For those of you who have made or are attempting to make simple, fresh cheeses such as ricotta or mascarpone, here are a few tips for obtaining curds that have the texture and moistness you desire.
As in my classes, my general advice to you for determining how moist or how dry you want the curds is to ask you to decide how you are going to use the finished cheese. If you are using it as a soft spread filled with dried herbs, you would want the curds to be somewhat moist. If you are going to use the cheese as an ingredient in a dish such as cheesecake or lasagna, you probably will want the curds to be less moist.
As an example, if using the Whole Milk Ricotta recipe published in Artisan Cheese Making at Home, as written it will result in less moist curds, perfect for using as an ingredient. This is partially due to adding the citric acid in the beginning of the process. I have presented this process so you can see the changes in the curds as the temperature increases. However, if you desire more moist curds, you have the option to adjust the recipe to get that result. For basic direct-acidification fresh cheeses, the point at which the acid is added as well as the timelines for draining the curds are merely guidelines, as in any cooking recipe. You can adjust both based on the results you want. The amount of draining (therefore the moisture content of the curds) is subjective, based on the style you like and the end use. In addition, if you want very fluffy curds, add the acid after heating the milks to 180-185 degrees, continuing to raise to the specified temperature. Drain the curds immediately, and add the salt only at curd draining stage. If you like an even richer and creamier ricotta, try making it with heavy cream exclusively or add cream once the curds have drained.