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Food Chemistry 114 (2009) 905–911

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Food Chemistry
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/foodchem

The effect of thermosonication of milk on selected physicochemical

and microstructural properties of yoghurt gels during fermentation
Joerg Riener, Francesco Noci, Denis A. Cronin *, Desmond J. Morgan, James G. Lyng
UCD School of Agriculture Food Science and Veterinary Medicine, College of Life Sciences, UCD Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Yoghurt cultures (0.1, 1.5 and 3.5% fat) were prepared from milk which was preheated to 45 °C and sub-
Received 18 April 2008 jected to thermosonication (TS) for 10 min at an ultrasound amplitude of 24 kHz. Compared to conven-
Received in revised form 1 September 2008 tional yoghurts prepared from preheated (90 °C, 10 min) milk, cultures from TS milk at similar fat
Accepted 20 October 2008
contents had higher gelation pH values, greater viscosities and higher water holding capacities (WHC).
On average, yoghurts from TS treated milks with 1.5 or 3.5% fat had almost 2 fold greater WHC and
25% higher G’ values than conventionally produced yoghurt. Electron microscopy showed differences
in the microstructure, with TS yoghurt having a honeycomb like network and exhibiting a more porous
nature. These characteristics are absent in conventional yoghurts. In addition, the average particle size in
Viscosity TS yoghurts was smaller (<1 lm) than in conventional yoghurts.
Water holding capacity Ó 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction manufacturing uses the same basic procedure with the exception
of the fermentation step. There are two types of plain yoghurt,
To satisfy a growing consumer demand for high quality food, a one which is stirred after fermentation (stirred style) to produce
range of novel technologies have been examined in recent years to a semi-liquid consistency, while the other is not stirred and the
assess their potential for the safe processing and preservation of end product has a firm gel structure (set style).
foods. One such technology, which could be of benefit in the manu- Before the milk is inoculated with the starter culture fat glob-
facture of cultured milk products such as yoghurt, is ultrasonication, ules are homogenised so as to enhance yoghurt consistency and
since it offers the possibility of combining homogenisation and pas- prevent serum separation in the final product (Tamime & Robin-
teurisation of milk in a single operation prior to inoculation with son, 1999). Flavour and a smooth textural consistency in the mouth
starter culture. High intensity ultrasound (60.1 MHz, 10– during consumption are key aspects of quality in yoghurt. Mouth-
1000 W cm2) can be applied on its own, in combination with feel and body in the texture in yoghurt gels result from a protein
moderate heat (thermosonication, TS) or combined with heat and network formed by casein strings and or clusters which entrap ser-
pressure (manothermosonication, MTS) (Mason, Riera, Vercet, & Lo- um and fat globules (Kalab, Allan-Wojtas, & Phipps-Todd, 1983).
pez-Buesa, 2005). Several review articles have been published Interactions between these components have been reviewed by
describing applications of ultrasound in the food industry including Lucey, Teo, Munro, and Singh (1998). To obtain good textural qual-
its antimicrobial potential (Knorr, Zenker, Heinz, & Lee, 2004; Mason, ity and stability in the commercial production of yoghurt a rela-
1999; Mason, Paniwnyk, & Lorimer, 1996; Piyasena, Mohareb, & tively severe (eg. 90–95 °C for 10 min) pre-inoculation heat
McKellar, 2003; Zenker, 2004). Quality improvements in dairy prod- treatment of milk, which will bring about fairly extensive denatur-
ucts by employing ultrasound for cleaning of equipment, homogeni- ation of whey proteins, is required (Parnell-Clunies, Kakuda, & De-
sation of milk, inactivation of bacteria and enzymes etc were man, 1986). The potential of ultrasonication to further positively
reported by Villamiel, Van Hamersveld, and De Jong (1999). The influence textural and other physiochemical properties of yoghurt
same group described the use of thermosonication to denature cer- gels has been described in two studies. Wu, Hulbert, and Mount
tain enzymes and whey proteins in milk (Villamiel & De Jong, 2000). (2001) showed that compared to non-sonicated controls, yoghurts
Yoghurt is a coagulated milk product obtained by lactic acid fer- prepared from milk subjected to high amplitude ultrasound treat-
mentation, through the action of microorganisms. All yoghurt ment had significantly improved water holding capacities, viscosi-
ties and reduced syneresis. Vercet, Oria, Marquina, Crelier, and
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +353 1 7167709; fax: +353 1 7161147. Lopez-Buesa (2002) found that yoghurts prepared from milk sub-
E-mail address: denis.cronin@ucd.ie (D.A. Cronin). jected to mild thermosonication (MTS) had stronger structures that

0308-8146/$ - see front matter Ó 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
906 J. Riener et al. / Food Chemistry 114 (2009) 905–911

were significantly different to conventionally processed yoghurt. In ture (Yogotherm Yogurt Culture 77570, Abasia, St. Hyacinthe, Qué-
both of the above studies the milk samples were subjected to a tra- bec – Canada). The mixture was stirred for 2 min and then 16 ml of
ditional thermal treatment (90–95 °C for 6–10 min) prior to soni- the mixture was transferred to a rheometer. The remaining 184 ml
cation, so the textural and other properties of both control and was heated separately in a water bath at 40 °C where pH change
sonicated yoghurt gels were obviously strongly influenced by the was monitored.
extensive degree of protein denaturation occurring in the thermal
treatment. The objectives of the present study were two fold: (a) to 2.5. Chemical analysis
compare rheological and other physicochemical properties of yo-
ghurt prepared from conventionally heat treated milk, with yo- The protein, fat, total solids, total acidity and ash content of the
ghurt obtained from thermosonicated milk which was not given milks were determined according to the association of official
a traditional heat treatment prior to sonication and (b) to examine analytical chemists (AOAC) methods (1995). The degree of protein
the influence of fat content on the above properties in yoghurts denaturation in conventionally heated and thermosonicated milks
prepared from thermosonicated full, reduced fat and skim milks. was determined by measuring the non-casein nitrogen in 20 ml
aliquots of milk after precipitation of the casein fraction at pH
2. Materials and methods 4.2 (IDF Method 29-1 (2004)).

2.1. Milk supply 2.6. Determination of size distribution of milk fat globules

Freshly delivered pasteurised homogenised milk samples with Fat-globule size was determined by laser-light scattering using
different fat contents were obtained from a local dairy processor a Malvern Mastersizer (Malvern Instruments Ltd., UK) fitted with a
and processed on the same day. Compositional and other data on small-volume presentation unit (MS1) and a 300RF lens. This al-
these milks (measured as described in 2.4 and 2.5 below) are shown lowed the distribution of the fat globules in the range of 0.05–
in Table 1. A two stage homogenizer (150 bar first stage, 50 bar sec- 800 lm diameter in milk to be determined. Laser alignment was
ond stage) was used to homogenize the milks giving a mean fat glob- performed in mQ water. Each sample was measured by diluting
ule size of 0.4 lm (max. 2 lm for unhomogenised full cream milk) (1:1 vol.) with 35 mM EDTA/NaOH, pH 7.0 buffer, to dissociate
and milks were pasteurised (72 °C, 15 s) within 12 h of collection. casein micelles and aggregates and then dispersing a small volume
in the sample unit containing 100 ml mQ water.
2.2. Thermosonication
2.7. pH-measurement
Thermosonication treatments were carried out using an ultra-
sonic processor (UP 400S, Hielscher, Germany) working at a con- The pH change during fermentation was recorded at 10 min
stant frequency of 24 kHz. The processor was fitted with an intervals at 40 °C using a pH meter (Model No 9450, Unicam Ltd.,
ultrasonic probe (Horn H22D) which had a 22 mm diameter tip. Cambridge, England). All pH measurements were performed in
Milk samples (200 ml) of varying fat content were transferred to triplicate.
a 250 ml beaker fitted with a recirculating water jacket and equil-
ibrated for 5 min at a temperature of 45 °C. The ultrasound probe 2.8. Rheological measurements
was immersed in the centre of the beaker to a depth of 30 mm.
Treatment time was 10 min of a continuous application of ultra- Changes in the rheological properties during culturing were
sound with a power output of 400 W for milk samples. Milk tem- monitored on a Bohlin GEMINI 200 HR NANO rheometer (Bohlin
perature increased to 72 °C over the first 6 min of sonication and Instruments UK, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England) using a
thereafter remained constant. After processing the sample was cup and bob geometry with a gap size of 15 mm. The cup and
cooled and stored at 4 °C for a maximum of 6 h prior to culturing. bob were disinfected with ethanol (70% (v/v)) before inoculated
milk was added to the rheometer. An evaporation barrier was used
2.3. Conventional heat treatment to prevent moisture loss during the experiment.
Initial measurements involved monitoring gelation as the milk
For preparation of control yoghurts, milk samples with different began to settle. The samples were oscillated at a frequency of
fat contents were heated to 90 °C, held for 10 min at this temper- 0.1 Hz at 30 °C. Measurements were taken at 10 min intervals for
ature in a water bath and then cooled rapidly to 4 °C. The milks 7 h. Gelation was defined as the point at which the storage modu-
were inoculated with starter culture within 6 h. lus (G0 ) was P1 Pa (Lucey & Singh, 1997). After 7 h the effect of the
time scale of the applied strain on the rheological properties of the
2.4. Yoghurt preparation set gel was determined by varying the frequency from 0.01 to
10 Hz at 40 °C. The effect of temperature on the rheological prop-
Aliquots of the processed milks (200 ml) were equilibrated at erties of selected samples of the set gels were determined by
40 °C and inoculated with 1 g of commercial yoghurt starter cul- reducing the temperature from 40 to 4 °C at a rate of 1 °C min1
while monitoring the rheological properties at approximately
1 °C intervals. The effect of the time scale of the applied strain on
Table 1 the rheological properties of the set gel at 5 °C was determined
Characteristics of milks used.
by varying the strain from 0.010 to 0.400.
Fat content (%)
0.1 1.5 3.5 2.9. Water holding capacity
Total solids (%) 8 9.5 11.6
Protein content (%) 3.2 3.1 3.0 To measure the water holding capacity (WHC) an adapted ver-
Fat (%) 0.1 1. 5 3.5 sion of the centrifuge method described by Parnell-Clunies et al.
Ash (%) 0.8 0.8 0.8 (1986) was used. Samples (2  25 g) from each batch were
Titratable acidity (%)a 0.12 0.12 0.14
weighed in centrifuge tubes and incubated together at 40 °C, after
Expressed as lactic acid. which the set gels were stored for two days at 4 °C. The tubes were
J. Riener et al. / Food Chemistry 114 (2009) 905–911 907

centrifuged at 3000 g for 10 min at 4 °C. The whey was separated treated milks, it was important to first evaluate the degree of par-
from the pellets by decanting and the latter were then reweighed. ticle size reduction achieved during thermosonication of a range of
milks of differing fat levels. Particle size data on the milk fat glob-
Weight of drained pellet
WHC ¼  100 ules are presented in Table 2. Compared to the untreated product,
weight of sample
the fat globule size was unaffected in milk exposed to 90 °C heat
for 10 min, while the TS conditions used produced approximately
2.10. Scanning electron microscopy a 2.5 fold reduction in globule size, as 90% of the particles were
in the 0.5–0.6 lm diameter range for thermosonicated reduced
A Cryo-SEM (JEOL JSM-5410LV Scanning Microscope, JEOL and full fat milks compared to 1.4 lm for the commercially
Instruments, Tokyo, Japan) was used to examine the microstruc- homogenised untreated milks. The globule size dimensions of the
ture of the yoghurts following preparation in a cryo system (Oxford TS samples were in fact quite close to those obtained by Ertugay,
Instruments Cryo Preparation System CT 1500, Oxford Instru- Sengul, and Sengul (2004), who used the same equipment and pro-
ments, Oxford, England). Specimens were transferred (under vac- cessing times with unhomogenised milk.
uum at 180 °C) to the cryo chamber. The samples were
sublimed at 85 °C, sputter-coated with gold (3 mA, 2 min) at 3.2. pH-development in cultures
180 °C under an Argon rich atmosphere and then introduced to
the microscope chamber where they were examined using an As indicated in Table 3 pH development was somewhat differ-
accelerating voltage of 15 kV, and a spot size of about 9 nm. ent in the cultured thermosonicated milks compared to their con-
ventionally processed counterparts. For the TS milks gelation pH
2.11. Statistical analysis values of 5.7, 5.9 and 6.3 (mean, 5.96) for skim, reduced and full
fat milks respectively were significantly higher (P > 0.05) than
Data relating to yoghurt characteristics were analysed as a 2  3 those of the conventional samples, where the respective values
factorial design with treatment and fat content as main factors. All were 5.3, 5.5 and 5.6 (mean, 5.46).
comparisons between the groups of data were performed using The data show that while fat level had only a minor effect on
Genstat (Version 8.1, VSN International, Hemel Hempstead, United gelation pH in conventionally heated milks, an increase in the gela-
Kingdom). The level of significance was set at 95% and Sigmaplot tion pH values with increasing fat content was quite pronounced in
(Version 8.2 SYSTAT, Point Richmond, CA, USA) was used for the the case of the TS milks. The TS treatment would therefore appear
graphical representation. All measurements were performed in to have created a somewhat less favourable environment for the
triplicate. active culture than preheating at 90 °C with the effect being ampli-
fied by the presence of increasing amounts of small (<1 lm) sized
fat particles. In contrast to the present study where thermal effects
3. Results and discussion on control and sonicated milks were quite different, as discussed
further below, other investigations have indicated variable effects
3.1. Particle size analysis of sonication on fermentation in cases where both milks had re-
ceived the same relatively severe heat treatment. For example,
Although ultrasonication has been reported to inactivate en- an inhibitory effect on culture activity was noted by Vercet et al.
zymes and microorganisms, homogenisation is regarded by some (2002) who found that fermentation of MTS-treated milk took
as the most promising application of this technology in dairy pro- 10–20% longer than that of a control milk. By contrast, Wu et al.
cessing (Villamiel et al., 1999). Since the main focus of the present (2001) found fermentation to be accelerated, especially at the later
study was to compare physicochemical and microstructural prop- stages of the process, when sonication was applied without heat
erties of yoghurts prepared from conventionally heated and TS or pressure. Conventional heat treatment of milk for yoghurt

Table 2
Average fat globule diameters as determined using the Malvern Mastersizer.

Particle size (lm) representing specified % of fat globules Conventional fat content (%) Thermosonicated fat content (%) Treatment Fat content
0.1 1.5 3.5 0.1 1.5 3.5 SED Pa SED Pa
90% 0.7 1.4 1.4 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.15 * 0.15 *
50% 0.5 0.7 0.8 0.3 0.4 0.4 0.05 ** 0.05 *

SED: standard error of difference.

* and ** refer to P < 0.05 and P < 0.01, respectively.

Table 3
Properties of yoghurts made from milk heated at 90 °C for 10 min or thermosonicated for 10 min at 45 °C.

Conventional fat content (%) Thermosonicated fat content (%) Treatment Fat content Treatment  fat content
0.1 1.5 3.5 0.1 1.5 3.5 SED Pc SED P P
Gelation timea (min) 194 189 194 189 187 189 1.0 NS 1.2 NS NS
Gelationa pH 5.3 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.9 6.3 0.06 * 0.07 * NS
Storage modulusb, G0 , (Pa) 228 230 423 317 385 564 20.1 * 24.6 ** NS
WHC (%) -d 42 42 46 76 89 4.2 ** 5.1 * NS

SED: standard error of difference.

Gelation time was defined as the point when gels had a G0 P 1 Pa.
G0 , value at 7 h.
* and ** refer to P < 0.05 and P < 0.01, respectively.
Not measurable.
908 J. Riener et al. / Food Chemistry 114 (2009) 905–911

production leads to extensive denaturation of whey proteins and are summarised in Table 3. Conventional and TS gels had similar
can have complex effects on fermentation time. The process may gelation times of approximately 190 min but, as previously dis-
be either stimulated or inhibited depending on the time and tem- cussed, the TS cultures had much higher gelation pH values for
perature conditions used in the pre-culture thermal treatment of both skim and fat containing milks. Further work is required to
the milk (Tamime & Robinson, 1999). It is worth noting that US establish the reasons for the latter, which could be due to the ef-
and TS have been found to reduce fermentation time if applied fects of TS on the activity of the culture, the buffering ability of
during the fermentation process, a phenomenon that has been the milk protein system or a combination of both. In measuring
ascribed to stimulation of activity of fermentative enzymes gel firmness the G0 versus time curves had similar shapes, with
(Sakakibara, Wang, Ikeda, & Suzuki, 1994). an initial period where the G0 was low, then a period of rapid in-
crease followed by a plateau with few subsequent changes
3.3. Rheological properties and microstructure (Fig. 1). Except for yoghurts from conventionally heated skim and
reduced fat milk, which displayed almost identical G0 values, the
The rheological properties of the experimental yoghurt gels as a latter increased as a function of fat content for all the yoghurt sam-
function of time are shown in Fig. 1 and key gelation parameters ples and were significantly higher (P < 0.01) for the TS compared to
the conventionally prepared yoghurts (Fig. 1, Table 3). Lucey
(2004) reported that heat treatments above about 75 °C markedly
increased G0 values and the gelation pH of yoghurt cultures relative
A 600
to those from unheated milk. Similarly, gels made from a reconsti-
Storage Moduli, G',G'' [Pa]

tuted skim milk had a markedly lower G0 than gels prepared from
reconstituted skim powder treated 80 °C for 30 min (Lucey &
400 Singh, 1997).
While the thermal treatment of milk in the present study was
300 similar to that recommended industrially to give a good gel struc-
ture in conventional yoghurt production, it is of interest that the
200 less thermally severe TS treatment produced an even firmer struc-
ture in the resulting yoghurt. The reasons for this are not com-
100 pletely clear. Viscosity is a very important characteristic of
yoghurt and is directly related to its physical structure, which is
0 based on strings or clusters of casein micelles interacting physi-
0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 cally with each other and with denatured serum proteins entrap-
ping serum and fat globules (Lucey, 2004).
Time [min] While it is common commercial practice to supplement milk
with dairy solids in combination with suitable heat treatments
B 600 and homogenisation to obtain higher viscosity yoghurts, this strat-
egy was not used in the present study. The importance of extensive
Storage Moduli, G',G'' [Pa]

500 thermal denaturation of whey proteins for the attainment of a

good gel structure in conventional yoghurt production is well
established (Villamiel et al., 1999). However, a high level of dena-
turation of this type would not appear to be quite as important in
relation to the firmness of the TS derived yoghurt gels. In the skim,
200 reduced and full fat milk samples used in this study the level of
whey protein denaturation was 49.1, 49.3 and 52.2%, respectively
100 for the heat treated milk (90 °C, 10 min) while the corresponding
values for milk subjected to TS for 10 min at 400 W were much
0 lower at 26.0, 26.9 and 28.1%, respectively. It is therefore reason-
0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 able to suggest that the molecular interactions involved in forming
Time [min] and stabilising gel structures in yoghurt from TS treated milks are
somewhat different from those operating in conventionally heated
milk. The higher G0 value of the gels from the TS skim milks
C 600
(317 Pa) compared to their heat treated counterparts (228 Pa) indi-
Storage Moduli, G',G'' [Pa]

500 cated the presence of a significant effect of sonication on the phys-

ical properties of the milk proteins. It is possible that the treatment
400 was able to promote some dissociation of casein micelles into sub-
units which, during culturing, were able to form strong networks
300 by re-aggregating strongly with each other and possibly to some
degree with partially denatured whey proteins. Reinforcement of
200 the coagulated protein aggregates by association with the large
numbers of small (<1 lm) fat globules present in the yoghurts
100 from the TS treated fat containing milks is probably the main factor
responsible for the increased firmness of these products.
0 Differences in rheological properties and pH changes during fer-
0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400
mentation strongly suggested different structural configurations
Time [min] within the gels. Therefore, the microstructure was investigated in
Fig. 1. Dynamic moduli storage, G0 (solid symbols) and loss, G00 (hollow symbols)
yoghurts made from 1.5% fat milk and the SEM micrographs are
for yoghurt during the culturing of conventionally heated (s/d) and thermosoni- presented in Fig. 2. The control yoghurt (A) appeared to have much
cated (4/N) milk with fat contents of 0.1% (A), 1.5% (B) and 3.5% (C). less branching and showed no honeycomb-like network. A dense,
J. Riener et al. / Food Chemistry 114 (2009) 905–911 909

Fig. 2. Electron micrographs of yoghurts from conventionally (A) heated and (B) thermosonicated milk (1.5% fat). (Magnification: A1, B1  500; A2, B2  5000).

highly cross-linked network structure was apparent with a high le- A10000
vel of interconnections and few pores interspaced throughout the
Storage Modulus, G' [Pa]

structure. The average structural size was around 2 lm. By con-

trast, TS yoghurt (B) showed a honeycomb-like network and exhib-
ited a lot of pores throughout the structure with an average
particle size less than 1 lm.
Final storage modulus G0 values as a function of frequency for
all yoghurts are represented in Fig. 3A. The frequency of the defor- 100
mation has an influence on the rheological properties of yoghurts
and through this provides information on the nature of the gel net-
work (Lee & Lucey, 2006). Logarithm plots of the G0 against fre-
quency produced straight lines with slopes of about 0.12 for all 10
yoghurts at 40 °C which is largely in agreement with the available
0.001 0.01 0.1 1 10
literature (Bikker, Anema, Li, & Hill, 2000; Lucey & Singh, 1997).
The plots of the frequency on a logarithm scale versus tan d were Frequency [Hz]
slightly curved with a local minimum at 0.3 Hz (Fig. 3B), which
was similar to observations by Bikker et al. (2000). These curves
suggest that the gel has a more viscous character at high and low B 0.28
frequencies and a more elastic character at intermediate 0.26
frequencies. 0.24
The changes of G0 as temperatures were slowly reduced from 40
to 4 °C were monitored (Fig. 4). In all samples, G0 increased slowly
tan δ

in an essentially linear manner with decreasing temperature until 0.20

around 12 °C when the slope increased rapidly for all yoghurts. At 0.18
4 °C the G0 values were approximately four times higher than those
at 40 °C.
The storage modulus G0 for the thermosonicated was consis- 0.14
tently lower than for the conventional yoghurts. Using milks 0.12
heated under a variety of conditions (Lucey, Teo, Munro, & Singh,
2000; Lucey, van Vliet, Grolle, Geurts, & Walstra, 1997a, 1997b)
0.001 0.01 0.1 1 10
it was found that the G0 of gels prepared by slow acidification of
the milks with d-gluconolactone increased as the temperature Frequency [Hz]
was reduced. It was also suggested that the casein particles might Fig. 3. The effect of frequency on (A) storage modulus (G0 ) and (B) loss tangent
well aggregate at lower temperatures, increasing the contact (tan d) of conventionally heated (hollow symbols) and thermosonicated (solid
surface between particles and thereby contributing to in an symbols) milk with fat contents of 0.1% (s/d), 1.5% (4/N) and 3.5% (}/).
910 J. Riener et al. / Food Chemistry 114 (2009) 905–911

as little as 66% of the energy required by the conventional process

A 2500
to obtain a similar product.
Storage Modulus, G' [Pa]

4. Conclusions

1500 The present study showed clear differences in the measured

rheological and physicochemical properties of yoghurt cultures
1000 prepared from conventionally heated and TS milk. Set type yo-
ghurts manufactured from TS milk showed increased gel firmness
and viscosity as well as markedly improved WHC compared to con-
500 ventionally produced yoghurts. Hence, TS has the advantage of
improving the homogenisation of milk in a single unit operation,
0 and also the potential to facilitate the production of commercial
40 30 20 10 0 set type yoghurt in which supplementation with milk solids can
be substantially reduced.
Temperature [˚C]

B 0.28

The authors wish to acknowledge the financial support of the

Non-Commissioned Food Research Measure, funded by the Depart-
ment of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Ireland.
tan δ

0.22 References

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