The functioning of an inorganic microfiltration membrane (Membralox-SCT) with an average pore diameter of 0·8 μm, used for processing milk, acidified milk and lactic coagulum, was studied using dynamic and static conditions. Milk processing (pH 6·62) gave acceptable rates of protein retention but at low flow rates. Study of the effect of operating parameters during microfiltration of coagulum led to determination of optimal operating conditions leading to satisfactory performance and adequate retention rate. The results are explained using a model of the formation and development of internal and external fouling of a mineral membrane. Observations using scanning electron microscopy related to the pH of milk were used to verify the model by showing that internal fouling occurred only when the pH was higher than 5·50. This internal fouling was closely linked with the physicochemical state of milk proteins. Indeed, the fouling particles visualized at the alumina grains of the membrane support changed progressively from individual micelles (pH 6·62) to a chain or clustered structure (pH 5·60). Electrophoretic study confirmed this observation and showed that casein was present in milk permeates (pH 6·62) but not in coagulum permeates (pH 4·40).