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Milk is a buffer solution

Milk contains a large number of substances which can act either as weak acids or as weak bases,
e.g. lactic acid, citric acid and phosphoric acid and their respective salts: lactates, citrates and
phosphates. In chemistry, such a system is called a buffer solution because, within certain limits,
the pH value remains constant when acids or bases are added. This effect can be explained by the
characteristic qualities of the proteins.
When milk is acidified, a large number of hydrogen ions (H+) are added. These ions are almost
all bound to the amino groups in the side chains of the amino acids, forming
NH3+ ions. The pH value, however, is hardly affected at all, as the increase in the concentration
of free hydrogen ions is very small.
When a base is added to milk, the hydrogen ions (H+) in the COOH groups of the side chains are
released, forming a COO group. Because of this, the pH value remains more or less constant,
see figure 2.38. The more base that is added, the greater the number of hydrogen ions released.
Other milk constituents also have this ability to bind or release ions, and the pH value therefore
changes very slowly when acids or bases are added.
Almost all of the buffering capacity is utilized in milk that is already acidic due to long storage at
high temperatures. In such a case it takes only a small addition of acid to change the pH value

Fig. 2.37

If an alkali is added to acid the pH of the solution rises immediately there is no

buffering action.

Fig. 2.38

If an alkali is added to milk the pH changes very slowly there is a considerable buffering action
in milk.
Minerals and salts in milk
Milk contains a number of minerals. The total concentration is less than 1 %. Mineral salts occur
in solution in milk serum or in casein compounds. The most important salts are those of calcium,
sodium, potassium and magnesium. They occur as phosphates, chlorides, citrates and caseinates.
Potassium and calcium salts are the most abundant in normal milk. The amounts of salts present
are not constant. Towards the end of lactation, and even more so in the case of udder disease, the
sodium chloride content increases and gives the milk a salty taste, while the amounts of other
salts are correspondingly reduced