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I am transferring all food tech related articles from foodrecap.net here. Please help me spot and correct any weird stuff that may occur.

Drum Roaster Insulation

Due to numerous unexpected expenses, the budget intended for drum roaster build was reduced to almost penny. Needed to start the project on target date with such small funds. It must be broken down to several small sections. Do one at a time as the budget and incidental materials come. Incidental refers to materials scouted from junk shops, friends donations and scraps from broken equipment.

I placed my bet on the drum first. Besides, this is always to first step found in every roaster build demos and tutorials. We sub-contracted the drum, center shaft and front plate. We don’t have yet the equipment to roll bend thick metal plate and weld the middle shaft in almost perfect center. We build the skeleton housing ourselves and borrowed a 3-phase geared motor plus VFD from a generous friend. The drum rotated as intended and seems to mix the beans well after few trials and modifications. Did a first roast with a poorly made housing – thin galvanized iron sheet. It went well.

drum roaster prototype

Time to get a little serious.

I observed so much heat loss on the sides. Not surprising cause we used galvanized iron sheet. The roast process could have used half the energy with the same output.

Perhaps the best insulation popped out of my mind is the clay brick. I already saw several ovens made of bricks. They looks nice and energy efficient. Locally made pizza oven are lined with bricks. They are not so popular I guess. Heavy and fragile blocks require extra cost and care during transport. I may want to ship the frame and bricks separately. Or, rather build all from scratch in point of installation. Then again, change of position will be tedious.

The next in line is asbestos. They are highly toxic however. It may require me more money for safety measures, hazard pay and hospitalization in the end. Let say we installed successfully with great caution. Roasting my commodity immediately next to unsafe thing makes me feel guilty.

Fiberglass is another a good choice but also has safety issues. Just imagine minute glass pieces suspended in air. It may not hurt skin but what if inhaled? An inert and dangerous foreign matter inside the system.

Then I accidentally saw the ceramic fibers. A guy was installing it in his newly made laboratory oven. Ohh! It maybe my best bet for now if not for its high cost and life span of only two years. It become brittle after the period. Easily broken with slight forces. Meaning, it should be securely installed in-between walls. Preventing it from getting into foods once degradation begins.

I think I should take it slow. Like what i usually do. Use roaster and made modifications as excess budget appears.

Soaking Coffee Beans in Honey?

Honeyed Robusta? Interesting!

When it comes to commercial coffee production, Robusta is the king. I guess it is attributed to its huge fruiting capacity, ease of cultivation, pesticide resistance and wider choice of growing lands. Excelsa and Liberica have low fruiting capacity while Arabica is picky on its growing altitude. Arabica is well raised in mountain areas and is the choice of specialty coffee makers.

Coffee can be sweetened during cup preparation. As in adding sugar to boiling concoction or individual cup by drinkers preference. Instant coffee in sachets and bigger packs are often added with sweetener, milk and other flavorings before packing. Kind of fast and convenient but strips away most of the inherent flavor. Whatever, there must be fewer people who are very particular with the taste. Instant coffee is a boom business.

I saw the post on Coffee Roaster Forum, with short provided description. Based on my understanding, it was whole unmilled Robusta soaked in honey. Robusta usually undergo dry processing – harvesting then immediate sun drying. Soaking maybe done before drying or after, then re-drying. The latter is more labor intensive but may allow better absorption. Removing the husk first will surely save on precious sweet liquid.

So why add flavor before the coffee is sent to roasting chamber? The roasting temperature for sure will degrade and evaporate those. A method with more sense is spraying flavor right after roasting. When the freshly roasted coffee is in cooling stage. If vanilla flavor is sprayed, there is a good chance it will be carried over to cup. However, if coffee beans was soaked in vanilla solution, dried, then roasted. Do not expect a vanilla flavored coffee after. For light roasted coffee, maybe. I might do some testing once our own built drum roaster is in operation.

I also heard this trick with cacao beans. Adding fruit flavors such as calamansi and mango during fermentation process. In artisinal setting where makers roast their bean light. Flavors added during fermentation may survived roast. Even more chance for raw chocolate makers, beans never undergo roasting. Ohh! I remember. There is a thing called “green coffee”. I mean literally selling the ground green coffee. In this case, any infused flavor is surely retained to great extent.

Honey flavor may not be the real intention. Roasting is a complex process. One of this is sugar caramelization. Reinforcing the sugar content by soaking in honey may improve the end flavor a lot.

Maja Kalabasa

Maja kalabasa. Cool!

maja kalabasa

Maja Blanca has many fans. Kalabasa has too but it is nothing compared to first. Who wants kalabasa for meryenda? Most children reject it even if cooked as veggie. I hated it too before. However, if we transform it to other food items such maja, pastillas and candy. Why not? It maybe squash but it is still a maja. A semi sweet food love by many.

This particular, is good. Maybe better with less squash. The basis for making maja is cornstarch. Roughly ground corn also do well. In fact I like it better because the natural corn taste is still there. I think the one made with natural corn is “duldol”. It has yellow complexion like this and slanted rectangle in shape. Still popular in public market settings.

I experimented with maja making before. About ideal amount of cornstarch. Lesser amount resulted in saggy texture while more had firmer and better appearance and feel. If anyone modified an original tested maja recipe by adding kalabasa. The additional ingredient will dilute the cornstarch network. Extra starch maybe necessary. It cannot be provided by squash. Add cornstarch or lessen the kalabasa. Sounds simple but it may take several trials to achieve the ideal blend.

Dial Type Thermometer Adjustment

Ooops! I twisted the holder and the dial followed. I thought it was assembled well. Similar dial type thermometer installed in my gas oven has been twisted several times and it is so sturdy. It is provisioned with octagonal shape nut so it can be fixed screwed with a wrench. However I am using bare hands to screw it, holding on face. The dial has never been misaligned. The glass cover had gone off once but it is meant to be like that. Like a twist cap design of glass bottles.

dial type thermometer

My immediate problem was, how could I use it. It gone off the factory setting. Every measuring device is calibrated before dispatch so customers can use it out of the box. Unless, the user is a geek, figuring out how to troubleshoot is bothersome. It is already a faulty device waiting for the garbage can.

I tried twisting the face again and the dial moved. I figured I can re-adjust if I have the same untampered model in hand. Then fix it with a solder or something. I don’t have yet so the next option is side by side measurement with other thermometer. Type is not important but the range matter. Measurement range must be the same or close enough. I can do it the next roasting session. For this obvious reason, refrigerator thermometer cannot be re-calibrated with device for room temperature. Then the latter for oven.

There is another thing I can do right here and right now. That is dip it in substance that has established temperature. Water. It boils at 100. Changes a bit depending on elevation. No need to worry about this if you live near the sea. In our place, it boils slightly lower, 98.9. That point one difference is hard to see on analog devices. I disregarded that and just went into it. I set the water to boiling. Dipped the probe. Waited for the pointer to rise until constant. Rotated the face until the dial was pointing to 100. Let it cool and made a stratch mark where the dial stopped. Of course, I can memorize where the dial rest at ambient temperature. Permanent mark is still better because people forgets.

My application temperature is about 100 to 150 C. Water is fine as reference.

Glass Is Good

Glass is good. Certainly, but there are things that are driving us away from it. First is the immediate danger of broken pieces. They are mostly sharp. I couldn’t remember how many times I had a wounded foot because of a broken piece. Before, when there was no extensive movement for recycling. We had the habit of throwing used glass bottles and jars whenever we wanted. Breaking them on sight only to get karma later. We were so carefree that we had so many broken glass bottles near our house.

It can resist minimal impact. Slight misstep and it is broken. It is luck when the point of drop is soft, not too high or it has simply a strong makeup. The case of Pyrex brand. I prefer stainless/plastic cups and plates at home over their glass and ceramic counterparts. I don’t have to worry about sharp broken edges and replacing them often. Carefulness should be and SOP but accidents just happen. Medicines in plastic bottles are chosen by customers. Soda and fruit drinks either in PET bottles or aluminum cans. Why? Because there is a good chance it is perfectly fine upon landing.

Glass bottle is heavy when full and still heavy when empty. Logistic is expensive. The first basis is weight and then volume. If half of product weight is packaging, then logistic cost can be significantly reduced by replacing it with a low cost alternative. The likes of PET and aluminum.

Glass is actually good. We are just expert at finding flaws that we see anything as bad if there are. I found the slogan written above at the gate of glass bottle manufacturing plant. I strongly agree.

If everyone is careful and responsible enough. A jar can be refilled through infinity. It only needs thorough cleaning, sterilization and new cap. Unlike PET and other plastics which are single use. Oopps. I can be, but not as food container for sale. Glass collection and re-use involves cost of course. However, the benefits outweighs it. This is being done by softdrink giant, of which also resorted to lighter and disposable alternative. Who never know about Gin bottle? The bottle specially made for alcohol but later carries soy sauce, vinegar, cooking oil, fish sauce and sometimes non-food items like kerosene. Whatever it carries, as long as it is whole and can be cleaned out later, it is fit for reuse. Gin bottle generic design and ease of capping, the snap cap, made it very popular for liquid manufacturers and repackers. Glass is inert. It never reacts to anything. Unless subjected to its melting temperature, which is very unlikely under normal and harsh environmental conditions.

According to gpi.org, recycled bottle meant for food use can be made of up to 95% broken glasses. Wow! Reusable and highly recyclable. There is also market for broken glass of yours. Plastic as food packaging are made of virgin materials. Recycling it for the same purpose is highly discourage. Virgin materials leach out chemicals to its contents. What more if mixed.

About 80% are recycled. It breaks but never rots. Collectors and scavengers have plenty of time hunting it. There are cases where recycling is hard. That is if it is reinforced. The thing that makes window glasses more durable. It can still be downcycled as additive to patio, cement, tiles and pavement. It came from Earth in form of sand. If not fit for intended recycling, it can be brought back without detrimental effects.