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How is Pea Milk Made

Have you ever wondered about the buzz surrounding plant-based milk alternatives? In the realm of dairy-free options, pea milk is making a splash. This article dives into what pea milk is, its health benefits, and why it’s becoming a popular choice for health and environment-conscious consumers like you.

pea milk production how it is made
Source: Vegan Trade Journal

Key Takeaways:

  • Pea milk stands out as a high-protein, environmentally friendly dairy alternative.
  • Boasting a rich profile of proteins, vitamins, and essential nutrients, it’s a nutritional powerhouse.
  • Its versatility extends to various culinary uses, easily replacing cow’s milk in numerous recipes.
  • The sustainable manufacturing process underscores its appeal in today’s eco-conscious world.

What is Pea Milk?

Pea milk, a novel addition to plant-based milk, comes from yellow peas. Unlike the green peas you might be familiar with, these are processed to create milk that’s surprisingly similar to traditional cow’s milk in taste and texture. It’s creamy, and rich, and stands as a strong competitor to other dairy alternatives.

Nutritional Profile of Pea Milk

Nutritionally speaking, pea milk is a star. Each serving packs at least 7 grams of protein – comparable to cow’s milk. It’s also fortified with calcium, vitamin A, D, and iron. This makes it a robust alternative, especially for those of you seeking nutrient-dense options.

Pea Milk Ingredients

pea on basket
Source: Meridian Seeds

Each ingredient plays a vital role in making pea milk a nutritious, tasty, and eco-friendly beverage. Let’s explore these ingredients and understand why they are essential.

The Foundation: Pea Protein

The star of the show is pea protein, derived from yellow field peas. This plant-based protein is what gives pea milk its high nutritional value. It’s rich in essential amino acids, making it not only a great protein source but also easily digestible. This is especially important for those of you looking for a dairy-free alternative that doesn’t compromise on protein content.

The Creaminess: Sunflower Oil

To achieve that creamy texture that rivals cow’s milk, manufacturers often add sunflower oil. This oil is chosen for its neutral flavor and ability to blend seamlessly with the pea protein. It also contributes healthy fats, making the milk not just tasty, but also heart-friendly.

The Sweetness: Natural Sweeteners

Depending on the brand and type, pea milk might contain natural sweeteners. These can range from organic cane sugar to more natural options like stevia or monk fruit. These sweeteners are used judiciously to enhance the taste without overwhelming it, ensuring that your pea milk is a delight to sip, without being a sugar bomb.

The Nutritional Boost: Vitamins and Minerals

Fortification is key in making pea milk nutritionally comparable to dairy milk. Essential vitamins like Vitamin D and Vitamin A are added. Vitamin D aids in calcium absorption, while Vitamin A is crucial for vision and immune function. You’ll also find added calcium, iron, and sometimes omega-3 fatty acids (sourced from algae oil), enhancing the nutritional profile of the milk.

The Texture: Thickeners and Emulsifiers

To mimic the consistency of dairy milk, thickeners such as gellan gum or locust bean gum might be added. These ingredients help stabilize the milk, preventing separation and maintaining a smooth, creamy texture. Emulsifiers like lecithin (often sourced from sunflowers) are also used to ensure that the oil blends well with water, avoiding any separation.

The Flavor Variants: Natural Flavors

For those who love variety, pea milk comes in flavors like vanilla, chocolate, and even unsweetened options. These flavors are achieved using natural flavorings and, in the case of chocolate and vanilla, additional ingredients like cocoa powder or vanilla extract. These add depth and variety to the milk, catering to different taste preferences.

Health Benefits of Pea Milk

Pea milk is not just about being lactose and dairy-free. It’s a boon for those seeking a high-protein diet or managing allergies. Plus, with lower sugar content than some other plant-based milks, it’s a healthier choice for many.

Here are some added benefits of pea milk:

  • High Protein Content: Each serving of pea milk offers around 7 grams of protein, making it an excellent source for maintaining muscle health and overall body function. Source: WebMD
  • Rich in Essential Nutrients: Fortified with potassium, vitamins like A and D, and minerals such as calcium and iron, pea milk supports bone health, vision, and immune system function. Source: Holland & Barrett
  • Low Allergenic Potential: Great for those with nut, soy, or dairy allergies, as it’s free from common allergens found in other milk alternatives. Source: Verywell Fit
  • Heart-Healthy: Contains healthy fats and is often free from cholesterol and low in saturated fats, contributing to better heart health.
  • Digestive Health Support: Often easier to digest compared to dairy milk, and some brands offer pea milk enriched with prebiotics and fiber, aiding in digestive health.
  • Suitable for Diabetics: With low sugar content and a low glycemic index, it’s a safer choice for people managing diabetes.
  • Weight Management: Lower in calories than some dairy milks, making it a good choice for those watching their calorie intake.
  • Sustainability Bonus: Eco-friendliness adds to its health benefits, providing a nutritious option that’s also kind to the planet.

Manufacturing Process and Ingredients of Pea Milk

The process of making pea milk starts with milling yellow peas into flour. Then, the protein is isolated and blended with water and ingredients like sunflower oil, vitamins, and thickeners. This method ensures that the milk retains a high protein content and a creamy texture, without the typical pea flavor.

Here’s a more detailed step-by-step manufacturing process:

1. Starting with the Right Peas

The journey of pea milk begins with its core ingredient: yellow field peas. These aren’t your typical garden peas but a specific variety known for their high protein content. Farmers harvest these peas, ensuring they’re ripe and ready for the transformation process.

2. Milling into Flour

Once harvested, these peas undergo milling. This step involves grinding the peas into a fine flour, a crucial stage where the peas start transitioning from a solid legume into a potential liquid dairy alternative. Precision is key here, as the finer the flour, the smoother the final product.

3. Separating the Protein

After milling, it’s time to isolate the protein, which is the heart of pea milk. This involves a process of water extraction, where the protein is separated from the fiber and starch. Think of it as sifting gold from the sand – what you’re left with is a high-quality, plant-based protein that forms the base of the milk.

4. Blending and Fortifying

The extracted pea protein then gets mixed with water. But it’s not just water and protein – this is where the magic happens. Manufacturers add ingredients like sunflower oil, which gives the milk its rich, creamy texture. Vitamins such as D, A, and iron, along with minerals, are also added.

5. Flavoring and Sweetening

Flavor is king, and pea milk manufacturers know this. Depending on the brand, various flavors and sweeteners are added to enhance the taste. From vanilla to chocolate, unsweetened to lightly sweetened, there’s a variety to suit every palate. This step is all about making pea milk not just healthy but delicious too.

6. Final Steps: Homogenization and Pasteurization

Finally, the mixture goes through homogenization and pasteurization – processes that ensure consistency and safety. Homogenization breaks down fat molecules, ensuring the milk doesn’t separate, while pasteurization uses heat to kill any harmful bacteria. These steps are crucial in giving pea milk a shelf-stable life and ensuring it’s safe for you to enjoy.

7. Packaging and Distribution

The last step in the journey is packaging. Pea milk is filled into cartons or bottles, ready to be shipped to stores. From here, it finds its way into your kitchen, ready to be poured into a glass, splashed over cereal, or blended into your favorite smoothie.

Problems in the Mixing Process

The blending and fortifying stage is crucial in pea milk production, where extracted pea protein is mixed with water and other key ingredients. However, this process can present several challenges:

1. Particle Size and Consistency

  • Challenge: Similar to soy flours and protein powders, pea protein might have a larger particle size than desired for the final pea milk product. Simply dispersing the powdered pea protein in water may not sufficiently reduce its particle size, leading to textural inconsistencies.
  • Solution: Advanced mixing equipment, such as Ginhong’s high shear mixer, is necessary to ensure the pea protein is broken down into a finer consistency.

2. Incorporating Additional Ingredients

  • Challenge: Standard mixing equipment may struggle to uniformly incorporate additional ingredients, especially thickeners and fortifying agents like vitamins and minerals. Uneven distribution of these ingredients can affect the nutritional profile and consistency of the final product.
  • Solution: Utilizing specialized blenders that can handle a variety of textures and densities is essential. Our mixers can effectively distribute the fortifying agents throughout the milk, ensuring each batch meets the desired nutritional standards.

3. Preventing Oil Separation

  • Challenge: One of the key challenges in pea milk production is preventing oil separation. When ingredients like sunflower oil are added for creaminess, they must be thoroughly emulsified to avoid separation in the final product.
  • Solution: This issue can be addressed through homogenization, a process that breaks down oil molecules and integrates them seamlessly into the mixture.

Equipment Used in Pea Milk Manufacturing

1. Milling Machine

The milling machine grinds yellow field peas into a fine flour. This step is crucial as it prepares the peas for protein extraction.

2. Protein Separator

After milling, the pea flour is processed through equipment that separates the protein from the fiber and starch. This machine is vital for isolating the high-quality, plant-based protein that is the base of pea milk.

3. Blenders/Mixers

Industrial blenders or mixers are used to combine the extracted pea protein with water and other ingredients like sunflower oil, vitamins, and minerals. These mixers are designed to handle large volumes and ensure that the mixture is homogeneous, maintaining consistent quality throughout.

4. Homogenization Equipment

This equipment is used to break down fat molecules (from ingredients like sunflower oil) into smaller sizes, ensuring they remain evenly dispersed in the milk. Homogenization prevents the separation of components, an essential step for the stability of pea milk.

5. Pasteurization Equipment

Pasteurization involves heating the pea milk to kill any harmful bacteria. This step is crucial for ensuring the safety of the milk and extending its shelf life.

6. Packaging Equipment

Once the pea milk is homogenized and pasteurized, it is transferred to packaging equipment. This machinery fills the milk into cartons or bottles, seals them, and prepares them for distribution.

Environmental Impact of Pea Milk

Here’s something impressive: pea milk is eco-friendly. Yellow peas require less water to grow than almonds, making pea milk a more sustainable choice than almond milk. Its carbon footprint is also smaller compared to cow’s milk, appealing to those of you who are environmentally conscious.

Culinary Uses of Pea Milk

Pea milk is incredibly versatile. You can use it just like cow’s milk in your smoothies, baking recipes, or creamy sauces. Its ability to seamlessly blend into various dishes makes it an excellent option for both cooking and drinking.

Consumer Accessibility and Availability

Though not as widely available as almond or soy milk, pea milk is steadily gaining presence on grocery store shelves. Brands like Ripple, Bolthouse Farms, and Silk are introducing their versions, making it easier for you to try this dairy alternative.

Challenges in the Pea Milk Industry

Despite its benefits, pea milk faces challenges like limited availability and higher cost compared to cow’s milk. However, as demand grows and production scales up, these challenges are likely to diminish.

Ginhong’s Expertise in Pea Milk Production

RS vacuum emulsifying mixer
RS vacuum emulsifying mixer

Drawing on our extensive experience as a leading manufacturer of industrial mixers and blenders, Ginhong brings a unique perspective to the production of pea milk.

Our advanced mixing technology plays a pivotal role in creating the perfect consistency and quality of pea milk.

For instance, the high shear mixers and homogenizers we design are crucial in ensuring the smooth, creamy texture that sets pea milk apart from other plant-based alternatives.

These machines facilitate a fine blend of pea protein, sunflower oil, and other ingredients, achieving a homogenous mixture that mirrors the mouthfeel of traditional dairy milk.

FAQ About Pea Milk

Q1: How is pea protein powder made?

A1: Pea protein powder is made through a process similar to the initial steps of pea milk production. It starts with yellow field peas, which are milled into a fine flour. Then, the protein is isolated from the fiber and starch through a water extraction process. The isolated protein is then dried to form pea protein powder, which is used in various dietary supplements and food products.

Q2: Why is pea milk white?

A2: Despite being made from yellow peas, pea milk is white because the process of extracting protein from peas removes the pigments and other components that give peas their color. The end product, therefore, lacks the original color of the peas and resembles the creamy hue of traditional dairy milk.

Q3: What is pea milk made of?

A3: Pea milk is primarily made from yellow field peas. The peas are processed to extract the protein, which is then blended with water and other ingredients like sunflower oil, natural sweeteners, and vitamins. This combination results in a nutritious, dairy-free alternative to cow’s milk.

Wrapping Up

In sum, the manufacturing of pea milk is a blend of scientific precision, nutritional consideration, and environmental consciousness. It represents not just an alternative to dairy but a step forward in food technology, combining health benefits with sustainable practices.

As pea milk becomes more accessible, it’s set to revolutionize the dairy-free market, offering a compelling choice for those seeking a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.

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