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6 Reasons Your Raw Milk May Taste “Off”

If you’re here because you’re a raw milk producer or just love raw milk…

… then you’ll want to listen in to my new top-rated podcast, The Profitable Mindset.

So much more to come on how to heal and finally live that life you’ve only dreamed of.

Ever take a big drink of milk and then – bleh!!*#@ it tastes like a cow? Or super bitter? Or like well-aged parmesan cheese (not in my milk, please!)??

If your raw milk is icky tasting read on…

Every once in awhile I get a call or email from someone across the country saying – my milk tastes weird – will I get sick?

This post may calm your fears.

Handcrafted Foods Will Be Inconsistent (and that’s a beautiful thing!)

If you drink milk long enough I’m certain you will (like I definitely have) taste almost all these flavors at least once.  It happens.  That’s the beauty of live animals, fresh grass and unprocessed milk.

Luckily for you (and me), these unpleasant tastes are easily fixed, it just takes some stealth detective work and usually just a good scrubbing of the equipment or better refrigeration.

Watch the video here, then scroll down to read about the off tastes and remedies, and be sure to leave a comment about your raw milk experience, or a question :

Here are a few off-flavors and their remedies:


Basic taste sensation. Sour, tart, may cause tingling sensation on tongue. “Cultured milk” or “sour” odor may be present.

Cause – Growth of lactic acid producing organisms such as Lactococcus lactis, due to poor refrigeration, especially when temperatures exceed 70°F (21°C). “Malty” milks may be acid also.


Unpleasant odor and taste of a poorly maintained barn or unpleasant feed. May be perceived as “unclean.” “Cowy” or “cow’s-breath” may present a similar defect but generally with an unpleasant medicinal or chemical (i.e., acetone) aftertaste.

Cause – Udders not clean/dry;  absorbed, transmitted odor/flavor due to cow inhaling barn odors associated with poor ventilation and unclean barn conditions/dirty bedding. Similar defect may be due to ketosis in cows, but with more of a medicinal or chemical after taste.


Basic taste sensation. Pure bitter has no odor. Taste sensation is detected on the tongue after expectoration (delayed) and tends to persist.

Cause – enzymatic breakdown (microbial or milk enzymes) of milk proteins to short bitter peptides due to bacteria in the milk – (clean your equipment and dry your udders thoroughly)  Certain weeds ingested by cows may also cause bitterness although this is rare.


Odor and flavor is usually pronounced, similar (not exact) to pineapple, apple or strawberry. Fermented fruit (fruity); may have more of a sauerkraut or vinegar-like odor or flavor (fermented).

Cause – growth of psychrotrophic spoilage bacteria, especially certain psychrotrophic Pseudomonas species or some of the spore-forming organisms (e.g., Bacillus, Paenibacillus). (Better cleaning practices on cow and equipment.)


Malt-like aroma or taste (like malted milk or Grape-Nuts®). May be similar to feed or cooked odors, but is considered a severe defect as microbial spoilage. Milk often is acid as well.

Cause – Growth of Lactococcus lactis var. maltigenes (or possibly other organisms) due to poor refrigeration. May be followed by “acid” or “unclean” flavors.


Cause – associated with late lactation or mastitic cows.  If you think mastitis is the culprit, test the milk and identify the type so you can treat it.

Did you see the trend above?

Main causes of off-tasting milk are improper chilling procedures and dirty cows/equipment.  That’s great news because these things are so easy to fix!

Producers should be encouraged, though – – every raw milk producer will at some point produce off-tasting milk.  What’s important is that the producer identify it immediately (through testing) and remedy it.

If you’re a raw milk drinker be sure to forward this to your producer so they can be aware of the causes of off milk.  Also, as a consumer of raw milk, we producers need your support and encouragement in these situations.  We do the absolute best we can, and sometimes the milk tastes off in spite of it.  Thanks for your patience while we fix it.

And, make sure your refrigerator is keeping your raw milk at 37-40 degrees F and you’re not letting it set out on the counter (teenagers make note!!)

Thank you, as usual, for listening, reading, watching and sharing 🙂


{ 45 comments… add one }
  • Rosemoon Mecho October 30, 2013, 8:34 pm

    We have sometimes had “cowy” milk in the spring when there’s rapid grass growth. This seems to be a magnesium deficiency and is quickly cleared up with the addition of dolomite to the cows’ diet. Also we’ve noticed bitter flavors when feeding alfalfa, especially to goats.

    • Charlotte Smith October 30, 2013, 9:01 pm

      Ahhh good tip. I know we have to feed High Magnesium minerals in the spring for the same reason.

  • becky July 22, 2014, 7:59 pm

    I found this page because I was trying to look up what raw milk is supposed to taste like. I just bough my first cow share, I’ve never tasted raw milk before. It has a very strong after taste that I can’t identify and it gets stronger with age, and when I made it into yogurt.

    The only way I can think to describe the initial taste is that it tastes like rubber. As if it was stored in rubber. I get it in regular plastic jugs. From this list the closest I can come to is “cow breath”. But it’s not like manure tones. I just don’t know if what I’m tasting is normal and I need to get used to it or if it’s abnormal and I should say something to the farmers. I don’t think it’s a taste I could get used to.

    • Crystal August 23, 2014, 6:31 pm

      You may try having your milk brought to you in glass containers. I have some friends who bring me fresh goat milk in half gallon ball canning jars. These are also easy to clean and disinfect for reuse, and fit very nicely in the refrigerator. I can taste the plastic of a milk jug even in store bought cow milk. When I have to buy from the store I buy it in glass or paper cartons. I hope this is helpful to you good luck.

    • Charlotte Smith August 28, 2014, 4:32 pm

      Hi Becky and thanks for your comment. Your milk should taste fresh and clean and really have almost no taste, you should definitely not have to get used to it!

      The first thing you should check is your farmer’s test results showing bacteria counts. Even plastic jugs should not impart a taste. I’m guessing there’s some buildup on the equipment. You can’t always see this – test results will show how sanitary the equipment is.


  • Helia January 27, 2015, 9:46 pm

    Hi Charlotte,

    Our cow is a Guernsey and we don’t have the best history on her. The people we got her from were moving and they said, they had just owned her for a few months.Perhaps we should have done a bit more digging for her past. Now its too late. We live in Florida.

    Now, since we are new at having a dairy cow and are having a hard time with the taste of our milk. We are trying to figure things out. The milk tastes and smells like there is black pepper in it. It was great for a few days, than it started on this crazy kick. We first thought it was the alfalfa, than we thought it was ketosis. She’s been treated since and her milk still has a peppery after taste.
    We clean the equipment with water first, after that with than with hydrogen peroxide.
    For the cow we use the teat wipes, strip,iodine,wipe and milk. After milking we use iodine again.

    In your experience, could you give us any pointers on what could cause a this peppery taste, unless we have some strange weed, or bad grass?

    We use the same food and cleansers that our friends use who have had a large dairy for years.
    Thank you, anything will be great to give us pointers.

    • Charlotte Smith February 7, 2015, 8:44 pm

      Hi Helia –

      thanks for writing! I take it you have not sent in a milk sample for testing? This would be my first step. Also, cleaning the equipment with a food grade bleach step, a dairy acid and a soapy step are all mandatory. sounds like you’ve got some bacteria in your equipment that shouldn’t be there. Also, if you didn’t test the cow before you brought her home perhaps she has staphylococcus aureus too? that can cause an off taste.

      You should be able to find a vet local to you whom you can take a milk sample to after it’s been through your equipment and have it sampled. See what’s growing in there and you’ll know lots of things.



  • Linda Pendrys March 13, 2015, 12:55 am

    I sure hope for your sake it is not staph a, cuz’ you will never get rid of that. I am also trying to figure out an off flavor for my dairy goats. It is a sourish/bitter. No smell, but it affects the sides of tougne when you put it in your mouth. I will pull milk samples on both sides in teheam and send it out to the local university and if something comes up do a sensitivity culture on it. Not what I need 🙁 Geesh…

    • Charlotte Smith March 13, 2015, 1:56 am

      I totally get it, not what you need! It’s always a pain to try to figure out the root of the problem. We test for staph A before any cow ever comes on the farm.

  • Felicia May 3, 2015, 3:12 pm

    Hi! I am a new consumer of raw milk, and bought a gallon of Grade A Whole Raw Jersey Milk and this farm from the farmers market is close to 3 hours away. So, he comes to the farmers market with the milk in ice water. When I got it home it distinctly taste like aged parmesan cheese. I didn’t know where that fit in as for taste in your video. What do you think it wrong with it? Should I be worried about drinking the entire gallon/health issues?

    *Had to repost due to incorrect e-mail address*

    • Charlotte Smith May 4, 2015, 7:25 pm

      Hi Felicia – sounds like it’s either a feed issue or sanitation issue, or both. It should not taste like that!! Kind of a “sharp” taste that actually makes your mouth tingle. I guarantee the flavor of our milk – if it tastes off I refund the $$ completely and hopefully this farmer will too. I wouldn’t drink it if it tastes this way.

  • Larry Karigan-Winter May 10, 2015, 4:14 pm

    Thanks for the video. I found mastitis in a quarter this am and wondered if I could drink that milk. I appreciated the tip on the saltiness as a precursor to mastitis. I’ve tasted that before. Tomorrow, I’ll milk the other 3 quarters for consumption, let the calf suck out the infected quarter and then treat that quarter in the am. I separate the cow/calf at night, milk in the am, then the calf takes the milk during the day.

    Also, we have bitterweed. When it matures and in droughty conditions, our cow can get into it and you know immediately. We move her to another pasture.

    • Charlotte Smith May 13, 2015, 2:55 pm

      Hi Larry – I wouldn’t drink milk with mastitis in it. It should taste pretty bad – – but calves, pigs, chickens will eat it.

      Just make sure your calf is emptying the 1/4 completely – If it were me I’d milk it out completely before putting the calf on again to do additional nursing. Risking leaving milk in the 1/4 and not emptying it completely will prolong or worsen mastitis.

      Good luck!!

  • thomas November 12, 2015, 7:25 pm

    Hi, here in Sri Lanka i m buying 2 bottles of raw buffalo milk every 02 days at 6 am in the morning from a small farmer who keeps about 9 buffallos. Obtained from the buffalo into a bucket by hand milking, the raw milk goes right into my bottles. The buffalos are mainly confined to a small shed. They have little space to go outdoors. The farmer goes out everyday to cut grass and feeds them. The shed looks reasonably clean, the animals healthy. However the taste of the raw milk is pretty bitter, the Colorado after of the milk turns somewhat light pink. Could u inform me what is the reason ? Thks. Dr. Thomas

  • Phillip January 21, 2016, 1:03 am

    I came across your article in hopes to find a reason why some meats can taste Barny/Cowy and was wondering if the reasons for dairy products tasting this way can also be put true to the flavor of meats?

  • Alta February 2, 2016, 3:57 am

    I’m a raw milk consumer. The last milk I bought smelt and tasted a bit off. I called the farmer and informed her of this and her answer was that it is normal for raw milk to have a different taste and smell to it for months after a cow had a calf… is this true?

  • Marla Sharp April 15, 2016, 5:15 pm

    Hi Charlotte
    Thank you for this article/video. It’s been informative and helpful! I really appreciate how you go out of your way to support and guide your customers/clients or anyone that need direction. Your farm store is clean and bright! You’ve got a great selection of other farm foods.
    Your article has put my concerns about raw milk tastes to rest. Thank you again!
    Sincerely, Marla S.

  • Lauren May 16, 2016, 2:44 pm

    My cow just freshened a month ago and her 2 front udders are fine but the back 2 are salty. We are calf sharing and he’s just not getting those back 2 at all! Help I knw it’s early but I Wana get rid of it what do I do!

    • Charlotte Smith May 16, 2016, 2:51 pm

      Hi Lauren – she’s probably on her way to Mastitis in here rear quarters. You’ll want to grab a sample and get it tested by your vet or lab to find out for sure what it is. Most importantly, you’ll need to start milking out those quarters completely twice a day. There will still be enough for the calf.

      If you do this immediately you have a good chance of making sure it doesn’t turn into full-blown mastitis.

      Best of luck!


  • Ls July 1, 2016, 5:12 am

    How long can we leave raw goat milk out? Our drive was long, but when we came home the milk had tasted fine. A while later, getting a glass of it, I saw that it was creamy. It tasted very bitter, not sour though. Is it still drinkable?

    • Charlotte Smith July 10, 2016, 3:52 pm

      Thanks for your comment!! When people pick up milk at our farm they often have a 30-40 min. drive home and the milk is just fine.

      Bitter flavor is not from it sitting out, however. It sours when it’s out. The bitter flavor would come from something else – cow’s health/diet or the equipment sanitation. The farmer needs to look into the goat’s health and get their milk sampled.

      Be sure to tell the farmer so they can research it. Many customers are afraid to say something but an off flavor is an indicator of something that needs to be dealt with by the farmer so they need to know.

      Good luck and thanks again for writing!

  • Jay August 10, 2016, 6:41 am

    Hi there

    I am currently living in Ecuador and north of Quito outside a small village. The local farmer has 23 cows. I was given 3 liters to “sample” and I took it back home, before drinking I boiled it in a double pot to 145F and held that temp more or less for 30 minutes. After I used a baking mixer and stirred it for 30 minutes more or so until temp bad dropped to 70F then it was rebottled and refrigerated overnight.

    Next morning it tasted amazing. Hooked I bought 5 more liters and repeated the process HOWEVER, only two days later one of the 3 liter bottles has an off taste and smell, not sour but not good either. I took a long haul and I didn’t spit it out and did not get sick. I made up the 4th liter today using same process and all tasted fine. I have been feeding the 5 cats with the “funky” milk and no issues so far. I’m a bit nervous to buy more milk, thoughts?

    • Charlotte Smith August 10, 2016, 7:55 pm

      Hi Jay and thanks for your comment. Hopefully your farmer is having his raw milk tested so you can ask to see the test results, specifically bacterial counts, somatic cell counts and coliform counts. This will give you a clue as to if it’s in his cows or equipment.

      Without knowing that it’s kind of like a needle in a hay stack. He could have an infected cow or his equipment may need a good scrubbing and disinfecting.

      I have farmers in South America who watch my videos and write me to say they were very helpful – that’s on this website you may want to send to your farmer: http://www.3cowmarketing.com/category/raw-milk/

      Best of luck and keep me updated – let me know if your farmer is willing to watch any of the videos!!

      Take care,


      • Jay August 25, 2016, 1:40 pm

        charlotte , sorry it took so long to get back to you, as for ” equipment” I am not sure what that would be. They lead the cows into the stall and then wash the udders, the milking is all done completely by hands and then poured into a holding vat, which are 40 liter metal bottles, the bottle has a screen of some sort over it to probably discard any foreign dust or dirt, I honestly never went back. It wasn’t personal I just I don’t know lol

        I’ll try to get them to watch videos but I doubt they have the resources, money, or any of that for testing. Also they speak no English whatsoever, so unless they have Spanish subtitles I can’t see them understanding. I know this sounds harsh but the village only has a hundred people in it. All the farms put the milk in a giant tank in town and a tankera de leche comes from Quito to collect it.

  • jennifer walters August 10, 2016, 4:56 pm

    Can you use the salty milk for cooking with?

    • Charlotte Smith August 10, 2016, 7:51 pm

      I would not – it’s salty because it’s full of inflammation, possibly pus, and is infected.

  • Whitney December 10, 2016, 3:49 am

    Is it ok to drink the milk that smells like a cow? I have gotten it several times from my supplier and it tasted like that. Idk if it starts out or gets that way over the week because I normally just have some if my child is having trouble finishing our weeks supply before the week is out.

    • Charlotte Smith December 11, 2016, 7:47 pm

      I wouldn’t drink it – and they should refund your money for any cow-y tasting milk. Ask to see their test results – those should show them where the problem is.

      If they aren’t testing their raw milk I wouldn’t touch it!! So many problems happen when people are unaware of their bacteria counts.

      Send them to my website for raw milk producers – http://www.3cowmarketing.com/category/raw-milk/ and it will help your farmer tremendously know what they need to be doing to produce safe raw milk.

      Thanks for writing and good luck!


  • Laura Bennett December 31, 2016, 4:23 pm

    We ha e a Jersey milk cow that gives us wonderful tasting milk! 🙂 The milk tastes great, the xream is sweet, nut when we make sweet cream butter, it has a strong taste. It really doesnt taste horrible but it is sharp and strong smelling. This is our dirst experience with a cow and raw milk so mor sure what is going on. It is so strange that it is only the butter rjat has a funny taste.

    Thank you
    Laura Bennett

  • Malaika February 7, 2017, 1:36 pm

    Greetings! I am writing to you from Malawi where we have a Skills Training village where we also keep some dairy cows. At the moment I collect the fresh raw milk from them and then boil them here at home for 30 mins and store the milk in glass bottles in the fridge. I feed this to my 18 month old daughter and she loves it. However we have noticed that the milk seems to go off differently than milk ‘should’ … after about 2 days it firstly starts going thick like yoghurt, so it cant go through a strainer, but doesn’t taste sour at all… in fact it is quite sweet and left a bit it starts tasting bitter. Any thoughts on what could be the cause of this? Is it safe to feed my daughter this (obviously when its fresh and not going bitter)? We were so happy to have a source of fresh farm milk from healthy free ranging cows, as it is difficult to get unwatered down milk in Malawi but a little worried at how this milk behaves. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the matter. regards, m

  • Tom March 7, 2017, 9:19 am

    Hello, I noticed that the raw goat milk I bought from the farmer taste almost like water. The goat milk I buy from Wal-Mart taste great, has a heavy feeling too it and is fulfilling. I’m assuming the farmer is taking the cream from the milk and selling it as raw milk?

    • Charlotte Smith March 7, 2017, 8:23 pm

      Hey Tom – thanks for writing!

      Although it is possible to skim cream from goat’s milk it’s very difficult, so I doubt the farmer is skimming it. I’d suggest you ask them how they get the milk ready for you – is it straight from goat to jars for you, or do they do something else. Also, ask what breed – some breeds are creamier than others. I hope s/he’s not watering down the milk – I’ve heard of that but it’s highly unethical & could be illegal depending on where you are.

      Best would be to enter into a conversation with the farmer to find out more info.

      Good luck!


  • Cadence April 16, 2017, 10:32 pm

    Hi, I am a raw milk provider in Florida. I started a small dairy in August with one cow. about 2 months ago I got another milk cow (Brown Swiss). Her milk tasted fine at first and a few weeks ago about 2 days after milking her the cream got really thick and smelt and funny and taste a little off. I started putting the milk in the freezer first to get it cold, also I put I refrigerator as cold as it would go. And this problem went away. Now I had one customer that keeps saying her kids say milk tastes funny but no one else has. Do you think I am doing something wrong or is the ladies refrigerator not Cold enough? Thank you for your help! Also the Video was Awesome!

    • Charlotte Smith April 17, 2017, 9:48 pm

      Thank you!! First question is are you testing your milk? Your milk test will give you lots of info, otherwise it’s just you and I guessing. I have my milk testing process over on my site for farmers: 3cowmarketing.com and that will get you started figuring out the problem. Thanks and good luck!!

  • Ana September 10, 2017, 9:11 am

    Hello, I’ve had this a couple of times from milk – it has an aftertaste like a rotten almond. Maybe the closest description above would be the barn cow breath description. But it you have ever eaten a rotten nut / seed – you will know what i’m referring to. Is this dangerous? Thank you!

  • Leslie lausch December 23, 2017, 8:41 pm

    Made some fresh butter from some Strauss Family creamery cream. There was some residue around the mouth of bottle but no bad smell, just a slight bitterness on the tongue. The butter has that same slight bitterness to it too, guessing some of that cream residue around the mouth came out w/ the rest of the cream inside the bottle. Does this mean I have to throw out the whole batch of butter?

    • Charlotte Smith December 27, 2017, 9:28 pm

      Hi Leslie – I believe Strauss Family Creamery sells pasteurized milk, correct? This post is referring to raw milk & its sometimes off flavors. You might want to contact Strauss directly and ask your question or get a refund if you’re not happy with the product. I wish you the best!


  • Brittney January 6, 2018, 9:37 pm

    Thanks for the wonderful post! I am new to homesteading, and am hoping to buy a couple of dairy cows as soon as all my research is done. I would like the cows to be able to freely roam my 80 acres (or fence the land into portions and rotate the cows). However, I have a lot of cheat grass and foxtails on my acreage. Will this negatively affect the taste of the milk?

    Thank you so much for your time and expertise – you have a great site here!

  • Brooke May 26, 2018, 1:12 pm

    Hi! When our milk gets older, 7-10 days in summer/Fall and 5-7 days in Winter/Spring we start noticing a fishy smell/taste. What would that be?

    • Ken March 30, 2019, 2:26 pm

      I store milk at 33F. I have kept good milk at that temperature for 1 1/2 months to hold me over while the cow was dry. It’s taste was still good like. It was fresh. I keep my cow clean, I was my cow, I filter the milk, and I keep it cold.

  • Chris July 8, 2018, 9:01 pm

    I had cold milk last night it was fine i went to have a drink it was still cold didnt look bad at all lid was on tight doesnt expire for another week and half it is called dairyland from bc canada 4 liters i had a drink spit it out because it taste like medicine a reall bad bitter taste i had my kids try it thinking it was just me nope they spit it out also saying the same thing.what could it be?.

    • Charlotte Smith July 8, 2018, 9:08 pm

      Oh boy! Canada – sounds like it was pasteurized milk though, correct? This description I have is about raw milk. So yes, pasteurized milk will taste nasty and is super bad for you anyway. Wouldn’t touch it – most allergenic food there is.

      In Canada raw milk is illegal but you may be able to hunt around under cover and find some 🙂

  • Ken March 30, 2019, 2:22 pm

    Interesting and timely article. The milk had a taste like the cow’s breath. Pleeeeeze!! I was feeding it good alfalfa. I believed it was something to do with the gut because to the breath-milk link. I thought at first it was the barn air, but it was fresh and persisted when the cow was outside in fresh air here in California in March. I hit upon the idea of just cutting back on the hay. Voila!! By the next milking the taste was good again and the next milking too. Maybe the gut was getting overloaded and wasn’t digesting things properly. By the way the cow isn’t fat and isn’t a big eater. Any thoughts on this??

    • Charlotte Smith March 31, 2019, 3:53 pm

      Often alfalfa will affect the taste of certain cows. I can have 2 jerseys side by side, look the same. But one eats alfalfa and their milk tastes like you described, the other is just fine. So I just don’t feed alfalfa anymore. We supplement for improved condition with a GMO free grain.

  • Jay omeara May 22, 2019, 8:25 am

    Why does milk taste funny after it rains.? I have noticed over the last 20 years that milk has a particular flavour after rain and new grass has grown. I thought it was one particular brand so I changed brands and I get the same flavour from all of them but only after it rains and there’s new grass growth. Thanks for your time

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