Centrifugation is occasionally applied to clean cheese milk, particularly to remove Clostridia's spores that may cause the "late blowing" of cheese. The sludge separated by centrifugation also contains fat and protein, thus is sterilized and added back to cheese milk. In manufacture of raw milk cheeses, centrifugation shall be performed at temperature below 40 degrees C and no sterilized sludge can be added to vat milk. Both these limitations negatively affect cheese yield. To evaluate process sustainability, three different centrifugation configurations were tested at a factory producing a traditional raw-milk extra-hard cheese. Either a single or double centrifugation, the latter with two different volumes of discharged sludge, were tested over 3-week periods each. Efficiency of spore removal, decrease of total bacterial count, loss of milk solids and cheese yield were evaluated daily with respect to not-centrifuged milk from the same batch. Double centrifugation with low-volume sludge gave highest efficiency of spore removal, i.e. 98.2%, while the single process minimized the loss of cheese yield. Impedometric analysis indicated that centrifugation caused a preferential removal of rod-shaped lactic acid bacteria, regardless of configuration. This finding was confirmed by microscopy and suggested that a different bacteria population would operate during cheese ripening.
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