How It Works: Cream Separator

Cream separators utilized centrifugal force to separate the cream from milk

| May 2012

  • Vintage Cream Separator
    Vintage cream separators on display along with related collectibles: cream and milk cans, oil cans and racks used when cleaning separators, a particularly tedious chore.
  • Dairy Business
    The use of a pretty face has a long and successful history in the field of commercial art. Here, the image of a sweet country girl is used to market cream separators.
  • Cream From Milk
    In an effort to compete with foreign imports, some American manufacturers emphasized their domestic origins, going so far as to name the brand the United States cream separator.
  • Centrifugal Force
    This cut-away illustration shows how centrifugal force causes skim milk to pass outward through the spaces between the discs in thin sheets, while cream is passed upward along the inner ends of the discs. Each is then collected separately and dispensed through the appropriate spouts.
  • Cream Separators
    So simple a child can use it: Ease of operation was a familiar (if not always accurate) claim made by cream separator manufacturers.
  • Cream Separator Equipment
    Built by Anker-Holth Mfg. Co., Port Huron, Mich., this self-balancing bowl cream separator was available in five sizes “adapted to any sized herd — from two to 100 cows.”
  • Vintage Cream Separator Ad
    Most companies offered several sizes of cream separators. Tabletop models were a popular alternative to the full-size unit, as shown in this ad from a publication in Australia.
  • Easy Application of Centrifugal Force
    Prior to development of the Alpha disc separator, which used a series of discs to continuously separate cream and skim milk, whole milk was either whirled in containers or spun in a hollow cylinder from which skim milk could be drawn off from the outside circumference.

  • Vintage Cream Separator
  • Dairy Business
  • Cream From Milk
  • Centrifugal Force
  • Cream Separators
  • Cream Separator Equipment
  • Vintage Cream Separator Ad
  • Easy Application of Centrifugal Force

There were a lot of things I looked at with wonder while growing up on a farm in Kansas. One of the most intriguing was the cream separator. Every morning and evening, my parents poured the produce from 20 cows through the separator, which instantly divided cream from milk. The cream flowed into cans destined for town; the milk went into buckets that were dumped into a hog trough.

By the time I was in high school, though, the cream business had disappeared, along with any use for the cream separator. From that point on, area farmers adapted to the market for whole milk or got out of the dairy business. It’s no surprise, then, that most people today have never seen a cream separator work, let alone know how it works. Simply put, the separator uses centrifugal force.

Putting gravity to work

In its raw form, milk contains a mixture of large and small butterfat particles held in suspension because they weigh less than the other parts of whole milk. It’s not unlike drops of oil mixed with water.

In both cases, lighter material rises to the top when the mixture is left standing. Consequently, when whole milk sits for some time, the heavier skim milk gradually settles to the bottom of the container, while the lighter butterfat rises to the top.



The earliest methods of cream separation involved gravity. In one early method, milk was poured into shallow pans (2 to 4 inches deep) known as setting pans. The pans were placed in a cool, clean room for 36 hours, allowing the cream to rise to the top. At that point, it was skimmed by hand with a tool called a cream skimmer.

This method made it difficult to handle large amounts of milk. As much as 30 percent of the cream was left behind. What’s more, if the milk wasn’t properly stored, the cream could easily sour.



SUBSCRIBE TO FARM COLLECTOR TODAY!

Farm Collector April 16Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

Save Even More Money with our SQUARE-DEAL Plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our SQUARE-DEAL automatic renewal savings plan. You'll get 12 issues of Farm Collector for only $24.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and send me one year of Farm Collector for just $29.95.




Facebook Pinterest YouTube

Classifieds