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The first step is milk coagulation achieved by actions of enzymes (addition of rennet) or by acidifying actions of lactic bacteria. Micelles of milk caseins then aggregate forming a gel called coagulum.
The second step is to separate milk from the curds. The water phase separated from the curds is whey.
In the cheese industry, the curds is then used separately to manufacture cheese.
Whey contains 94% of water, globular proteins that have very interesting nutritional properties thanks to their high composition in essential amino acids (the most impotant are β-lactoglobuline and α-lactalbumine), minerals (calcium, phosphorus and sodium) and vitamins (thiamine-B1, riboflavine-B2 and pyridoxine-B6).
Dairy industry has long considered whey as an overly burdensome residual ingredient of cheese manufacturing. Indeed to manufacture 1 kg of cheese, you’ll need 10 litres of milk and will as a result produce around 9 litres of whey!
Consequently in the 1970s, whey was mostly used to feed cattle. Technical progresses have allowed to exploit nutritional and functional value of whey. Concentration and drying offer nowadays a broad variety of whey powder: sweet whey, acid whey, demineralised whey.
Whey powder is mostly used: