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Adding flavour and increasing output with desiccant dehumidification

5 min read
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As demand for quality produce increases, dehumidifiers play a vital role in improving flavour, reducing waste and increasing profits in the food and beverage industry. In this article, we delve into the delicate science that goes into optimising environments during the production of some of our favourite treats.

The flavour, quality and appearance of food products can be altered both positively and negatively by the amount of moisture in the air. To optimise humidity levels and get the desired results from their production processes, many producers use desiccant dehumidification. Some of the most notable examples include:

  • Confectionary
    Because sugar and many other ingredients in confectionery products are hygroscopic (meaning they absorb water from the atmosphere), moisture in the air can cause sweets to clump together in small bunches during production and grow mould during storage.

    Because sugars expand as they absorb water, high-speed processing machines, pipes and wrapping materials can become clogged with products stuck together. In a busy manufacturing facility, this will increase production times and disrupt logistics.

    In chocolate production, unregulated humidity will increase wastage as a result of ‘bloom’ (a white coating that appears on chocolate after it sets). This happens when moisture causes fat or sugar crystals to rise to the surface, and while this isn’t dangerous for consumption, the reduction in appearance is unlikely to pass strict quality control.

  • Dry-ageing meat
    Dry-aged beef is a delicacy that, when mastered, can result in outstanding taste and tenderness. During the dry-ageing process, beef is hung in a controlled environment to allow water in the raw meat to evaporate, thereby enhancing the natural flavours of the meat.

    While ‘good mould growth' is an essential part of the process to increase evaporation, humidity levels need to be carefully controlled in order to prevent the wrong kind of bacteria from infecting the meat. This is a delicate balancing act, as humidity levels becoming too low can promote greater evaporative weight loss, resulting in the beef drying out too quickly and losing the juices it needs.

    Changes in humidity throughout the drying process will add to the unique flavour of each cut. However, dehumidifiers are normally set to maintain relative humidity (RH) levels between 75% and 85%.

  • Cheese ripening
    Along with temperature and air circulation, humidity is a crucial element in the development of most cheeses.

    When the amount of moisture in the air is left unregulated during ripening or storage, there are a number of factors that can affect the overall quality of the product. These include mildew, the rotting of rind, the softening of cheese dough, ammonia taste and smell, a well as the growth of putrefying bacteria.

    In general, relative humidity (RH) levels should be maintained between 75% and 95% at 10°C to 13°C during the ripening process, and between 3°C to 4.5°C with RH levels of approximately 65% during cold storage.

Due to their ability to operate at low temperatures and achieve precise levels of relative humidity, Calorex desiccant dehumidifiers are a top choice for food manufacturers throughout Europe. Here’s how they work:

  • A desiccant rotor within the machinery contains a network of small airways lined with silica gel.

  • Humid air from the environment is pulled into the desiccant wheel. The silica gel absorbs the moisture, and releases around 75% of the air out warm and dry.

  • The other 25% of “reactivation air” is heated to around 120°C, removing moisture from the rotor. Wet air is released into the atmosphere through a duct, ending a continuous process of both airstreams passing through the rotor.

How a desiccant dehumidifier works

Key benefits:

  • High moisture removal rate in a single air pass

  • Achieve very low absolute humidity levels

  • Can operate in low temperatures and at low humidity

For help choosing the most effective system for your facility or for more about the benefits of desiccant dehumidification in food and beverage production, contact our team.

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