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Word Wisdom: Coagulate

The latest inspirational column from Rev. Dr. John Kreutzwieser
Word Wisdom

If you enjoy boiled eggs for breakfast or lunch, there are a few techniques to follow for reliably delicious eggs. Gently add eggs to already-boiling water so they will peel more easily. But don’t keep cooking the eggs in rolling boiling water, turn the heat down to a low simmer. A quick sear before lowering the heat allows the whites closest to the shell to coagulate quickly and avoid tough whites and overcooked yokes. Egg-white proteins coagulate between 144 and 149 degrees Fahrenheit, while yolks coagulate between 144 and 158 degrees Fahrenheit.

Coagulate means to cause to become viscous or thickened into a coherent mass. Synonyms can be clot, congeal, set, or curdle. The word comes from the Latin coagulare, meaning to curdle, which derives from cogere, to drive together. The English language began using coagulate in the 15th century to describe how things in a liquid state can be “driven together” into a solid mass. Thanks for this word suggestion, Dave.

Coagulation is the point at which milk begins to turn into cheese. Curds, gels, or coagulum can occur by three different processes. Milk has a protein called casein micelles. In milk these biomolecules float around and bounce off each other because of their layer of negatively charged K-CASEIN, keeping milk in a liquid state. Joining these proteins together is like trying to push two magnets together of the same poles, as they will repel each other. The goal to make cheese is to get these molecules to stick together and form a solid mass or coagulate.

Adding an acid to milk directly or using starter cultures neutralises the negative charge surrounding the casein micelles and allows them to stick to each other. Acid-set cheese is softer, like cottage cheese.

You can add enzymes to milk to make it clot. Rennet enzymes act like a razor and shave off the K-CASEIN hairs enabling the proteins to glue together. ½ teaspoon of the right enzyme will coagulate 7 litres of milk.

When you combine acid and heat to milk, it begins to coagulate. Heat affects the whey protein in milk, exposing the sticky portion of their molecular structure. Whey molecules can then bond with each other and with casein micelles. This process produces ricotta, mascarpone, and paneer. 

Coagulation is one of the common methods used by water treatment plants to provide safe, clean drinking water to the public. This method is often used alongside processes including filtration, disinfection, and sedimentation to remove select contaminants from water.

Coagulation treatment is usually carried out before sedimentation and filtration. During the process, a coagulant is added to water, and its positive charge neutralises the negative charge of suspended contaminants. 

Neutralisation causes suspended particles to bind together in clumps known as “flocs.” These particles sink to the bottom of the treatment tank. They can then be easily filtered out of water through an ultrafiltration or microfiltration membrane, or a medium filter, to remove the settled particles. Water can also be moved into a settling tank, in which the heavy particles will sink to the bottom, where they can then be removed. Ferric sulphate, aluminium sulphate, or ferric chloride, classed as aluminium or iron salts, are common coagulants for water treatment. 

Coagulation is most effective at removing suspended solids and natural organic matter like gravel, sand, algae, clay, iron, protozoa, and even bacteria. Many of these contaminants can give water an unpleasant taste and can give water a brown or orange colour.

Coagulate can also be used to describe the process to gather or form into a group. During the recent COVID pandemic business leaders have struggled to find a way to coagulate a team due to the facts that many employees were working from home. It was a much easier process when team members were all working in the same office area.

So, whether you are cooking or trying to work together in community groups you often need to find a way to coagulate. No matter if it is dealing with food or people, forming a unified mass has its challenges and processes. With the correct process of coagulation something different than what you started with will be developed and formed. A community needs individuals to coagulate, operating in a communal spirit, to accomplish social growth and helpful programs that individuals cannot achieve. Who could you coagulate with to benefit our community? Getting involved and coagulating will make Moose Jaw a better place.

John would like to know if anyone has a sincere interest in a relevant word that he could possibly research for an upcoming column. If so, please send your requests to . Words will be selected according to relevance and research criteria. We cannot confirm that all words will be used.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication. 

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