Milk Has a Longer Shelf Life: How Does That Work?

ESL milk: Fresh milk has a longer shelf life

Fresh milk is not just fresh milk. There is also so-called ESL milk, where ESL stands for “extended shelf life”.

  • If you access fresh milk in the refrigerated section, you will receive milk that has been briefly heated to 72 degrees, i.e. pasteurized. You can recognize this classic fresh milk by the imprint “Traditionally produced”.
  • There is also fresh milk that is labeled “longer lasting”. Although this labeling has not been mandatory since 2009, it is new voluntary labeling.
  • While traditional fresh milk has a shelf life of around 7 to 10 days unopened and refrigerated, ESL milk can be stored unopened in the refrigerator for up to four weeks.

Making fresh milk last longer: There are two methods

Two different processes are used to produce ESL milk:

  • One possibility is to heat the fresh milk up to 127 degrees for a few seconds.
  • The other way separates the milk into skimmed milk and cream in the first step. The skimmed milk is then sieved with microfine filters and thus largely freed from germs. The bacteria-rich filter residue and the cream are then also heated up to 127 degrees for a few seconds. However, the filtered skimmed milk is only heated to 72 degrees, i.e. pasteurized. In the end, all the ingredients are mixed again.

ESL milk or traditional fresh milk – which one is healthier

The main difference is in the taste.

  • In terms of ingredients, the two types of fresh milk hardly differ from each other. Even when pasteurizing traditional fresh milk, there is a loss of nutrients. They are not significantly higher with ESL milk.
  • In terms of taste, however, the process for longer shelf life is noticeable. By heating it to 127 degrees, ESL milk has a slightly cooked taste, similar to that of UHT milk.
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Written by John Myers

Professional Chef with 25 years of industry experience at the highest levels. Restaurant owner. Beverage Director with experience creating world-class nationally recognized cocktail programs. Food writer with a distinctive Chef-driven voice and point of view.

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