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An apparatus for predicting milk coagulum cut-time in a cheese making process includes a light source, a sensor or detector for sensing diffuse reflectance of light from said milk and a controller for analyzing the diffuse reflectance and accurately predicting the cut-time to significantly enhance overall yield. More specifically, the apparatus includes an optical probe which may be suspended over the milk or attached to a wall of a fermentation vessel in which the milk is contained. A method for predicting milk coagulum cut-time includes the steps of (a) directing light from a light source toward milk undergoing enzymatic hydrolysis; (b) sensing diffuse reflectance of that light from the milk; (c) analyzing the sensed diffuse reflectance profile and (d) signaling the cut-time. The sensing occurs at between 400 to 6000 nm. Specific mathematical formulae for the analyzing steps are also disclosed.


University of Kentucky Research Foundation, Lexington, Ky.

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