The pH buffering capacity of cheese is an important determinant of cheese pH. However, the effects of different constituents of cheese on its pH buffering capacity have not been fully clarified. The objective of this study was to characterize the chemical species and chemical equilibria that are responsible for the pH buffering properties of cheese. Eight cheeses with 2 levels of Ca and P (0.67 and 0.47% vs. 0.53 and 0.39%, respectively), residual lactose (2.4 vs. 0.78%), and salt-to-moisture ratio (6.4 vs. 4.8%) were manufactured. The pH-titration curves for these cheeses were obtained by titrating cheese:water (1:39 wt/wt) dispersions with 1 N HCl, and backtitrating with 1 N NaOH. To understand the role of different chemical equilibria and the respective chemical species in controlling the pH of cheese, pH buffering was modeled mathematically. The 36 chemical species that were found to be relevant for modeling can be classified as cations (Na+, Ca2+, Mg 2+), anions (phosphate, citrate, lactate), protein-bound amino acids with a side-chain pKa in the range of 3 to 9 (glutamate, histidine, serine phosphate, aspartate), metal ion complexes (phosphate, citrate, and lactate complexes of Na+, Ca2+, and Mg2+), and calcium phosphate precipitates. A set of 36 corresponding equations was solved to give the concentrations of all chemical species as a function of pH, allowing the prediction of buffering curves. Changes in the calculated species concentrations allowed the identification of the chemical species and chemical equilibria that dominate the pH buffering properties of cheese in different pH ranges. The model indicates that pH buffering in the pH range from 4.5 to 5.5 is predominantly due to a precipitate of Ca and phosphate, and the protonation equilibrium involving the side chains of protein-bound glutamate. In the literature, the precipitate is often referred to as amorphous colloidal calcium phosphate. A comparison of experimental data and model predictions shows that the buffering properties of the precipitate can be explained, assuming that it consists of hydroxyapatite [Ca5(OH)(PO4)3] or Ca3(PO4)2. The pH buffering in the region from pH 3.5 to 4.5 is due to protonation of side-chain carboxylates of protein-bound glutamate, aspartate, and lactate, in order of decreasing significance. In addition, pH buffering between pH 5 to 8 in the backtitration results from the reprecipitation of calcium and phosphate either as CaHPO4 or Ca 4H(PO4)3.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Dairy Management, Inc. (Rosemont, IL), and Midwest Dairy Association (St. Paul, MN) for funding this project.
- Cheddar cheese
- pH buffering