c.
If the temperature is too low, the cultures will be less active or inactive and won't do their job.
Too high (and if they are the wrong type of bacteria or if not kept in check) and the microbes will tend to overdevelop and create "off" flavours. The chance of bad bacteria developing is also possible.
A general rule of thumb is to have a low temperature so the cheese can age slowly. Long and slow-maturing develop better flavours and textures.
Minimum Humidity/Moisture Level
The minimum is 80%.
Moisture is required to ensure the cheese does not dry out, cracking, etc. All bad things.
The exact moisture level is depending on the type of cheese you are developing.
Mold-ripened cheese must have a humidity level of 90-95% so the mold can thrive and grow. Though it can grow at lower levels, more often then not, this can be another strain of a similar-looking mold, or because the mold needed is taking too long to develop, another airborne bacteria can latch on and infect the cheese.
Other cheese types would usually be "natural" rinded cheese, clothbound cheese or waxed cheese.
The first two would thrive in an environment below 90%. This would still be over 80%. Depending on the cheese type and your skill level, too high of moisture will impede rind develop and entice unwanted microbes to develop on the cheese. A wet cheese wheel is a bad thing.
What is My Cheese Cave Set At
For my small wheels (Original Sharp & Smoked): 12-15°c at 80% humidity.
For my large wheels in my custom built cheese-cave room (Verdure-mead): 9-13°c at 91% humidity.
As noted at the start of this article; there is more factors to the cheese cave than just the temperature and humidity, but that is for another article!