Monday, November 3, 2014

Making Butter in the Classroom

Butter is a food product only made from milk.  It has been made for thousands of years.  Milk contains carbohydrates, vitamins, proteins, and fat.  It is the most complete food.  Milk spoils easily, so people had to come up with other things to make from milk.  Butter is mostly fat and does not spoil easily.  It was a perfect option. 

Thanksgiving is a great time to look at how butter was made in the "olden days."  Butter is still made the same way, but, of course,  in a  factory for most.  Kids will be so surprised at how easy it is to make butter.  There is great science in the making of butter.  This activity is great in a classroom, at home, or a scout group. 


Heavy Whipping Cream

Clean marbles

Baby soda bottle test tubes or 6oz. baby bottles.

Plastic knife or long popsicle stick

Graduated cylinder

Small bowls


1. Bring Heavy Whipping Cream to room temperature.

2. Place the marble in the test tube.

3. Measure 20ml of heavy whipping cream and pour it into the test tube.

4. Screw the lid on tightly.

5. Shake the test up and down for 5 minutes.

6. Pour out the leftover liquid.  This liquid is the buttermilk
7.  Inside the test tube should be thick butter.  Use the popsicle stick or a knife to take the butter out and put it into the bowl.
8.  This butter is salt-free, so you could add a little salt to taste. 
9.  Spread on crackers or butter. 
The Science Behind Butter

The first step to making butter is to let the milk stand.  The cream will float to the top.  The cream is skimmed off the top.  The cream is then brought to room temperature to crystallize the butterfat globules.  This is a very important step.  Before large factories, the cream was placed in a churn.  Churning means to work the liquid cream so the fat globules come together to make butter.  The fat globules are more attracted to each other than to the water they are suspended in. 
For this activity, cream is poured into a baby soda bottle test tube with a marble.  The marble helps to speed along the process.  The students will shake the test tube.  This will force the fat globules to come together and separate from the water.  It is called coalescing.   As the tube is shaken the cream will go through stages.  It will become frothy, soft and course whipped, and finally a glob of yellow butter.  Our butter will be soft because it is not cold.  When making butter the butterfat would be drained off and the butter would be rinsed with water.  Salt could than be added for taste.
To show the students the difference in fats in cream I created a science journal.  It helps to show the importance of fat in creating butter.  It is a great way to take the activity and turn it into an investigation.  It also is a wonderful science fair project.  If you are looking for a way to teach the scientific method and exploring butter this is a great way to do it.  

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