How to Separate Cream from Milk

Learn the simple steps on how to separate cream from raw milk. You will enjoy fresh cream in your coffee, homemade butter, homemade vanilla ice cream, and more.

We have been getting farm-fresh milk from local farmers for quite some time. One of the most significant benefits of fresh, whole local milk is the cream I skim off the top.

How to Separate Cream From Milk

If you are new to non-homogenized milk, you may notice a noticeable line where the milk separates after sitting in your fridge for a few hours.

That is a cream line, and the raw cream has settled at the top of the jar.

Sometimes, we shake the gallon of milk and enjoy the whole raw milk.

However, sometimes I want the cream for making butter, homemade whipping cream, or homemade ice cream.

So, here are several ways how to separate cream from milk.

What is Raw Milk with Cream

Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized.

When milk is pasteurized, it undergoes a process of heating the milk to a high enough temperature so it kills healthy enzymes.

Milk is then homogenized, which is a process of breaking down the fat molecules, so they stay together and don’t separate as cream, and it gives the milk a smooth, even consistency.

Raw milk comes from pastured cows and has not undergone any processing. It contains all of the fats.

Some controversy surrounds raw milk, which is even illegal in some areas.

Are you interested in finding your source of raw milk? You can look here for a location near you.

How to separate cream from milk

Here is my simple method for separating cream from milk:

Wait for the Cream to Rise

  • During the transport of the milk from the farmer back to your home, the milk can get shaken up and mixed with the cream.
  • Once you get your jars of milk home, put them in the fridge and wait for the cream to rise to the top.
  • Waiting for the cream to rise to the top can take about 24 hours.

Remove the Cream from the Milk

  • The best way is to use a measuring cup to remove the cream, which I always have within easy reach.
  • A 1/4 cup generally fits the best inside my half-gallon jars. Search for the cream line on the jar to know how far down the cream is.
  • Gently place the measuring cup into the cream and allow the cream to fill the measuring cup.
  • Be careful not to go deep because you don’t want to get into the milk. I always leave some cream on top of the milk because it makes the milk taste even more delicious!
  • Scoop the cream out and place it into a separate jar. Keep repeating until you have the amount you wish to take off the top.

Store the Cream in a Separate Jar

  • Place a lid on the cream jar and store it in the fridge.

How to Store Raw Milk and Cream

  • It is essential to handle raw milk safely. If you get it from a local farmer, know your farmer.
  • Raw milk should always be kept cold; I suggest storing it in the back of the refrigerator.
  • Our cream is stored in a separate container, usually quart jars, and kept towards the back of the fridge.

More Ways to Separate Raw Cream from Milk

While I often use a measuring cup to separate the cream from the milk, here are several ways to complete the task:

1. Spigot Glass Jar

Using the spigot jar method allows you to use the milk first, and then eventually, all that is left is the cream.

To use this method, pour your milk into the glass jar and let the heavy cream settle on the top.

Generally, 24 hours will be enough time. To get the milk, open the spigot. Eventually, all that will be left in the jar is the cream.

I have never tried this method as I always need the cream off the top before my family can finish a gallon of milk.

I also have a few concerns about using the spigot method. One of them being the spigot could get clogged.

The other is that it would be hard to get it clean enough. It is vital to ensure everything stays clean when working with raw dairy.

2. Stainless Steel Ladle

The ladle method is the same process as using a measuring cup. Dip the ladle into the cream and scoop it out.

The benefit of the ladle is that it has a longer handle than a measuring cup.

3. Turkey Baster

A large turkey baster works well to remove the cream layer. Squeeze the bulb and insert it into the layer of cream, then release the bulb to draw it up.

Once the bulb has fully re-inflated, the baster is full. Gently squeeze the baster and fill a separate container with the heavy cream.

Repeat until about an inch of cream is left to avoid pulling off too much milk.

How to Separate Cream from Raw Milk

How to Use Fresh Raw Cream

Now that you know how to separate cream from raw milk, here are some delicious recipes that use heavy cream:

  1. Learn how to make this delicious, creamy chocolate milk with fresh milk.
  2. Nothing quite like the taste of homemade vanilla bean ice cream with fresh ingredients!

About the Author
Sarah is the author behind Rocky Hedge Farm. With a passion for simple, healthy recipes, gardening, and remodeling her manufactured home, she shares her experiences and knowledge to inspire others. Go here to read her story, “Living a Life of Contentment and Joy: Simple Living at Rocky Hedge Farm.” If you want to message Sarah, visit her contact page here.

Thank you for sharing!

59 thoughts on “How to Separate Cream from Milk”

  1. Pasteurization is one of the greatest gifts to mankind, and I’ll never understand risking your kids’ health by refusing to pasteurize your milk. It’s illegal in most places for a reason.

    • The reason pasteurization was needed was because the milk industry doesn’t care for their cows and mastitis causes bacteria in the milk. It was necessary to pasteurize it. When you care for your cow and monitor for bacteria levels regularly there is no need to pasteurize. Do your research before making negative comments on a lovely, helpful post.

        • I agree. There are healthy bacteria in the raw milk that are good for our gut. Diseases seem to have risen as humans eat more processed food and fast food. I milk our own cows and love it.

        • I love raw milk, butter, heavy cream,milk, buttermilk. They pasteurized the milk in my mind so they can make more money,

      • That’s not true all dairies have to abide by strict standards to keep contamination out of milk before it is pasteurized. They then homogenize it to allow a longer shelf life. When it is distributed through supermarkets it will stand long enough that the cream will separate even into a hard layer without it. You see this with creamline milk all the time. It shouldn’t be that way but the store can’t keep going around shaking the bottles. There is a real risk to raw milk but with today’s standards probably pretty low. Personally I prefer it to be pasteurized. I remember getting green top milk from Church Lane farm near my grandparents house in England periodically. Tasted good and certainly was fresh.

      • The bacteria count in commercial dairies is checked daily. Cows with mastitis are milked separate into a different bucket. Pleas stop spreading disinformation.

        • Have you been to a corporate dairy farm? Clearly you haven’t seen the way these animals are treated. Blind trust in big Ag is not a sound argument.
          And “spreading disinformation” is politicized media speak. You’re brainwashed, Cindy.

          • As a proud Wisconsin Dairy farmer I am sad to think you wouldn’t trust people directly involved with agriculture. We take pride in healthy animals and a high quality product (milk) leaving our farm every day.

      • I can not drink the milk from the stores , but I can the milk from the farm. It is a matter of preference and need. And I enjoy using the real, raw cream to make things like our grandparents did which kept us healthy.

        • Thank you Teresa I feel the same! The younger generation are brainwashed into thinking raw milk is dangerous! I have been drinking only raw milk for years and by far the healthiest around! I am unable to drink pasteurized milk but my stomach has no problem with raw! People have lost common sense!

      • True. I was raised on a farm with raw milk. Our cows were looked after. Today we are healthy adults. I love raw milk. Its not a health risk. So yes,I agree do research

    • I’m a huge fan of the raw milk!! We have a dairy farm and I have raised my kids on raw milk since they were little. They have immune systems like you wouldn’t believe and not one of them has an allergy to anything. I know where my milk comes from and that the cows are clean and our bacteria is low and I believe it’s better before it goes through a whole process to get to the stores. I’m now able to make butter and other dairy products and I’m loving it!!!

      • Well done, keep up the great process keep Milk Healthy and Complete, not boiled to a white liquid that has little benefit and a problem that is given hardly any coverage that creates for one thing lactose intolerance.
        I have a farmer close who sells his Raw Milk, it’s so much nicer, I wish he was Organic but I understand his problems, meanwhile with a small herd he is doing his very best for his cows and us.

    • I have been drinking unpasteurized milk my whole life, and I have always been healthy. If you take care of your cows then you get good milk. You risking your family’s health buying over processed foods at the store. Bacteria is so healthy for you.

    • I agree with Kate, please do your research first. Also, may I suggest that you use a little logic as well. Mankind has been drinking and using raw milk for at least 1000 years and we survived all of that time to get where we are today…, cause now the US government can step in and protect us (finally) from ourselves by requiring pasteurization. You do realize that it is really only illegal here, not in the rest of the world. I feel very fortunate to have located a source for raw milk just today. I won’t use anything else from this point forward.

    • It’s ignorant city people who don’t understand… they are so far removed from the reality of where our food comes, and how it’s even grown. Keep up the great work, we’ve used our raw milk from our dairy for over 30 years, and have NEVER had an issue. Be smart. All 5 of my babies have went from mom milk straight to cows unpasteurized milk. Love your page!!

    • Pasteurization denatures the enzyme lactate which is essential to digestion of lactose. It does not renature. The only source of lactase is milk. Hence the exponential rise of lactose intolerance in developed nations. Tuberculosis was the primary bacterium of concern. It was very rare in well cared for cows. The primary purpose of pasteurization was to increase the shelf life of milk so large scale dairies would lose less money. Studies are showing more illnesses from pasteurized products than there ever were from fresh unpasteurized products. There’s a reason it said be sure equipment is clean. Handled properly, raw milk will make your child stronger and healthier than your pasteurization.

    • Pasteurisation extends shelf life and absolves the dairy from many of the proper hygiene controls….it makes milk production more profitable for the dairy and removes a lot of the risk and ‘bother’… BUT! It destroys many of the health benefits and nutritional value of milk.

      Drink whatever you like Anne, but please refrain from accusing people of endangering their children because they want to give them proper nutrition. It’s just ‘nasty’.

    • That’s rediculas, pasteurization destroys vitamins,especially C,B6,B12, and dentures fragility proteins. Not to mention it destroys natural digestive enzymes that help the body digest it without it being stored as fat on you. People have drank raw milk for over 100 years.

    • I know this is a few years old, but let me say a few words about pasteurization. When I was a teenager, many moons ago, I would probably drink about a gallon of milk a day. This was normal store bought milk. Then I turned 25 and could not drink even an ounce of milk unless I wanted to sit on the commode for an hour. I barely could eat a piece of cheese or any other dairy, except yogurt. For years I didn’t eat it or suffered when I did (sometimes I would eat it with yogurt and it wouldn’t be too bad (cultures I guess) so I was forced to drink soy or almond milk (EHHHH). I tried many times over the years to reintroduce it with no luck. Then I moved to Texas, in the country, and a friend told me about a dairy 3 miles away. They told me to try the raw milk from there and that it would be better and I would be able to eat dairy again. So, I did. I started with a little, at first, and then increased. I had some problems at the start but nothing like the P & H garbage from the store. withing a month or two, I was back drinking milk again and any of the other dairy didn’t bother me. Unfortunately, I had to move back to CA and with no farms around I am force to either pay twice as much for organic or 4 times as much for raw milk at one of the stores I shop at. I spoke to my doctor about this and he seemed to think that the enzymes in the raw milk sort of reset my system. I drink P & H milk now, but don’t really like it and get a gallon of raw every once and a while. Just remember, if pasteurization kills the “bad stuff” it also kills the “good stuff” too.

      Also, I think raw milk is legal to buy in about half of the states in the US. I think if we actually fed our kids food that wasn’t loaded with preservatives and had all the natural stuff left in, they wouldn’t be fat, lazy and allergic to everything, including breathing.

    • Sure it is so much better to drink milk that has had all of the beneficial qualities killed off by heat which also has SYNTHETIC vitamin D added to it. Over processed store milk is more dangerous for you, it is not the natural whole food that raw milk is, it is instead over processed with synthetic vitamins added.

  2. I feel like you have opened my eyes to something completely new. We moved to a township about two years ago and there’s an Amish community just two hours away from us. I’m really interested in looking up more information about this.

  3. What do you do if the milk jar opening isn’t big enough for scooping? I buy milk from a local farm and they sell it in old fashioned glass milk jugs with really narrow openings.

    I poured the milk into a different container, but haven’t seen a cream line resurface yet…what would you do? Will it resurface or have I mixed it in too much by pouring it?

  4. My husband has recently changed career from 27 years in the army he is now a dairy farmer. It took me some getting used to the raw milk but now I’m a fan and now you’ve just taught me how to separate the cream from the milk I’m going to be making our own butter.
    Thank you

  5. If I wanted to pasteurize the cream after separating it from the milk could I do so. The farmers take wonderful care of there cows but they milk by hand and reuse buckets I would just feel safer knowing I am preventing any possibility of getting sick.

    • I boil the milk on stove and then let it sit there for an hour. Cream forms a thick layer on the top which you can easily scoop and store in a container. Keep in mind though, the cream collected this way is not something that you can use in your coffee/tea but you can still make butter out of it.

  6. I was wondering, when you are waiting for the cream line, do you refrigerate the raw milk?
    Also, can you pasteurize the milk first and still get the cream layer so it’s pasteurized milk?

    • Yes, refrigerate the milk while waiting for the cream to rise to the top of the jar. I have never pasteurized the milk.

  7. Can you help, I’ve just started making my own butter and I read a post saying unpasteurized cream was better and as we live right next to a dairy farm I collected some milk from them to try. I drew the cream off the top and put it into my mixer as per the last time but it just isn’t separating. What have I done wrong I would really like to try this healthy way of making butter and I have an easy source on my doorstep. Can anyone help

    • Hi Maureen,
      How long did you use the mixer? I use my Ninja food processor to make butter and it takes a good 10 minutes or more to make butter. In comparison, the store bought cream turns into butter much quicker.

  8. Thank you for this article! Raw milk is actually illegal in most states. But thankfully there are some ways around it. For example we are heard shares owners. We own a share of our cows, so we don’t pay for milk that is coming from them. We just pay weekly for the keep of our cows. That was we have legal documentation that the milk we use is ours to do with as we plase. I’m just learning, so far have made kiefer, yogurt, cream, butter, cream cheese and whey. Of course the milk is good and my son can now enjoy it when he couldn’t handle the stuff from the store. Thankful for all the online resources like this one so I can learn as I go.

  9. Hello! Thanks for sharing on how to extract cream off raw milk. I would like to check how do you clean the milk jars before you pass to the farmers? We buy our milk once a week and they use recyclable plastic bottles with narrow sprout. I really prefer glass jars to reduce waste. I’m not sure what is the proper way of doing it. Do I need to boil the jars with hot water to sterilize them or do I just wash it with regular washing up liquid? Thanks in advance!

  10. Until I was about 10 years old, our big family would get a weekly 5 gallon milk can of raw milk delivered from a nearby dairy farmer. The day it arrived was always very exciting! Some of my most-cherished childhood memories center around raw milk and how it impacted our lives. From the first glass upon delivery to the many recipes mother created with it, raw milk was always a ‘Special’ treat.
    50+ years later (yesterday, in fact) I located a source for raw milk (Holstein) who sells to the public. It is a 75 minute drive, but fortunately, only about a mile from my niece’s place. I hope to surprise her with a gallon of nature’s finest. I’m SO EXCITED!

  11. Been doing raw milk for about 20 years. We have recently moved and 2 of our kids are no longer at home so we aren’t consuming as much which means we have some jars that go sour.
    I want to still use the clan er and whey if possible. How old is too old? The jars I have are about 2-2.5 mos old but have been in the fridge the whole time. There is a definite cream or clabber/whey line and it looks like the cream/clabber is almost solid. Can I still use it and if so what would you recommend doing? Thanks so much!!

  12. I use a simple process even from store bought milk. Unpasteurized unhomogenized is great.

    I boil the milk, and cool it down. After few hours it is all cream top. Few times a day repeat, and use milk in the process.

    Next day, new milk cream top.


  13. I find it sad that it is illegal in most states to sell raw milk. It should be my choice if I want to use it and not based on government officials, which are making it harder every year on the generational family dairies to operate. In this “free” country, it is yet another law, based on ignorance, regulating my choices.
    Handled properly, raw milk is better for the body. Easier to digest and helps the good bacteria in the digestive tract. The ignorance of a few should not penalize everyone.

  14. To the author……
    When I was buying my milk from a farmer, I used to use a glass jar with a spigot and it worked out great. I would let it sit, for a day, and tap off the milk into quart mason jars, then pour out the cream to use. It did leave a bit of milk, with the cream but not much. If you tilt the jar, you can get almost all of it out and a bit of cream in your milk, as a bonus. If I didn’t need the cream, I would just shake it before tapping and drink it that way. The only thing I would recommend is that you get a better one, with a stainless spigot and a wide mouth. The spigots can be removed in those and cleaned, just be careful on how tight you crank it when you put it on and be careful of the edge of the glass where it goes in. The one I had, had a stainless flange that stayed in the jar and the spigot went in and out of that. It cost me around $30 for a half gallon, though it was about 15 years ago, and lasted me over 10 years, until it broke in my move.

      • I have recently started getting raw milk. We LOVE it! I want to be able to use the cream for different things. But for drinking, I prefer it in the milk. Do you have any suggestions as to how to use the less fat filled milk? I just found your site and this is the only article I have read so far. Great information! Thank you for sharing.

  15. Hi. Thank you for your post. I was wondering if there´s a way to make may raw cream thicker, Mine turns out too liquidy¿? Thanks!

  16. i would acutally like to learn more about what to be aware of if we are interested in raw milk even maybe having our own cow! what spectrum of sanitary do you mean? like can i not use my hands when milking? does it supposed to be a machine? is it enough if her tits are not infected and the bucket is sanitized?

    • From many years of experience having lived on a farm for 65 years, if you only have 1 cow you wouldn’t need a milking machine. The cost alone would be very expensive. It’s done by clean hands, clean teats into a clean sterilized container. Preferably in a clean milking room or stall. There are videos on YouTube showing how to milk a cow.

  17. 300 years in America of milking cows to get milk and when man and machine takes over, it’s has now been considered unhealthy to use milk directly from cows. Humm, something is amiss and people are dumb to listen to the milk industry, an industry that has everything to benefit from. Sad. Eating meat not cook can also be bad and yet we don’t stop eating meat. Oh and let’s not forget about cars and accidents.


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