semi-grated cheese

With a global market for cheese valued at more than $70 billion and rising, taking advantage of the high demand for cheese products — both standalone and as ingredients in other foodstuffs — requires a modern approach to manufacturing.

Cheesemaking is far from the cottage industry it once was, with extensive industrial production facilities and processes heavily informed by science.

Today, many cheese manufacturers rely on supplemental milk protein to boost the cheese yield from a given batch of milk while also standardizing the available milk supply so that its make-up will produce the right type of cheese. While advanced milk protein concentrates, such as those made by Idaho Milk Products, offer an easy way to improve yields and product quality, such powders only produce the appropriate results when they undergo proper dispersion, hydration, and solubility. Otherwise, you may run into a whole range of issues.


Common Protein Problems Encountered by Cheese Manufacturers

We’ll do a deeper dive below on what may happen if cheesemakers do not follow the proper procedures for incorporating milk protein into their cheesemaking process. Let’s first look at the broad issues that affect cheese manufacture. Although deadlines may be tight and the time pressure could prove intense, cheese-making outfits must take care to allow for the proper amount of time for each step when adding extra protein to the cheese milk. Otherwise, you will encounter some serious issues, such as:

  • Organoleptic defects, i.e., “off” flavors and smells that may make consumers think something is wrong with the product.
  • Physical characteristic faults, from insufficient melting and shredding to “fish-eye” clumping.
  • Other properties of the cheese, not immediately apparent to consumers, but still due to poor quality control, i.e. issues with analytical aspects of the product.

Understanding how to properly use these proteins is essential to avoid such problems. So what do you need to know?


Appropriately Dispersing Protein Powder: An Explainer

Dispersion refers to the process used to introduce a dry powder into a liquid initially. In this case, we mean the dispersion of milk protein concentrates into milk held at a cold temperature, around 40 degrees Fahrenheit, which is typical for most cheesemaking operations. The problem: milk protein powders do not wet easily and therefore will tend to form “fish-eyes” (clumps of powder) within the milk. The solution is to employ a high-speed, high-shear mixing device. The high level of shear is necessary to prevent the protein molecules from conglomerating together. If mixed at too slow a speed and not correctly dispersed, undesirable lumps will remain in the product through to the final cheese, imparting unusual textures, flavors, and a powdery consistency. All of these would represent a batch failure.


Give It Time: Allowing Hydration to Happen

Merely ensuring the dispersion of the powder throughout the cheese milk is not enough, because dispersion does not necessarily equal hydration. In other words, the powder will not thoroughly moisten even when sheared and mixed unless it is given the appropriate amount of time to do so. When heated to pasteurization temperatures, unhydrated milk proteins could react with other minerals in the solution, creating many problems. Such issues could include grainy textures and mouthfeels, insufficient melting, and fat separation.

Rather than attempting to disperse the milk protein and then immediately begin the process of making cheese, it is best to blend the powder into the milk and then allow it to sit for 6 to 12 hours at approximately 40 degrees Fahrenheit. You can safely pasteurize the mixture after this stage as all the protein particles should reach optimal hydration overnight.


Achieve Better Products by Promoting Better Solubility

For best results, it is ideal to hold the cheese milk with the hydrated, dispersed powder at or near the cheesemaking temperature to allow the powder to dissolve in the hotter liquid fully. HTST pasteurization typically produces full solubility within five minutes, but such a temperature and time could damage the milk. Instead, a temperature of around 100F with a hold time of up to 30 minutes is ideal. However, when production limitations prevent such delays, even a 5 to 10-minute hold under agitation will promote optimal solubilization.


Securing a High-Quality Source of Milk Protein Powders

For the best outcomes in cheesemaking, it is obviously crucial to use the correct techniques to disperse, hydrate, and solubilize the protein powders. However, the quality of the powder you choose matters as much as the methods you use. At Idaho Milk Products, we’re proud to support the cheese manufacture process by creating cutting-edge milk protein concentrates and isolated micellar casein to enable a wider range of cheesemaking processes.

With the superior hydration, dispersion and solubility qualities of our IdaPro MPCs, we’re well-equipped to supply cheesemakers and others working with dairy products. Alongside our product range, we also have an extensive understanding of how and when to use MPCs to the best effect. Contact us today to learn more about achieving the right results to make good cheese.