A centrifugation-based clearing method allows high-throughput acidification and growth-rate measurements in milk

Sieze Douwenga, Patrick Janssen, Bas Teusink, Herwig Bachmann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The turbidity of milk prohibits the use of optical density measurements for strain characterizations. This often limits research to laboratory media. Here, we cleared milk through centrifugation to remove insoluble milk solids. This resulted in a clear liquid phase, termed milk serum, in which optical density measurements can be used to track microbial growth until a pH of 5.2 is reached. At pH 5.2 coagulation of the soluble protein occurs, making the medium opaque again. We found that behavior in milk serum was predictive of that in milk for 39 Lactococcus lactis (R2 = 0.81) and to a lesser extent for 42 Lactiplantibacillus plantarum (formerly Lactobacillus plantarum; R2 = 0.49) strains. Hence, milk serum can be used as an optically clear alternative to milk for comparison of microbial growth and metabolic characteristics. Characterization of the growth rate, specific acidification rate for optical density at a wavelength of 600 nm, and the amount of acid produced per unit of biomass for all these strains in milk serum, showed that almost all strains could grow in milk, with higher specific acidification and growth rates of Lc. lactis strains compared with Lb. plantarum strains. Nondairy Lc. lactis isolates had a lower growth and specific acidification rate than dairy isolates. The amount of acid produced per unit biomass was relatively high and similar for Lc. lactis dairy and nondairy isolates, as opposed to Lb. plantarum isolates. Lactococcus lactis ssp. lactis showed slightly lower growth and acidification rates when compared with ssp. cremoris. For Lc. lactis strains a doubling of the specific acidification rate occurred with a doubling of the maximum growth rate. This relation was not found for Lb. plantarum strains, where the acidification rate remained relatively constant across 39 strains with growth rates ranging from 0.2 h−1 to 0.3 h−1. We conclude that milk serum is a valuable alternative to milk for high-throughput strain characterization during milk fermentation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8530-8540
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number8
Early online date30 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Bas Spanhaak (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) for laboratory assistance at the onset of this study. The project was organized by and executed under the auspices of TiFN, a public-private partnership on precompetitive research in food and nutrition. Funding for this research was obtained from Friesland Campina (Wageningen, the Netherlands), CSK Food Enrichment (Wageningen, the Netherlands) and the Top-sector Agri and Food. The public partners were responsible for the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, and preparation of the manuscript. The private partners have contributed to the project through regular discussion. Herwig Bachman and Patrick Janssen were employed by NIZO Food Research. The remaining authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Dairy Science Association

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • acidification rate
  • growth rate
  • milk clearing
  • milk serum
  • optical density


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