Separating Liquid Gold – Part 2 – Operating the Cream Separator

In part one I go through the steps of assembling the cream separator and now I feel that I have had enough experimentation with operating the cream separator that I can share with you how I use it.

Separating raw cream from whole milk can have different outcomes based on many different factors. The main factor I believe is your cow and the time of year and the stages of their lactation. Different breeds produce varied amounts of cream and we have beautiful Jersey cows who at different times of the year give a lot of cream.

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After I finish milking I strain the milk into a milk pail that holds almost three gallons.

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I have found that for cream to whip, for coffee…, I like the thinner consistency which you get when you allow the cream to rise to the top of your jar as it has rested in the refrigerator for a day or so. As you can see, depending on the time of year, I get about 1 and 1/2 quarts of cream in two gallons of milk.

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When I skim cream off the top, instead of using jars, I usually place the milk pail in a cooler with cold water and place plastic water bottles which have been frozen around it to make the water very cold. Overnight the cream has risen to the top of the pail and I skim it off with a large ladle.

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On most days I separate the cream with my new separator and the cream is much thicker than skimming it off the top of the milk.

Once you have assembled the separator, you make sure that the spout is closed and you fill the top container with your warm milk. If you can’t separate directly after milking, just warm your cold milk gently until it reaches a warm body temperature.

Get two mixing bowls, with handles is the easiest, and have them on the side where the skim milk will come out and put a quart jar under the spout where the cream will come out of. Turn on the motor and listen and wait until the spinning revolutions are at their highest speed before you open the spout. You will hear the sound level out at the highest speed, and this is the only time when I grab the entire machine by the neck and hold it firmly, because after you turn the spout and open it so the milk begins to go into the separator, the machine will make a loud noise and jump a little bit. It stays put after that, so you do not need to screw it down to a solid surface like they suggest.

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Through my experimentation I have found that I do not prefer to open up the valve all the way, but only open it about halfway. This way the cream comes out more slowly and does not build up inside the spinning disk as much. Keep an eye on the skim milk in one of your handled bowls and when it is full, slide the empty one under the spout and pour the skim milk back into your milk pail. I experimented a lot with the adjusting screw, as you can see in part one, and found that the cream was way too thick when the screw was in all the way, and I like this setting best. The cream will still flow, but will not back up in the machine too much.

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When you have separated all of your whole milk, wait until the bowl is almost empty, then pour in one of your handled bowls full of the milk that has been skimmed. This way the skim milk will begin to wash out any built up cream that is still inside the separator.

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Then when that has gone through the separator I pour all of the rest of the skim milk back into the separator to go through one more time. This way most of the cream is washed out of the disks and any more cream in the skim milk is extracted as well. You will see that you are only getting skim milk coming out after the cream is gone.

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This is an example when I opened up the valve all the way. The milk passed through the separator much more quickly and when I opened the disk there was a lot of gloppy cream wasted inside that was too thick to pass out.

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Make sure that you either close the valve or wait until the bowl is empty of milk before you turn off the machine this way the disk is clear of most of the milk. It is important to disassemble the machine and clean it right away.

Disassembly is just as assembly except for two tricky parts. The very last disk which is on the metal part with the stem is difficult to remove and you must get a dull butter knife and slip under it to loosen it. It is easiest to do the same for the rubber ring, but be careful not to cut the rubber. The second tricky disassembly is getting the plastic disk out of the top part. The only way I have found to do this is to use a hand whisk I have which has a round handle that fits perfectly above the plastic disk. I hit the hand whisk handle until it forces the plastic disk out of the top of the separating disk.

I usually get a pint or more of thick cream using about 1.5 gallons of whole milk. If it sits in the refrigerator for a few days it will continue to thicken and is absolutely divine.

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Please let me know your questions and I would love to hear from those more seasoned in using a cream separator for more advice. Enjoy!

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14 thoughts on “Separating Liquid Gold – Part 2 – Operating the Cream Separator

    • From my understanding, Lautrec, if the milk is raw, or pasteurized by heat (boiling), but not homogenized, then the cream should still separate out. If the milk was homogenized it will not. If your milk has been boiled (pasteurized) and then refrigerated, it will have to be warmed to app. 98 to 100 degrees (f) before putting into the cream separator. If you are trying to separate after boiling, you would need to cool it down to 98 to 100 before separating.

  1. What is the smallest volume of milk that you have been able to use for separating? I am trying to separate a small volume, like 10-14 oz. Do you think that will work? For using a small volume like that, do you think it’s best to let it run through pretty fast, opening the white valve all the way?

    • I have to admit, I hate washing the separator, so I am sure I would not get it dirty to separate that small amount of milk. But I NEED to rework this post, as I always open up the white valve all the way now, and I use my separator everyday now. I think a couple of years ago, when I first got the machine, I was tinkering with the settings, and also did not realize that each cow’s milk will react differently, and even differently during the stages of their lactation when the volume of their cream changed. But I would always make sure the machine is running at top speed first, then open the valve all the way. 🙂

  2. I am confused. What is the valve to which you are referring when you say you prefer to only open it part way?

    • Hi Cheryl. I have intended to completely rework both of those posts on the cream separator. I did those when I first got the separator, and certainly noticed as I went along, that the separator does work a bit differently considering each cow’s milk and stage of lactation. I did not use it as often, and have learned a great deal now, as I have used it everyday for the last couple of weeks since getting a new cow.
      In any case, the valve I am referring to is the white “stopper” with the hole in it that goes in the milk bowl. I do not open it part way anymore. The “valve” should be closed in the beginning when the bowl is filled with milk, and remain closed while filling the bowl and while the machine is turned on and gets up to speed. Then you turn the valve to the fully open position. Let me know if that makes sense, and if you have any other questions. 🙂

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  4. Thank you very much now my separator
    Works great and u also helped me with
    My old hand crank separator thank you again

    • Oh Ellen, I am so happy! Thanks for letting me know. Now that my dear Annabelle has cut back on her production, I have not had separated cream in a long time, and just skim off the jar now. I sure miss that thick ambrosia! Cheers!

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  6. Hi Jamie! So nice to see you today. Such a hectic dayAllan had to rush off to the cabin as we were told the irrigation ditch had broken it’s bank. Turned into a bigger job than he thought and they have to get back up there tomorrow to fix it..so we have postponed our trip to Lake City to Saturday morning if all goes well. I will let you know and hopefully we will still stop by for a short visit. have a great day! Francie

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