Innovative Dairy Processing Equipment: Balancing Cooling and Heating Needs


Did you know that U.S. dairy farmers produced over 226.6 billion pounds of milk for our consumption last year? Every drop got pasteurized and refrigerated before shipping to stores and food factories. 

Preserving milk and dairy processing is a delicate balance between cooling and heating, requiring precise temperature control. In this article, we will explore the world of dairy processing equipment, focusing on milk cooling tanks and dairy pasteurizers. Custom dairy tank heating options are essential for pasteurization and other stages of dairy production that demand precise heating. Once pasteurized, industrial chillers maintain the ideal cool temperatures required for milk storage and preservation. 

We’ll start by reviewing the dairy processing equipment responsible for optimal temperature control in the dairy industry.

What is Dairy Processing Equipment?

Dairy processing equipment encompasses a wide range of machinery and tools used in the production of dairy products like milk, cream, butter, cheese, and yogurt. Examples of the equipment include:

  • Pasteurizers: These machines heat raw milk to eliminate harmful bacteria, ensuring product safety and prolonging shelf life.
  • Homogenizers: They break down fat globules in milk to create a uniform consistency and prevent cream separation. 
  • Refrigerated holding tanks: Refrigerated stainless steel tanks hold raw milk and finished milk products like skimmed milk and cream after pasteurization. Holding tanks also provide dairy freeze protection.

Dairy farms and milk processing businesses require a half dozen specialized pieces of equipment.

What Equipment is Needed for a Dairy Business? 

Critical equipment for dairy production includes:

  • Control systems: These systems automatically control the flow of milk from one process to the next. 
  • Milk Cooling Tanks: These bulk milk tanks rapidly cool raw milk to preserve its freshness and prevent bacterial growth before processing. Also required for storage after processing.
  • Pasteurizers: Uses heat to destroy pathogens in milk, ensuring its safety and quality.
  • Mixers and Homogenizers: Emulsifies and disperses fat particles in milk.
  • Separators: Separates the fat or cream from the milk.

Dairy products like cheese or yogurt require fermentation tanks. And, no matter the finished product, at the end of the production line, you’ll find the packaging machinery.

Next, let’s explore the critical role of efficient milk cooling throughout the dairy production process.

The Importance of Milk Cooling

Bacteria found in raw milk start to multiply rapidly with each 1-degree increase in the milk’s temperature over 40°F (4°C). Keeping milk cold prevents bacterial growth. Under the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) regulations, raw milk sold to processors must have a standard plate count of less than 100,000 bacteria per milliliter (mL). Modern chilling makes it easy to produce milk under 5000.

According to American Dairymen, the temperature guidelines for milk in bulk milk tanks should be below 40°F (4°C) within 30 minutes after the first milking ends and maintain the milk at 37-38°F (3°C). 

What Machines Are Used in Milk Production?

If we consider the milk flow from cow to milk carton, here is a list of equipment needed in the correct order:

  1. Milking Machine – Extracts the milk from the cows.
  2. Refrigerated Storage Tank – Holds raw milk below 40°F (4°C)
  3. Pasteurizer – Rapidly heat the milk to kill bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Listeria.
  4. Homogenizer –  breaks down the milk’s butterfat molecules for a uniform consistency.
  5. Cream Separator – Pulls out the cream from the milk to make cream and skim milk.
  6. Milk Cooling Tank – Keeps the milk at the correct temperature until distribution.

The list above represents the minimum equipment required for a dairy operation. For yogurt or cheese production, consider investing in custom dairy tank heaters.

The Role of Milk Cooling Tanks in Milk Production

Milk cooling tanks preserve the quality of milk products by rapidly reducing the temperature. Cold temperatures inhibit bacterial growth, ensuring that the milk remains safe for consumption. Efficient cooling also helps in complying with stringent milk storage regulations. Industrial chillers from North Slope Chillers can meet any dairy operational requirements.

The Science Behind Milk Cooling and Quality Preservation

The main reason to cool milk quickly and keep it cold is to prevent bacteria from growing. Total bacterial count (TBC) and psychrotrophic bacterial count (PBC) are the two tests that milk processors use to assess the milk’s hygiene and quality.

Efficient milk cooling practices are crucial for upholding stringent quality standards.

Industrial Chillers and Their Contribution to Milk Cooling

The process of milk cooling and heating typically begins immediately after the raw milk is collected from the dairy farm. Chillers for chilled milk tanks offer precise temperature control and rapidly cool milk to a safe temperature to preserve its quality. 

The Heating Process in Dairy Production

The heating process in dairy production involves pasteurizing the raw milk by heating it to a specific temperature for a set duration. This process effectively eliminates harmful bacteria while preserving the nutritional quality of the milk, ensuring its safety for consumption and extending its shelf life.

What is a Dairy Pasteurizer?

A dairy pasteurizer is a machine that heats raw milk to a set temperature for a specific period. The heat kills harmful bacteria while preserving the nutritional quality of the milk. This process, known as pasteurization, helps keep milk safe for consumption and prevents spoilage.

Typically, chilled raw milk passes between heated stainless steel plates until it reaches 161°F (71.6°C) for at least 15 seconds before it’s immediately cooled back to its original temperature of 39°F (3.8°C). 

What Machine Is Used to Pasteurize Milk?

The machine used to pasteurize milk is the High Temperature Short Time (HTST) pasteurization system. It is a heat exchanger that heats the milk to a minimum of 161°F (72°C) for 15 seconds. Another method is Ultra High Temperature (UHT) pasteurization, which heats the milk to 280°F (138°C) for 2 seconds. Powerblanket offers custom heating solutions for your process.

Here is a table from the Code of Federal Regulations showing the specific times and temperatures for pasteurized milk, sweetened milk, and eggnog.

Equipment used in the pasteurization process includes: 

  • Pasteurization tanks: These are used to heat the milk to the required temperature and hold it for the specified time.
  • Heat exchangers: These devices facilitate the rapid heating and cooling of the milk during the pasteurization process.
  • Flow diverter valves: These valves control the flow of milk during pasteurization, ensuring that it is heated at the correct temperature and for the required duration.

Can small farms afford most of the milk processing equipment mentioned above? Let’s find out.

Dairy Processing on Small Farms

Small dairy farms face unique challenges when purchasing milk processing equipment. They must balance cost and efficiency for their production level. 

Challenges and Solutions for Small Dairy Farms

The two primary challenges for small dairy farms when investing in dairy processing equipment are budget constraints and space limitations. 

However, compact and multifunctional equipment tailored for small-scale operations can help overcome these challenges. Collaborative efforts within the agricultural community can drive costs down. Farmers can share processing facilities and join cooperative equipment purchases. 

What is the Cost of Milk Processing Equipment?

The cost of milk processing equipment varies based on several factors. The size and capacity of the equipment, technological advancements, and additional features such as automation and energy efficiency. 

Here are some examples of the cost of milk processing equipment suitable for small farms:

Small-Scale Milk Processing Equipment

  • Production Milk Factory, Production Line Equipment/Small Scale 500L Pasteurized Milk Processing Line: $150,000.00.
  • Factory Direct Complete Milk Processing Plant, Small Scale Milk Processing Equipment: $22,000.00 – $24,000.00.
  • Milk Pasteurization Equipment, Milk Pasteurization Machine, Small Scale Milk Pasteurization Equipment: $1,485.00.
  • Small Scale Milk Processing Equipment 100 Liters Milk/Juice Sterilizer Milk Pasteurizer/Used Milking Equipment: $2,800.00 – $3,000.00.
  • Professional Small Scale Milk Processing Machine Equipment for Sale: $9,877.00 – $10,000.00.

The equipment is available in a variety of sizes and price ranges, allowing small-scale dairy operations to choose budget-friendly options. 

Diversifying Beyond Milk – Other Dairy Goods

Small dairy farms can expand their product offerings to include various dairy goods such as cheese, yogurt, butter, and ice cream. This expansion opens up new market opportunities and revenue streams. 

By leveraging existing infrastructure, investing in heated tanks for cheese and yogurt production, and additional processing equipment, small dairy farms can meet the growing demand for artisanal and locally sourced dairy goods. Offering more products allows small farms to engage with a broader customer base in the competitive dairy market.

Business and Industry Considerations

Small dairy farms play a significant role in contributing to the growing trend of sustainable and traceable food production. Moreover, trends and innovations in dairy production equipment, such as advanced automation, energy-efficient technologies, and sustainable packaging solutions, are shaping the industry, enhancing productivity and sustainability.

As small dairy farms continue to shape the industry with sustainable and traceable food production, the next question explores the common practice of pasteurizing milk.

Do Dairy Farmers Pasteurize Their Milk? 

Dairy farms, large or small, must pasteurize their milk to meet food safety standards and regulations. Additionally, the Code of Regulations (CFR), Part 1210, states that any imported milk products to the U.S. must be pasteurized. 

While regulations vary by region, many jurisdictions require pasteurization to ensure the safety of dairy products. Small-scale dairy farmers can employ batch pasteurization methods to meet these requirements, ensuring the production of safe and high-quality dairy products.

Choosing the Right Equipment for Your Dairy Processing Needs

When selecting milk cooling tanks, chillers, pasteurizers, custom tank heaters, and other dairy processing equipment, consider these four items:

  1. Capacity and scalability: Ensure the equipment meets current production needs and allows for potential growth.
  2. Energy efficiency: Consider equipment with energy-saving features to minimize operational costs.
  3. Compliance: Verify that the equipment meets industry standards and regulations for food safety and quality.
  4. Maintenance and cleaning: Opt for equipment that is easy to maintain and clean to uphold hygiene standards.

Stainless steel is the best material for dairy production equipment due to its hygienic properties, durability, and resistance to corrosion. 

Balancing Dairy Processing Equipment Cooling and Heating Needs

The appropriate equipment, such as industrial chillers and custom heating solutions, can maintain the optimal temperature control required for dairy production. As dairy processing continues to evolve, explore advanced cooling and heating technologies to optimize production efficiency and product quality.

For those seeking tailored heating solutions, Powerblanket offers custom tank heating blankets designed to fulfill diverse dairy processing needs. Explore our Custom Tank Heated Blankets.

No matter your application, Powerblanket has custom tank heating blankets that can fulfill your needs.


Jen Reyes

Jen Reyes is the Business Development Director for Custom Solutions at Powerblanket. In this role, she works with custom products in all industries to deliver the best possible solution for her clients. With an extensive background in construction and electricity, Jen has a focused knowledge that makes her an invaluable asset to the Powerbanket team. When she's not working, Jen enjoys spending her free time golfing, working out, and spending time camping, fishing, and playing card games with her family.

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