Tracy West looks at the options in refrigeration and freezing kit for all sizes of business, from the largest plant to the smallest artisan bakery

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Whatever size your business, the odds are that space is at a premium. Among the items bakers may need to find room for are ingredients and finished goods storage, provers, ovens, moulders, dividers, mixers, refrigerators and freezers. In the case of the latter two, at least, there are many options available when it comes to both size and function.

For larger bakery businesses, spiral freezing gives manufacturers the opportunity to fit a long conveyor in a comparatively small space. “Spiral freezing permits freezing to be done ‘inline’,” explains David Marsh, managing director at Benier UK, one of the companies that make up the Kaak Group. “It’s part of the fully automated plant where raw ingredients go in at one end and finished frozen products emerge out into the low-temperature packing hall for storage.”

Spirals are essentially simple, he adds. “They only need one motor drive and there are no transfers that can upset product orientation. Maintenance is very simple and all the products travel through the same space, which means they all get the same air conditioning.”

Kaak Group freezing systems have insulated enclosures, evaporators and defrosting systems designed for ease of access, hygiene and clean-down. Vertical or horizontal air flow can be configured to optimise the cooling and freezing parameters.

The belts on Kaak’s Multi-Spirals can be up to 1,375mm wide and hundreds of metres in length. Its Multi-Block system uses product carriers with specially designed loading and unloading systems and, because it is modular, has no limit to size and capacity, says Kaak. The suppler adds this makes it ideal for systems where a specific temperature curve is needed.

At a glance

Blast chiller: A ‘cousin’ of the common-or-garden fridge, this commercial fridge is designed to store food at between 3°C and 5°C.

Shock or flash freezing: This is used to lock in freshness – the faster the food is frozen, the smaller the ice crystals that form, which means less damage to the food.

Spiral freezing: Used in higher-capacity plants making thousands of products an hour, the ‘spiral’ format enables a very long conveyor to fit in a comparatively small space

Finnish firm Vulganus is another leading manufacturer of spiral cooling and freezing systems for bakeries. Each system is designed and manufactured case by case according to the process, product, desired capacity and space available to customers.

Bakers should consider continuous spiral systems as they streamline the manufacturing process, with the cooled products going to packing and distribution in a shorter time, says Steve Merritt, managing director of EPP, which distributes Vulganus in the UK. “This improves a bakery’s efficiency and productivity and ensures the final products are fresh and have a long shelf life. It helps maximise the consistency and quality of finished products.”

The Vulganus range comprises four lines: Arctic for rapid cooling and freezing; Tropicline for controlled proofing; Clean Line for clean air cooling; and Softcool for ambient cooling. Merritt says the Arctic Line is particularly suitable for large-volume producers as product is chilled or frozen quickly and efficiently with fully enclosed air circulation. The rapid process limits the growth of bacteria and its washing system ensures high hygiene levels.

“It is also important to remember that rapid processing minimises weight loss and enables improved productivity,” he adds.

Hygiene is described as the key principle in the Vulganus development programme, and the range offers up-to-date washing and drying technology including the Steriline CIP (clean in place) washing system that enables the spiral belt, drum and enclosing room to go through a fully automatic washing cycle at the press of a button.

Cleanliness is vital not only for hygiene purposes, as keeping refrigeration equipment clean and well maintained will help to keep it running longer (see box above).

Malcolm Harling, sales and marketing director at Williams Refrigeration, says modern quality refrigeration can last for 10 years or more if it is looked after properly and regularly serviced. “Follow the manufacturer’s recommended guidelines as regular maintenance will reduce the risk of costly breakdown and consequent food wastage,” he adds.

With refrigeration operating 24 hours a day, Harling says choosing models that use energy-saving technology makes sense financially and in terms of environmentally friendly practice.

“Refrigeration with ‘intelligent’ control systems, such as Williams’ CoolSmart Controllers, minimises the cabinet’s energy consumption through processes such as fan and heater pulsing, intelligent defrost and independent management of evaporator and condenser fans,” he adds.

“Other features to look for include self-closing doors and magnetic gaskets that will provide a 100% seal and ensure that heat ingress is kept to a minimum.”

Hydrocarbon refrigerant has environmental benefits, as well as reducing energy consumption due to its excellent thermodynamic properties, according to Harling.

Williams has a range of refrigeration designed for kitchens where space is at a premium. For example, Williams’ Jade Slimline counters are described as having all the features of the standard range but with a depth of just 500mm, making them ideal for small kitchens.

The yield of the appliance and its flexibility are important considerations when it comes to blast chilling and shock freezing, suggests Steve Morris, sales director at Jestic Foodservice Equipment, exclusive distributor for the Irinox range of blast freezers. “The yield calculation essentially determines the weight of the product that can be placed inside and frozen within the allotted cycle,” he adds.

Morris says many blast freezers are designed for one role: to blast-chill and shock-freeze. But some of the latest models, including those in the Irinox Multifresh range, feature additional technology that means they can blast-chill, shock-freeze, prove, thaw regenerate, pasteurise and overnight cook at the touch of a button.

Dawsonrentals, meanwhile, has developed the Eco Blast system that filters ambient air through high-velocity fans to reduce heat in a product without refrigeration. The module’s blast mode is then activated to reduce product to the final temperature required.

“To save customers money, in recent years we supplied standalone, single-function ambient blasts,” Dawsonrentals managing director Rod Benham said when the business launched the machine last September. “They reduced energy but weren’t the full answer as customers had to double-handle the product: out of the ambient blast and into a blast chiller/freezer. People needed a solution to eliminate this double handling and our Eco Blast does exactly that.”

Meanwhile, Vulganus has developed a system to prevent ice building up in industrial freezers that it says could pay for itself in just three months in some instances. Iceless is a two-stage drying process that the manufacturer says effectively dries the air and pressurises the room and openings, preventing humidity moving inside.

“It allows frozen baked products to be continuously made without the need for regular defrosting, which results in considerable energy cost savings,” explains EPP’s Merritt.

While their business is reducing heat, there’s clearly little sign that refrigeration and freezing specialists are going cool on new product development.

Top tips for fridge maintenance

  • Never use abrasive materials, cleaners or chemical cleaners on the outside of the fridge/freezer, as these can damage the surface and cause corrosion
  • Regularly clean the interior with warm soapy water and a soft cloth. Dry thoroughly afterwards and remove as much racking and shelving as possible each time
  • Check door gaskets. Make sure they’re regularly cleaned to avoid the equipment working unnecessarily hard
  • Clean the condenser four times a year.
  • Dusty condenser coils cause a cabinet to work harder, so it will struggle to maintain temperature – this translates into bigger energy bills and shorter life expectancy
  • Most units rely on a drain hole and drip pan to remove condensation. Check periodically to ensure there is no blockage

Source: Williams Refrigeration

Cool kit

Koma turborunner freezer

The TurboRunner delivers continuous air flow over products. Koma says this results in the quickest freezing time possible, with the lowest energy consumption and lowest dehydration of the product, which means it retains quality and taste over a longer period of time.

The strong air movement, partly horizontal and partly vertical, directed onto the product provides a good turbulence and cold air delivery. The air direction varies per section, which guarantees uniform cooling down of all products, adds the supplier.

The TurboRunner is a modular system of freezing sections, each three metres in length, and, in line with growing production capacity, can be easily extended.

Dawson rentals Eco Blast

The Eco Blast is described as a new approach to ‘hot product cooling’ prior to blast chilling or freezing, which cuts the significant costs of ‘double handling’ needed by traditional methods.

It combines both cycles in one module, and also delivers follow-on holding and defrosting capabilities within the same unit. Dawsonrentals says this process could deliver savings of up to £10,000 per year as it reduces the power required for temperature lowering of product recently out of an oven before blast-chilling or freezing them in the same unit, saving on time and labour.