Struggling with the flavor or your homestead milk? If your animal is healthy and your milking habits are sound, the culprit is likely the cooling process for the milk. We can help you with that! Here are some tested tips on how to cool milk quickly right after it comes out of your sweet homestead cow, goat, or sheep. We’ve also included a few other common culprits when it comes to off-flavored fresh milk.
How Do You Make Goats Milk Not Taste Goaty?
Have you ever taken a big swig of fresh-from-the-animal milk and had it taste…like that animal?
Or, have you tasted goat milk from the store and wondered what on earth happened to it to make it taste so foul? Cow, goat, sheep – they’re just not animal smells you want to drink. That strong flavor is not inevitable, though, especially with dairy goats.
Our American taste buds are accustomed to cow milk and we’re often more forgiving of off (ripe or cultured) flavors in their milk. However, with goat milk we can be merciless in our assessments.
Taste is a completely personal interpretation and will vary from person to person, as milk flavor can vary from animal to animal. However, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure that your fresh milk is tasty every time. One is to cool milk quickly, but there are others as you will see.
(Unless your animal got into the onion patch, or lost their head and ate a bushel of mustard weed. You’ll just have to milk through those experiences until they pass. But that’s an issue for another day.)
Dairy Lines (Breed & Heritage) Can Effect Flavor
The flavor of milk (any milk from any animal) is dependent on several factors, so let’s cover just a few of those in brief. The first factor is genetics. You can cool milk quickly from any dairy animal and it may still not taste good to you simply because of the breed of that animal.
The only real way to determine the quality of the dairy lines of a milking animal is with a pedigree. The easiest way to obtain reliable pedigrees is by purchasing a registered animal from a national association specific to that animal.
There are several dairy goat associations in the United States alone. Here are a few:
A simple search on each site will provide you with their criteria and rules. If you live outside the US, there may be registries specific to your country, along with those that exist internationally.
When you’re ready to purchase a dairy animal, if you want a pedigreed lady, be prepared to pay for her—at least double, sometimes triple what an un-pedigreed animal will cost.
Some breeds will produce flavors that are simply more palatable than other breeds when it comes to you what you prefer personally. What do you think makes a delicious cup of fresh, cold milk?
Better Hens and Gardens has a great explanation and breakdown of how genetics effects goat milk flavor – What Does Goat Milk Taste Like Anyway?
Safe Milk Handling Can Effect Flavor
Once you’ve established quality dairy lines in your backyard herd, the next factor to concentrate on is clean dairy handling habits. Establish good routines and be strict with yourself by following through with them every time you milk.
These good habits will keep your milk clean and free of old, residual milk that might include pathogens and bad bacteria. Dirty milk will result in a poor taste, as well as possible illness for you.
EACH time you milk:
- Clean the teats well with a quality solution.
- Use a strip cup to dispose of the strippings. Or you can dispose of them in a napkin or paper cup. I like to use the strip cup because I can check for chunks or off-color milk which might alert me to mastitis or other infections.
- Only milk with clean hands. Your mom was right, nasty stuff lurks on seemingly clean-looking hands.
- When you’re done milking, dip each teat in a bit of the cleaning solution for good measure.
- I also apply a mild, homemade, herbal antiseptic salve to my girls’ bag and teats. This protects against harmful, microscopic critters but also moisturizes their skin. Yes, I spoil my ladies.
Don’t forget good habits when you clean up, too!
- When you’re done with your milking equipment, wash it in hot water with a soap EVERY time.
- Wash your bucket thoroughly. Use a seamless, stainless steel milking bucket so you don’t have hidden gunk building up in the seams of your bucket.
- The lid should also be washed well each time. A lidded bucket is desirable to cover your milk as you bring it in from the dairy barn to the house to prevent anything from getting into your milk.
A very basic rule to follow is that whatever equipment you have, including reusable filters, clean it thoroughly EACH time you milk.
Cool Milk Quickly
The last matter to tend to for sweet tasting milk is to cool it as quickly as possible once it’s out of the animal. During my winters, this isn’t a big deal for me since my mid-winter temps are sufficiently cold to rapidly chill the milk by simply putting it into a snowbank for about twenty minutes.
During the rest of the year, and particularly in the summer, I have to:
- Take someone to the barn with me to immediately remove the milk up to the house once I’m done milking.
- I finish up in the barn, while they filter and chill the milk as soon as possible.
Why is it Important to Cool the Milk Quickly?
There are several acids in goat milk that give it that characteristic tang. If left warm, they increase the caprine taste of the milk. Raw cow milk will also culture rapidly while it’s still warm. Some people enjoy these flavors and leave their milk warm on purpose (think milk kefir or a flavor like buttermilk).
Other people, hoping to cut that strong flavor, put the milk directly into the freezer after filtering. We used to do that, too, but I can’t tell you how many glass canning jars I’ve busted in the freezer because I simply forgot my milk was in there.
Cooling your milk in the refrigerator is not the best option either because it doesn’t bring the core temperature of the milk down low enough, fast enough.
The Best Method to Cool Milk Quickly
The best method we’ve found for cooling milk rapidly and ensure the best tasting milk is to submerge the milk jars to their necks in a semi-frozen saline solution. To do this you will need to make a saturated saline solution that will stay in your freezer (a chest freezer is good for this). You’ll only take this solution out to chill your fresh milk.
The salt lowers the temperature of the water to produce a semi-frozen, chilled mixture that can cool your milk much quicker than the refrigerator, or even the freezer can.
Using this method is quick (usually 10-20 minutes),
What You’ll Need:
- Glass canning jar or a similar stainless-steel container sufficient to hold your quantity of milk.
- A bucket with a lid that will fit into your freezer that is also the right size to hold your glass milk container. We use a medium size, food grade bucket onto which fits a Gamma Seal lid so that we can easily screw and unscrew the bucket lid.
- Salt and water.
Make the Saline Cooling Solution
Let’s go through the process of making the saline cooling solution. If you have questions afterwards, just let me know in the comments section. We’ve tried so many other methods and this is still our favorite for how quickly it cools the milk.
Since the entire process doesn’t take long, I just leave my bucket in the kitchen sink while the milk chills. What takes forty-five minutes to cool to 60° F/16°C in a freezer will now take around ten minutes.
- Gallon of water
- Salt, or isopropyl alcohol
- Bucket with lid
- Half gallon canning jar, or similar container, with lid
- If you’re using a half gallon canning jar to contain your milk, then get a medium sized bucket (about a three-gallon, or eleven-liter, capacity). The most important feature of the bucket is that it fit both the jar and your freezer, so I hesitate to give you a specific size.
- Add about a gallon of water to a medium sized bucket.
- To that water, add around 1/3 cup of salt and mix until the salt dissolves. This will form a brine which acts as an anti-freeze; you may need more or less salt depending on the hardness of your water.
- If salt doesn’t work for you, try an alcohol solution starting at about half water, half isopropyl alcohol.
- Keep this mixture in your freezer and every time you filter your milk, put it into a glass container like a canning jar, and submerge it to half way up in the semi-frozen brine solution.
- Make sure the solution doesn’t come up over the top of your jar and into your milk. To be safe, you can cap the canning jar so that nothing falls into your clean milk.
- When the milk is chilled, take it out and store it in the refrigerator.
- Put your awesome bucket back in the freezer until you need it again.
- Every now and then, switch out the solution to keep it strong.
How to Cool Milk Quickly with Other Methods
There are other methods you can try if the saline solution won’t work for you for some reason.
Frozen Water Bottles
If you don’t have the space for a whole bucket:
- Keep plastic bottles of water in your freezer to freeze solid.
- Before you go out to milk, submerge them in a bucket of cold tap water.
- Once you filter your milk, follow the same procedure as with the solution.
This won’t work as fast as the solution, but it will work and takes up less space than a small bucket in your freezer. It does require more water since you must use new water each time you want to chill your milk, but it will do in a pinch.
Counter Top Ice Cream Freezer Bowl
Perhaps more effective, if you already have the counter-top ice cream maker parts, is a suggestion made to me by Rebecca, an intrepid Hobby Farms online reader. She shared with me that, until her volume rose so high she could no longer fit her milk into the unit all at once, she used the freezing chamber from a counter-top ice cream maker to chill her milk rapidly.
The liquid between the walls of these canisters freezes solid while they’re being stored in the freezer, thereby producing ice cream without salt or ice. Or, if you’re as smart as Rebecca, rapidly chilling your fresh milk.
As Rebecca points out, these bowls typically only hold 1.5 quarts, so you might outgrow them as your herd size increases. However, to start out with, they might be useful to you. And, hey, you might just end up with fresh ice cream on a regular basis with one of these units around.
Life is sweet with fresh milk.
Final Reminder for Tasty Milk
Remember, no cooling technique can cover bad genes or bad milk handling practices (I should also add poor nutrition).
However, if you’ve got those areas well in hand and would still like to improve the flavor of your milk, chilling it as quickly as possible will help. Using a reliable method, like the semi-frozen saline solution that rapidly cools and keeps your milk sweet and tasty, will save your taste buds…and the good name of fresh milk.