Portable Milk pH Meter

The measurement of pH in milk is important in testing for impurities, spoilage, and signs of mastitis infection. While there are a number of factors that affect the composition of milk, pH measurements can help producers understand what might be causing certain compositional changes. pH measurement is commonly performed at various points in a milk processing plant.

Fresh milk has a pH value of 6.7. When the pH value of the milk falls below pH 6.7, it typically indicates spoilage by bacterial degradation. Bacteria from the family of Lactobacillaceae are lactic acid bacteria (LAB) responsible for the breakdown of the lactose in milk to form lactic acid. Eventually when the milk reaches an acidic enough pH, coagulation or curdling will occur along with the characteristic smell and taste of “sour” milk.

Milk with pH values higher than pH 6.7 potentially indicate that the milk may have come from cows with a mastitis infection. Mastitis is an ever-present challenge with dairy milking cows. When infected, the cow’s immune system releases histamine and other compounds in response to the infection. There is a resulting increase in permeability of endothelial and epithelial cell layers, allowing blood components to pass through a paracellular pathway. Sinceblood plasma is slightly alkaline, the resulting pH of milk will be higher than normal. Typically milk producers can perform a somatic cell count to detect a mastitis infection, but a pH measurement offers a quick way to screen for infection.

Understanding the pH of raw milk can also help producers optimize their processing techniques. For example, in operations that use Ultra High Temperature (UHT) processing, even small variations from pH 6.7 can affect the time required for pasteurization and the stability of the milk after treatment.