Coagulation is essentially the formation of a gel by destabilizing the casein micelles causing them to aggregate and form a network which partially immobilizes the water and traps the fat globules in the newly formed matrix. This may be accomplished with:
- acid treatment
- heat-acid treatment
Chymosin, or rennet, is most often used for enzyme coagulation.
Lowering the pH of the milk results in casein micelle destabilization or aggregation. Acid curd is more fragile than rennet curd due to the loss of calcium. Acid coagulation can be achieved naturally with the starter culture, or artificially with the addition of gluconodeltalactone. Acid coagulated fresh cheeses may include Cottage cheese, Quark, and Cream cheese.
Heat causes denaturation of the whey proteins. The denatured proteins then interact with the caseins. With the addition of acid, the caseins precipitate with the whey proteins. In rennet coagulation, only 76-78% of the protein is recovered, while in heat-acid coagulation, 90% of protein can be recovered. Examples of cheeses made by this method include Paneer, Ricotta and Queso Blanco.