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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Freezing point osmometry of milk to determine the additional water content – an issue in general quality control and German food regulation

Britta Büttel*, Markus Fuchs and Birger Holz

Author Affiliations

Wissenschaftliche Gerätebau Dr. Ing. H. Knauer, Hegauer Weg 38, D-14163 Berlin, Berlin, Germany

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Chemistry Central Journal 2008, 2:6  doi:10.1186/1752-153X-2-6

Published: 10 March 2008



The determination of the osmolality of aqueous samples using a freezing point osmometer is a well-established, routine laboratory method. In addition to their use in clinical and pharmaceutical laboratories, freezing point osmometers are also employed in food testing laboratories. One application is the determination of the osmolality of milk. Although cow's milk is a natural product whose water content is approximately 87%, the osmolality of milk is a significant value when the milk is collected from a larger population of animals. This value is used in milk processing to control the water content, based on the German Food Control Regulations for Milk.


Measurement of the freezing point and osmolality of milk samples was performed with a Knauer Semi-Micro Freezing Point Osmometer. Osmolality was measured for the untreated milk samples and following their dilution (by volume) with 10% and 50% water. The measurements were made after 1, 4 and 7 days to evaluate changes over time. All measurement values for the undiluted milk were spread over a small interval with an average of 271 mOsmol/kg. After mixing the milk samples with 10% water, the average decreased to 242 mOsmol/kg, while mixing with 50% water resulted in an average osmolality of 129 mOsmol/kg. There was no significant change for the osmolality within the 7 days (measurements from days 1, 4 and 7).


The results observed demonstrate clearly that the additional water content of milk can be determined easily using a freezing point osmometer. Milk samples that contain additional water have a significantly decreased osmolality, corresponding to an increased freezing point. The effect on osmolality of ageing the milk samples could not be determined in this study's time-dependent measurements.