Preserved Milk Aftertaste

All my life I’ve noticed that milk that has been preserved (Those non-refrigerated single serving of half-and-half for example, or canned condensed milk) for long term non-refrigerated storage has a peculiar “smokey” aftertaste. I can’t describe it better, but I can’t be the only one tasting it. It’s especially evident when put in coffee. It’s not there for fresh milk or half-and-half.

Does anybody know what I’m talking about and what gives preserved milk that aftertaste?

Shelf-stable milk has been Ultra High Temperature Pasteurized (UHT).

An anti-UHT site with much information on the process.

A dairy site with info.

So could it be that some of the milk gets “burned” by the process and I’m tasting it?
The taste to me is not subtle. I can pick out fresh half-and-half versus long-shelf-life half-and-half 10 times out of 10. It’s not particularly offensive, either.

When I was stationed in Germany many years ago, the US Army started foisting shelf milk off on us. Like you say, it isn’t particularly offensive, just different. I just adapted to it and drove on.

It sounds like you might be tasting partially caramelised lactose (milk sugar).

From your site: “Since ultra-pasteurized or UHT milk will not adequately support microbial life, it is unlikely that it will adequately support human life either.”

Is this a valid statement?

I seriously doubt that it will not adequately support microbial life. I think it’s rather that it has no microbial life to support. Open condensed milk goes bad fairly quickly and has to be refrigerated, IIRC. I mean by their logic, beef jerky or honey would not adequately support human life either.

This is a Bizarro world notion with null content. The human body doesn’t culture food, it digests it. There is no reason to think that any of the nutrients in milk are degraded by the quick application of heat.

Nor is it likely that caramelization of lactose is incolved in the taste change. According to this paper “lactose turns yellow when heated to 150° to 160° C and browns at 175° C.” These are higher than 280°F or 137°C.

UHT milk certainly tastes different from normal milk - I love the taste of the former, in fact. No idea why though; it doesn’t taste caramelised to me, really.

I’ve also noticed that Lactaid tastes a great deal sweeter than normal milk. Again, I don’t know why. Perhaps lactose inhibits the sweetness perception of other sugars in normal milk?

Adding lactase to milk literally digests the lactose, i.e. it splits the lactose into its component sugars, glucose and galactose. Both of these simple sugars are considerably sweeter than lactose is.