Whey is co-product of cheese production and is produced at 9:1 whey to cheese ratio. Whey is broadly classified into two types, sweet and acid whey. Large cheese manufacturers have developed whey processing techniques to convert sweet whey into value added products such as protein powders and emulsifiers. Acid whey cannot be processed in this manner due to compositional difference. The conversion of whey into value-added products operates at an economy of scale and is not feasible for artisanal creameries. Due to these factors, many creameries must process their whey at waste treatment facilities which can be economically disadvantageous. This has led artisanal creameries and acid whey producers to seek alternative means of whey processing.
This study focuses on the fermentation and distillation of whey to produce a potable spirit. This study aims to provide entrepreneurs with a three part guide to aid in the production of a potable spirit from whey.
An environmental comparison of spirit produced from whey and a spirit produced malted barley was conducted. This comparison was conducted using a process-based LCA. The LCA compared the inputs and outputs of each process including energy, waste, and water. It was found that the production of a spirit produced from whey reduced the net CO2e emissions by over 8 kg per bottle, if it was produced instead of spirit produced from malted barley. This portion of the study provided entrepreneurs with an overview of the production process and an environmental justification for production of a whey spirit.
We also fermented and distilled both sweet and acid whey. We found that sweet and acid whey can be fermented and distilled in similar manner. We extracted volatile compounds present in each distillate using solid phase micro extraction and compared the volatile composition using GCMS analysis. We found significant differences in the volatile compound composition of acid and sweet whey distillate. It was determined that treatment and processing techniques commonly used in the potable spirit industry may aid in the creation of a consistent final product.
In the final portion of the study, we examined the federal permitting and Oregon licensing processes for a distilled spirits plants. We developed a guide combining both federal permitting process and Oregon licensing process. Both these processes can be completed simultaneously and this guide aims to combine and simplify these processes for entrepreneurs.
The goal of this project is to provide interested companies and entrepreneurs with information which can be used to understand the environmental impacts of whey to potable ethanol conversion, how the source of whey can influence the aroma compound composition of a whey-based spirit, and the licensing requirements for owning a distilled spirits plant in Oregon.