Back to Basics: Making Your Own Cream and Butter at Home with a Cream Separator

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The industrial age, pasteurization, and modernization profoundly changed the dairy industry. The days when families milked their own cows and goats, separated cream, and churned their own butter are long gone or are they?

While modernization has its benefits, many people long for the traditions and flavors of the past. For some, milk and cream separation and home-churned butter are a matter of principal; it’s a move back toward organic eating, a simpler lifestyle, and localization. For others, it’s a matter of taste store-bought butter simply can’t compare to fresh! Whether you want to get back to the basics or start a fresh new hobby, if you have access to fresh milk, you can make your own cream and butter.

What You Need to Get Started

  • Fresh, warm milk ideally, straight from the source! If you have one or two cows or goats on your mini farm, or a neighbor willing to share the wealth, you’re almost ready to get started.
  • A cream separator small electric and hand-operated cream separators are available for do-it-yourselfers who want to separate their own milk at home or on the farm.
  • A butter churn attachment (optional) if you plan on churning butter, buy a butter churn or cream separator with a butter churn attachment.
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The Milk Separation Process

You’ve heard the phrase, “cream always rises to the top.” This phrase refers to fresh milk. Given enough time, raw milk separates on its own with the cream rising to the top. Cream is the fatty portion of milk. Thus, removing the cream reduces the milk’s fat content. Cream can be consumed as is, whipped, processed into ice cream or cheese, or churned into butter.

When you buy milk at the grocery store, it has already been processed at the dairy. Pasteurization is used to kill germs while homogenization is used to keep milk from separating. If you buy skim milk, 1% milk, or 2% milk, the milk and cream have been separated, typically by using a centrifuge to speed the separation process. In fact, most dairies separate all milk and then return cream to the skimmed milk in specific proportions.

For at-home cream separation, you’ll use a smaller centrifuge known as a cream separator. Both electric and hand-operated cream separators are available for the home and mini-farm market. These devices spin the milk, causing the milk to separate into cream and skim milk. The two separate streams are diverted to different spouts for collection.

The Importance of Using Fresh, Warm Milk for Separation

Milk straight from the cow is as fresh as it gets and prime for separation. The structure of milk changes as it cools or is agitated. For example, if you store raw milk in the refrigerator for several days before separation, water molecules will have bound to fat globules, making centrifugal separation less effective. Heating the milk to 120 to 145 degrees F can reverse this process to some extent, allowing the hand-held or electric cream separator to separate globular milk fat from the skim milk.

Cow vs. Goat Milk what’s the Difference?

Cow vs.Goat Milk-goats milk, cow's milk, fresh cream, milk separator

In addition to their taste differences, cow and goat milk have different properties. While cow milk will separate on its own with enough time, goat milk will not. Goat milk has smaller fat molecules and is naturally homogenized. If you have goats and want to separate the cream from the milk, you’ll definitely need a cream separator. A cream separator is recommended for cow milk as well, because it speeds the process dramatically and removes contaminants. You can even process up to 80 liters of milk per hour with a cream separator.

Are you ready to get back to basics? Order a metal cream separator today!


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