What Is a Whey Separator?

a whey separator

A whey separator is one of the key pieces of dairy processing equipment that enables producers to separate milk and cream. It does this by centrifugal force, a process that involves spinning a mixture of different densities to segregate them into streams. In the case of milk, this means separating butterfat from water and particulates such as cell matter and bacteria spores.

The earliest separators were manual machines that used centrifugal force to spin the mixture within a rotating drum. This drum had conical disk stacks that were spun by a handle that was turned manually to rotate the worm gear mechanism. This created a centrifugal force thousands of times stronger than gravity. The result was that the heavier fat within the milk was pushed to the center of the disc stacks, and the lighter skimmed milk floated to the outside edges. This was an early version of what we now call a separator, and it was used on small farms to separate the milk that would be consumed as cream or sold for other purposes such as feeding calves or pigs.

Today, separators are far more advanced and operate automatically. They are also much faster than the original separators, and they can be used to do more than just separate milk and cream. They are able to clean the liquid ingredients of impurities and foreign material, and they can even help to clarify raw or vat milk before it is shipped for further processing.

Separators are used in a variety of dairy applications including butter making, cheese production and anhydrous butter centrifuge enrichment. They can be used to separate both warm and chilled milk. They are often used to make high-quality butter, and they can be configured in a way that allows for the ejection of only the desired amount of fat from the milk stream.

A separator’s ability to regulate the fat content of milk is especially valuable in a commercial setting. Milk quality varies between sources and can be affected by the type of animal, feed, weather conditions and other factors that are out of the producer’s control. A separator can standardize the fat content of the milk to ensure that all of the batches of milk produced in a factory have similar levels of butterfat.

A good quality separator is designed with hermetic seals to prevent air from contaminating the product. This reduces energy use, saves on maintenance costs and lowers the risk of foaming or other undesirable effects that can occur with non-hermetic separator designs. GEA’s line of skimming separators uses the hydrohermetic technology of the proplus system to improve separation performance up to six-fold compared to traditional skimming separators, while maintaining the quality of the resulting skim milk. This translates into increased product yield and cost savings for the dairy processor. This is particularly true if the milk is to be further processed into other products such as cheese or ice cream. This is why many dairy producers are turning to GEA’s hermetic separators to maximize the return on their investment in this piece of machinery.