People often ask, “What does goats’ milk taste like?” Short answer: depends on the day. Many things can alter or affect the flavor of the milk. From the breed of the goat to what the goat eats, to their surroundings. Good goats’ milk doesn’t really have a flavor, except sweet. Helga’s milk didn’t start out this way.
We waited to start drinking her milk until we were sure the colostrum was no longer present in the milk. We don’t know for sure, but most folks said 2-3 weeks. We gave it four weeks just to be sure. After waiting, I was so excited to have a glass of fresh milk! OMG IT WAS DISGUSTING! I was shocked! It was nothing like the delicious milk from a friend’s goats. So, I did some digging and applied the following process of elimination to get to our sweet tasting beverage.
SURROUNDINGS: Where we milk and process milk matters. Milk has an uncanny ability to absorb odors. I thought it would be nifty and save on space and infrastructure to have a folding milk stand in the barn. DO NOT DO THIS! My milk was absorbing all the fantastic chicken and goat odors from the barn, which are pretty minimal because we keep a strict barn cleaning schedule. Moving the milking stand outside the barn had an instant improvement but there was still an odd aftertaste.
FEED: The next change we made was their feed. Alfalfa, oats, and black oil sunflower seeds seem to be the top three feed choices for both sweetening and increasing milk production. Now this is something we will have less control of this coming year because of the implementation of our rotational grazing plan. We made the switch, drove a little further to bring in the alfalfa hay, and added the oats and sunflower seeds to Helga’s milking treats. We gave it a week to ensure the flavoring was accurate; and STILL her milk had an off aftertaste.
The final change we could make was in the processing, and that itself is a threefold process. The first being straining and keeping debris out of the milk. I have seen folks with nifty milking pails that have a lid that leaves only a small opening, but for the life of me I could not find them to purchase. I use a short and stout metal bowl and covered it with cheese cloth. As an added measure, I pour the milk through a re-usable coffee filter lined with a paper one to ensure there is no dirt, dust, or hair in the milk. Nope, the odd aftertaste was STILL there.
The second stage of processing was the quick chill. The goal is to drop the temperature of the milk down to a certain level as quickly as possible. There are a few ways to do this; a large ice bath, chilling the milk as it comes from the goat, or the freezer. I tried them all. Having just over a quart of milk to chill at a time I was able to drop the temp fairly quickly. STILL, that blasted aftertaste remained.
The final part of the processing was pasteurization. There are also many ways to accomplish this as well. I won’t go into the step by step, but the gist of them is double boiler, low and slow, or hot and quick. Again, I tried them all and STILL, there was the odd aftertaste. I was discouraged to say the least. To sink all this time, money, and effort to end up with milk no one wanted to drink, was heart breaking. Someone then suggested that I taste the milk fresh right after straining.
This had me nervous. Now, I know ALL the benefits of raw milk. I didn’t grow up with fresh milk, I didn’t even know someone who did. I had really internalized the raw milk terror stories. It took me a few days and the results of a milk test before worked up the nerve. Wouldn’t you know, IT WAS DELICIOUS! I then went through each step a second time but tasted before and after. Turns out, the odd aftertaste is simply the flavor of cooked milk. Needless to say, I do not pasteurize my milk anymore.