Typically, micellar casein concentration for commercial use is accomplished by microfiltration. Caseinate production on an industrial scale takes place via a multi-step chemical processing of large quantities of skim milk.
The preference for this process stems primarily from the basic nature of the chemistry in play. Milk itself is slightly acidic with a pH just below 7, also known as the neutral pH. At this level, micellar casein remains stable and held in suspension within the molecular matrix of the milk. However, as milk becomes more acidic due to a lowering of its pH, casein begins to quickly fall out of solution into a solid mass known as acid casein curd.
The curd is repeatedly washed to maintain an acidic pH, removing remaining milk solids. It is then reacted with an alkaline material to restore its pH to near-neutral, creating “caseinates.” Sodium and calcium-based chemicals are the most common choices for producing caseinates. Milk protein concentrates, in contrast to caseinates, do not typically rely on chemicals aside from naturally occurring enzymes. We’ll look more at these differences next.
Ultrafiltration: The Key to Better Milk Protein Products
The pH changes and chemical reactions taking place in caseinate production are not kind on the molecules, and typically create resultant products that are less palatable and perhaps even off-putting in both taste and smell. These changes differ significantly from the production of milk protein concentrate, which has a two-pronged goal: capture as much of the milk’s protein in its natural form as possible, including the whey; and do so with as little denaturing of the proteins as possible.
How do we achieve that? The employment of a process known as ultrafiltration plays a critical role. Under high pressure but low temperature (compared to caseinate production), milk is forced through an extremely fine filtration screen that traps the casein and most of the whey protein molecules without stripping away the natural minerals found in milk, such as calcium, magnesium, and others. The only typical additive used may be an enzyme, employed to reduce the amount of lactose present in the final product.
The Key Variances Between Micellar Casein and Caseinates
Ultimately, both products have uses, although many find pure caseinates alone to be unpleasant to consume as a supplement. Micellar casein provides the body with a time-released source of essential amino acids, which may contribute to helping the body build or repair muscle tissue overnight during sleep as well as containing more quickly-digested whey proteins, leading to a more well-rounded source of amino acids. Micellar casein also retains a natural “milky” flavor and is much easier to incorporate into product formulations.
Do These Products Have Different Applications?
Milk itself only has a protein concentration of around three percent. Because both micellar casein and caseinates have a very high concentration of protein compared to milk itself, they have found popularity as nutritional supplements across many industries. From adult nutrition to bodybuilding and sports medicine, they each have a variety of uses.
However, caseinates typically possess unpalatable flavor profiles on their own, and require sweeteners and flavorings in most common applications. Micellar casein produced via gentle filtration techniques, such as those employed by Idaho Milk Products, retains more of milk’s natural qualities and flavors. The unique chemical properties of micellar casein also make it easier to include in various product formulations.
To learn more about why micellar casein offers a superior solution compared to caseinates in some applications, or to request samples, contact us today.