Author Topic: The mystery of flocculation  (Read 1472 times)

Offline scasnerkay

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The mystery of flocculation
« on: February 08, 2012, 12:42:53 AM »
I realize there have been many discussions on this topic, but I still find it hard to understand and difficult to determine the point of flocculation. I tried putting a toothpick on top of the milk, but could not see that yielding any info. I have not figured out what size or weight of bowl to use to try spinning it. I have tried slipping a knife into the milk at varied times into the process of coagulation to tell if I could see a difference in how the milk comes off the knife. But I find it very unclear. So I tried pressing the flat side of a knife gently against the top of the milk in the horizontal plane, and at a certain time, it seems like the knife leaves an impression of itself. Would that also be the time of flocculation?
I also am not clear on what multiplier to use for different varieties. Or how a different mulitplier effects the make of the cheese.
Susan


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Offline linuxboy

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Re: The mystery of flocculation
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2012, 12:48:48 AM »
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I still find it hard to understand and difficult to determine the point of flocculation.
When the surface seizes. Read through the original discussion that Francois and I had, which was the first talk of floc on this board.

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I have not figured out what size or weight of bowl to use to try spinning it.
Read the original thread. Use any bowl that floats, or something like a small yogurt container.

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I have tried slipping a knife into the milk at varied times into the process of coagulation to tell if I could see a difference in how the milk comes off the knife. But I find it very unclear.
When the milk seizes, when the floccules become really large right before it seizes, that's a good way to tell. The surface will seize up.
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So I tried pressing the flat side of a knife gently against the top of the milk in the horizontal plane, and at a certain time, it seems like the knife leaves an impression of itself. Would that also be the time of flocculation?
Too objective IMHO. You have to know the point of seizing.
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I also am not clear on what multiplier to use for different varieties. Or how a different mulitplier effects the make of the cheese.
Please search. Several dozen threads cover this at length.
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Offline MrsKK

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Re: The mystery of flocculation
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2012, 09:14:59 AM »
Some people use the flocculation method, some don't.  I personally prefer to use clean break.  For me, it was one of the toughest things to figure out when I was starting with cheese making, but I tend to rely more on my senses than scientific methods and I don't mind when my cheese isn't always identical to the previous batch.

To test for clean break, insert about 3-4 inches of the blade of a table knife straight down into the curd.  Gently pivot the blade towards the surface of the curd, with the flat of the blade coming up.  If the curd separates cleanly when the blade is just a bit below the surface (think Moses and the Red Sea), then you have reached clean break.  There may be a few wet crumbs left on your knife, but that's okay.  If the curd is still really mushy, wait another 15 minutes, then test again in a different part of the kettle.

Different people find that different methods work for them.  That's the nice thing about having so many people on this forum - you keep the things that work for you and come up with a whole set of your own favorite methods.

Offline Boofer

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Re: The mystery of flocculation
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2012, 10:22:38 AM »
Forum member Wayne did a video sometime back which does a pretty good job illustrating the technique.

Flocculation.

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Offline linuxboy

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Re: The mystery of flocculation
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2012, 11:22:50 AM »
It's not that mysterious IMHO. Take a floating container. Float it. Push it once in a while or send it into a gentle spin. When you push it and it no longer goes, that's flocculation. If you're off by 10-20 seconds, not the end of the world, still more accurate than the subjective clean break.
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Offline Sailor Con Queso

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Re: The mystery of flocculation
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2012, 07:36:39 PM »
Obviously many home cheesemakers use the "clean break" method. But as LB suggested, it's a very subjective approach. I find that there are two major problems that the flocculation method will correct.

1- Flocculation tells you a lot about what's going on with the milk and more importantly milk/rennet relationships. As milk changes throughout the year, you will see this by changing flocculation times. Then you can adjust your rennet up or down to produce more consistent cheese. I see about a 50% difference in rennet between Winter & Summer milk. Not a small error if you don't adapt to changing milk.

2- Clean Break is a constant over time and doesn't really accommodate change according to the moisture needs of a given cheese. The basic concept here is that the longer the curd sets, the more moisture that gets trapped in the curd, and the finished cheese will have more moisture. If all you are using is clean break, then it is very difficult to know how to adjust. As an example, let's look at a blue cheese using standard rennet addition. Suppose you get a clean break at 35 minutes. Do you cut the curds? Absolutely not. For most blues I wait 90 minutes to 2 hours. Or take a simple Mozzarella. Wait well past the clean break if you want a moist fresh Mozz. At the other end of the spectrum are the granna Italian types. Use a shorter floc multiplier and cut early if you want a nice dry, hard Parmesan.

There are guidelines, but there's no such thing as the "right" floc multiplier. It's just one of many tools that controls moisture and texture.
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Offline NimbinValley

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Re: The mystery of flocculation
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2012, 07:57:50 PM »
I like Linuxboy's floating cup to determine flocculation but I was taught in Australia to dip a broad spatula into the milk every couple of minutes, withdraw it and turn it so the flat side is facing down (and the other side is facing up) Rock it back and forth and observe the thin film of milk run over the surface.  At floc it will start to look grainy and then take on the appearance of orange peel.

After a while you will learn what a typical floc time will be and need only start dipping the blade into the milk a few minutes before floc is expected.

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Offline scasnerkay

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Re: The mystery of flocculation
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2012, 10:23:11 PM »
So when I manage to figure out what flocculation looks like, how will this help me to try and correct my primary complaint in my cheesemaking which is.... Dry and crumbly when I would like melty and smooth....  From the message that Sailor posted, it sounds like I should use a larger multiplier rather than a smaller one!
Susan

Offline Sailor Con Queso

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Re: The mystery of flocculation
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2012, 11:06:04 PM »
IMHO, the "spinning bowl" is easy and the least subjective way to test flocculation. If the bowl won't spin, there is no doubt. No guessing.

Dry and crumbly is a result of many factors throughout your make. Milk quality, too much starter, over rippening, too much rennet, inadequate floc time, curd size, proper stirring, proper cooking, low pH at draining and/or hooping, over pressing, even the temperature of the room where you are pressing (faster acidification) ... All contribute.

Scas - It's difficult to give you specific advice without details about the cheese and your make. However, flocculation time and multiplier is a good place to start. Reducing your starter can also be a big help, but it helps to use a pH meter to be sure that you are hitting the right targets.

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Offline NimbinValley

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Re: The mystery of flocculation
« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2012, 04:14:52 AM »
I agree a pH meter is a must.  Not saying it can't be done without one - it just means that you are going to need a great deal of experience which you are probably not going to have upfront.  Science is a great 'stand in' for experience until you gain it.

NVD.


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