I was reading about making butter at home and all the recipes called for raw (I presume this means unpasteurised) milk. Why is this?

They also said to wait for the cream to separate from the milk. I've never seen this happen - is there something about pasteurisation that stabilises the emulsion?

  • 14
    I have accidentally made butter a few times, and I did it once intentionally. In each case, I started with pasteurized (probably ultra-pasteurized) cream. Separation (or not) has to do with homogenization, not pasteurization.
    – Jolenealaska
    Mar 14, 2017 at 10:22
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    Yeah, you need cream to make butter. The raw milk is milk that hasn't had the cream separated from it yet-- that's what you're doing when you wait for it to separate. You then take the cream off the top of the milk and churn it to butter. You could start with regular store-bought cream, like @Jolenealaska mentioned above, and skip the waiting.
    – senschen
    Mar 14, 2017 at 11:21

3 Answers 3


You don't need raw milk (or more precisely, raw cream). I've made butter from cream many times, but never from unpasteurized cream -- I prefer locally sourced organic cream for reasons, but the actual butter-making process is exactly the same with a pint of store-bought.

If you are starting from milk rather than from cream, you will need to get non-homogenized (or unhomogenized) milk. Homogenization and pasteurization are separate processes (even though both are typically performed on milk): pasteurization uses heat to kill bacteria and other pathogens, while homogenization breaks up milk fat particles so they stay mixed into the milk instead of rising to the top.

If you want to buy pasteurized, non-homogenized milk to skim your own cream, it may be labeled as cream-top or creamline milk. Raw milk is both unpasteurized and non-homogenized, but I personally like the increased safety that comes with pasteurization.

Personal anecdote: I once bought cream-top milk to try to skim it for butter, and the amount of cream a half-gallon produced was about a tablespoon. For me, that wasn't nearly enough to justify the extra work -- my family doesn't drink nearly enough milk in a week to salvage the necessary cream for butter-making. I personally recommend skipping straight to cream :)

  • 6
    Well, as butter is somewhere around 95% fat and more and milk is usually around 3.5% fat, you can easily infer how much milk you need for one pound butter. :-) Mar 14, 2017 at 12:32
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    Well, even allowing for some inaccuracy of the estimate, the amount of milk is still much more than I would ever want/need ;-)
    – Erica
    Mar 14, 2017 at 13:54
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    If you want more cream, you really want a different type of cow. The "standard" image of a dairy cow is black and white because that's the coloration of the Holstein breed, which gives lots and lots of milk, but very little cream: a perfect factory-farm milker. For richer milk, you want other breeds of cow, such as the Jersey. They can give milk that's pretty heavy in cream, around 10% of the total. Mar 14, 2017 at 15:19
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    @Joe Because it really matters whether you need 1.83 or 1.89 gal lqd of milk. Mar 14, 2017 at 15:33
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    @DavidRicherby In the US there is "whole milk" (full fat), "2%" (semi skimmed, I guess), and "skim milk" -- all of which are homogenized. The "cream-top" is a sub-category related to processing rather than fat content -- regardless, I'll clarify that a bit :)
    – Erica
    Mar 14, 2017 at 16:57

They also said to wait for the cream to separate from the milk. I've never seen this happen - is there something about pasteurisation that stabilises the emulsion?

No. When I was a child, we had pasteurized full-fat milk delivered in bottles to our doorstep, and there was always a separated layer of cream on the top. It's homogenization that prevents the cream from separating.


If you overwhip cream, it will become butter, with a small amount of liquid (buttermilk?), you can use milk to whip up a foam for topping coffee, by plunging it in a coffee press repeatedly. I've heard skimmed milk is best for that.

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