As a group, microorganisms are capable of growth over an extremely wide temperature range. However, in any particular environment, the types and numbers of microorganisms will depend greatly on the temperature. According to temperature, microorganisms can be placed into one of three broad groups:

  • Psychrotrophs: optimum growth temperatures 20 to 30° capable of growth at temperatures less than 7° C. Psychrotrophic organisms are specifically important in the spoilage of refrigerated dairy products.
  • Mesophiles: optimum growth temperatures 30 to 40° C; do not grow at refrigeration temperatures
  • Thermophiles: optimum growth between 55 and 65° C

It is important to note that for each group, the growth rate increases as the temperature increases only up to an optimum, afterwhich it rapidly declines.