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bbi – Automated premium bread lines: Koenig
f2m-bbi-library-koenig-MDI Stratos_bread

Bread consumption is once again on the rise, with the market expected to grow annually by 6.80%(1) and reach
a worldwide volume of 216.70 bn kg by 2028(2) . The technology to support efficient, automated production of high-end, quality bread is here. The key is gentle dough handling.

‘Artisan’ and ‘premium’ are often used interchangeably when referring to bread. To Koenig, ‘premium’ products are crusty breads, with complex flavor and a chewy crumb. They are the result of long and slow fermentation and processes that cherish the tradition of handcrafted bread, made from scratch without preservatives or enhancers, but with high-quality ingredients, the specialist shares.

The Austrian technology specialist designed its automated bread lines with premium bread ranges in mind – which mostly encompass doughs with long fermentation times and very high water ratio, such as Mediterranean white bread with more than 80% water content, or rye breads containing up to 90% water. These premium bread lines cover all processes from mixing up, to dough processing, product handling, proofing, baking and through to cooling and freezing. Dough processing mostly determines production capacity, which can go as high as 5,000 kg of dough throughput per hour, on setups that use the Menes-H dough sheeting line. Small-pore and large-pore dough can run on this line. For processing and forming of bread doughs, Koenig recommends dough sheeting lines, such as its Menes, designed for this purpose.

Sheeting lines have become a popular solution for dough make-up as technology has advanced to allow the retention of dough cell structure and made it easy to process different kinds of dough and perform changeovers. Products were traditionally made by hand can now be automated, while still retaining their artisan character. “When using an elaborate processing line, bakeries can achieve higher weight accuracy, more gentle dough processing and absolutely even density of the dough sheet, when producing artisan bread doughs,” the company’s specialists stress. For example, a dough sheet forming system for various dough types can be incorporated into the line, or the TwinSat double satellite head for the gentle processing of the dough sheet.

Koenig can accommodate any product forming requirements: “We integrate guillotines for cutting breads in different sizes and shapes, including decorative patterns.” Forming stations can also be incorporated in these lines that flatten dough pieces, convoluting them. With subsequent seeding, breads can also be decorated. “We built a large bread line with a long intermediate belt. Along this belt, production staff twisted the bread dough pieces into the company’s typical shape. The customer wanted to have this ‘hand-crafted’ style, so we integrated it. After manual forming, it became a fully automated line again,” Koenig shares an example of a recent setup.

For final proofing, the company recommends solutions such as step proofers, rack proofing chambers or tray proofers, ideally fully enclosed by thermo-insulated panels.

For baking, the multi-deck tunnel oven MDI STRATOS with indirect heating is Koenig’s choice for this line, due to its ability to combine modularity, power and control in a compact design. The heat transfer to the product takes place mainly by radiation, but also by contact and natural convection, Koenig explains. The decks are completely independent, which allows the management of different production rates and/or different products to be baked simultaneously. “Each adjustment zone has a dedicated combustion, ventilation and heat exchange system, as well as a set of probes, allowing the independent control of temperature,” Koenig’s specialists explain.

When dealing with long fermentation times, which is often the case for premium breads, a final proofer can help to achieve consistent quality by ensuring constant conditions. For cooling and freezing, custom spiral solutions from the newly-acquired Finish manufacturer Vulganus are added to the equipment lineup.

Custom-designed, automated processing

When working with bakers to customize a premium bread line, Koenig first aims to learn the artisan handcraft process and then transfer this knowledge to industrial production volumes, without any loss in quality. “This means creating dough processing principles for the most gentle dough handling with regards to the latest trends in bread consumption, e.g. processing bread doughs with long fermentation time, seeds, sprouted grains, etc.,” details the specialist, adding that, “In transferring artisan knowledge to industrial production, we always look for solutions that make the equipment easier to clean, easier to operate and minimize downtimes.”

Automating sensitive bread doughs does not mean the exact same procedure will be used every day. The competence to make small changes, also in automated production, is still a very necessary skill to have, in order to be able to react to a number of variations that may occur. Factors such as temperature, humidity, flour quality, etc. can have an impact on artisan bread production. “In our experience, we find that bakeries sometimes underestimate the effect of these surroundings or have problems with finding the right staff to react to these parameters in the operational business,” Koenig illustrates.

Consistent bread quality

The biggest challenge in processing artisan, premium breads is consistency – regarding dough quality and texture, dough processing, and bread quality, respectively. “Bakeries wanting to scale up their bread production with consistently high quality need to have one thing: a perfect process organization,” Koenig underlines. All the solutions lined up in the premium bread production contribute to increasing the quality of artisan products. By establishing a full process, it is easier to control the production, even if it is scaled up, Koenig points out.

The company shares advice on how to mix and process artisan bread doughs, for consistent results: “Doughs with extensive fermentation time need steady conditions, e.g. by placing the mixing bowls in evenly air-conditioned rooms or chambers. When mixing several batches for use on one processing line, the mixing times need to be coordinated with the floor resting times and the processing times. The floor resting time must be exactly the same for each bowl of dough. We recommend making the batches in a size that can be each processed in approximately 15 minutes on the dough processing line – preferably on a dough sheeting line for bread doughs. This has turned out to be a good referential number.”

Improving equipment features

For new technology developments, Koenig focuses on producing artisan and premium breads and buns with high weight accuracy. For this, scaling systems that are built into the dough sheeting lines play a key role, as they continuously coordinate cutting the dough sheet in the right place, to achieve the right weight.

“We are also working on processing long-fermented doughs in large batches. Scaling up artisan doughs to an industrial level without quality loss was not possible until recent years but today’s technology enables it,” Koenig highlights.

Flexibility remains in high demand, too: “Customers ask for ‘all-in-one’ solutions – one line for all sorts of doughs. The key is to form a homogeneous dough sheet on one line for both soft and large pore doughs. Koenig overcomes this challenge both for the Menes-H line and Artisan SFM EC line with a sophisticated dough sheet forming system, which can be adjusted with rollers and sensors for individual doughs,” the specialists explain.

Koenig has been closely focusing on hygienic design for several years now, to ensure machines stay clear of flour, dust and waste dough, which can all cause machine wear and can even bring bread production to a stop. Allergens and staff safety are also addressed by new equipment features. To meet such industry demands, Koenig developed the wash-down ‘H’ hygienic design series and the ‘Easy clean’ series for easy cleaning and accessibility, which cut cleaning time at least in half, according to their customers, the specialists point out.

Solutions to support the growing preference for high-end, nutritious breads are here, for any production requirements.