Why Does Mozzarella Smell Like Alcohol? (Answered!)

I don’t know if you have experienced this, but sometimes mozzarella has a slight smell of alcohol.

Now, I like a drink as much as anybody, but I don’t want alcoholic cheese!

Mozzarella is a versatile cheese that is widely used in lasagna, pizza, and toasted sandwiches.

And none of these dishes call for alcohol!

So, what is causing this strange phenomenon?

Is it something to do with the fermentation process of the cheese?

Could it be some form of bacteria or maybe an enzyme?

Let’s take a look at the connection between mozzarella and alcohol.

Mozzarella undergoes a fermentation process that may produce a smell of alcohol. It is typically a yeasty smell similar to beer. The smell of alcohol may indicate that the cheese has gone off, as mozzarella only has a mild odor. The cheese may have acquired a yeast infection from the milk used in the manufacturing process. The presence of lactic acid, propionic acid, or acetic acid in the mozzarella may cause a smell of alcohol. Unless the cheese has visible mold, it can be safely consumed, the smell of alcohol rarely indicates anything harmful.   

What is the Cause of the Alcohol Smell in Mozzarella?

To understand why mozzarella could smell of alcohol, we need to know how it is made.

In a way, it’s similar to making beer or wine in that it has to be aged or fermented before it can be consumed. 

First, the raw milk has to be pasteurized, using heat to kill any unwanted bacteria, and it is then coagulated.

Traditionally, a culture or bacteria is introduced to encourage the lactose in the milk to develop into lactic acid.

This could be propionibacteria which are also responsible for the production of acetic acid and propionic acid.

However, in the US, citric acid or even vinegar is often used, as this makes the mozzarella stretchier.

Any of the above-mentioned acids can produce the smell of alcohol as the cheese ferments.

In effect, the odor is a by-product of the cheesemaking process rather than an indication that the mozzarella has gone bad.

Another explanation for the smell could be the presence of a yeast infection.

This is only likely if raw, unpasteurized milk is used.

The yeast is a contaminant and could affect the quality of the mozzarella, not only creating the alcohol smell but also discoloring the cheese.

Can the Alcohol Smell Affect the Taste of the Mozzarella?

So, if the smell of alcohol from your mozzarella is not harmful, how will it affect the taste of the cheese?

It should have very little effect, but our tastebuds are connected to our sense of smell. 

So, even if the flavor of the mozzarella is not actually affected, our brain will tell us that the cheese tastes of alcohol!

Depending on the strength of the odor, this could put you off from eating the mozzarella.

It really is a personal preference as to whether you can accept this characteristic or not.

There is very little you can do to remove the smell.

Simply washing the cheese will make no difference, as the responsible acids will have permeated the cheese.

However, the smell could increase in strength as the mozzarella ages, so it is best to eat it as soon as possible.

You could always try a different brand that may have a different method of fermentation and production.

At the end of the day, the majority of the flavor should come from the milk.

How Mozzarella Is Made

My Thoughts

  • The alcohol smell in mozzarella is rarely an indication that it has gone off
  • It is a by-product of the acids added during the cheesemaking process
  • The odor may increase as the cheese continues to age and ferment
  • The mozzarella may also have acquired a yeast infection if made from unpasteurized milk
  • It is not possible to remove the smell of alcohol from mozzarella

I think I prefer to keep my mozzarella and wine separate!

If you are concerned about the odors in your cheese, please read my article on what to do if mozzarella smells like fish!

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