Why is putting hot milk in a thermos not recommended


A colleague of mine just got a new thermos (inox), this model, and actually read all instruction, and we were surprised to read that it is not recommended to pour hot milk in the thermos.

My opinion was that:

  1. Unlike tea of coffee, a lot of micro-organisms live in milk, will end up being a favorable place for those micro-organisms to generate a culture (which will be more and more difficult to get rid off, and will contaminate any other fluid poured in the thermos)
  2. If you don't wash it straight away, it will really stink.
  3. The milk being full of water-insoluble proteins/fat, it will "coat" the internal thermos walls (gross!) – I've already seeing that "coat" forming in plastic containers, and I guess it won't be any different in inox containers.

I've actually not found an answer online, so I thought that here I could find some experts. I realize this could be a cross-question for Biology SE, but I felt it more food-related.

Best Answer

It depends on the design. Some can't be washed properly, and milky liquids are much harder to clean off by rinsing than water or most water-based drinks

My genuine Thermos brand flask wouldn't be a problem because all the surfaces that come into contact with the food are accessible.

My previous small cheap flask had a pouring system in the lid that meant the contents passed through a non-washable chamber (clipped together in a way that wasn't designed to be opened). I eventually forced it open to find it full of hot chocolate residue. My flask is mainly used for kayaking, it has to be made up beforehand as fiddling about with powders when on a riverbank in the pouring rain doesn't tend to get you a hot drink when you need it. At that point it would have gone in the bin even if I hadn't just broken it.

A point mentioned in the comments is that the instructions for one particular Thermos say This product must NOT be used for keeping milk products or baby food warm or cool, to avoid the possibility of bacterial growth. This is the only reference to warm contents in these instructions; the word used elsewhere is hot (excluding washing-up instructions). Warm implies attempting to maintain temperatures in the danger zone. (for completeness as comments don't always last)