Semi-Soft—These are the familiar cheeses, such as Colby and Jack that have little or no rind, and are not treated with bacteria or fungus.
Pasta Filata—These are kneaded cheeses, like Mozzarella and Provolone. The fresher varieties tend to have simple, milky flavors.
Wax-Dipped—This is the classic American method, in which cheeses are sealed in an airtight layer of paraffin. Cheeses age very slowly in this scheme. One Wisconsin producer ages their cheddar for eight years in this manner.
Cloth-Wrapped—Classic English Cheddars and other cheeses are aged this way. The cloth helps keep the bugs off, but allows moisture to escape, so the cheese dries out as it ages.
Blue Pennicillum—Mold is injected into the cheese and develops into specks of blue with a complex, herby aroma. Most typically made with high-fat milk, blue can be soft and subtle or among the most pungent cheeses on the planet.
Soft-Ripened (bloomy-rind)—These are cheeses like Brie that rely on a fungus to produce a whitish, edible coating on the outside. Bloomy-rind cheeses usually are fairly high in butterfat content.
Swiss-Type—Special bacteria metabolize sugars in the cheese and create gas bubbles that form the familiar texture of Swiss cheese.
Washed Rind—Fresh cheese is literally washed with a substance—like beer—that changes the pH of the cheese and so encourages specific bacteria that produce a gooey center and a ripe, “stinky” aroma. Authentic Münster is an example.
Firm/Hard—These are cow or sheep cheeses such as Parmesan or Manchego that are allowed to dry out as they age and often develop intense, meaty flavors.
Raw Milk—Right now in the US, producers are forbidden to use unpasteurized milk for any cheese that will be sold in less than 60 days. It’s a complex issue, but people have been making and eating raw milk cheese for thousands of years.