Meal and flour can be made from various grains, including wheat, rye, oats, corn, rice and barley. The most commonly used grain is wheat.
The wheat grain consists for 85% of endosperm (flour body), 13% bran (various layers) and 2% germ.
The chemical composition of the wheat grain is:
- 59% carbohydrates (starches and sugars)
- 14% moisture
- 13% protein
- 10% of dietary fiber
- 2% fat
- 2% minerals
Different types of meal and flour can be produced from wheat grains. The criteria for flour is that it can only contain the endosperm; meal also consist of bran parts. Whole meal has a very coarse structure, because it contains the entire husk of the grain, namely the bran. In contrast, Super Patent flour is of a very fine structure, containing only the endosperm. The similarities between the different types of flour is the fact that the germ is always removed. This is due to the fact that the high fat content of the germ speeds up the oxidative spoiling, resulting in a rancid smell and flavor.
The flour quality, and especially the protein content, is determining for its applications. For instance, flour with a low protein content (below 10%) is suitable for use in confectionery products, such as biscuit, and cake. Flour with a protein content of between 10 and 15% is suitable for use in bread. An even higher protein content (higher than 15%) is used in the production of rusk.
The protein content of the flour is determined by the degree of grinding. The core of the grain contains the most proteins; towards the outside of the grain, the protein contents becomes gradually lower. The husk layers virtually do not contain any protein. The higher the degree of milling, the higher the protein content of the meal. The skin layers contain virtually no more protein. So the higher the degree of milling, the higher the protein content of the flour.
Meal and flour production process
Harvesting and threshing
The harvesting of wheat preferably takes place when the grain is sufficiently dry and the grass is properly matured. The harvest takes place during autumn. Threshing can damage the grains, especially when the moisture levels in the grains are low. The combine harvester has to be adjusted properly, ensuring as little grain damage as possible, but with sufficient threshing. Also impurities (like stem and leaf residues) should be avoided. The stems of the wheat plants can be processed into straw.
First, the grains are stored. This is done in large silos, where dry air is blown through. This dry air is necessary because moisture content of the grain is usually on the high side. By lowering the moisture content below 14%, overheating and deterioration are prevented. Moreover, the brittleness and toughness of the grain can be adjusted, giving it the ideal characteristics for grinding.
There are six purification steps to rid the grains of any impurities.
The grains are sieved, removing any coarse contaminants such as paper, sand, straw, husks and twigs.
A magnet is used to retrieve any iron particles from the grain. These iron particles are removed in order to guarantee the safety of the final product and to prevent damage to the machines, such as damage to the rollers in the milling process.
During the third cleaning step in the separator, also called aspirator, both coarse materials (husks and strands) and fine particles (sand and dust) are removed. The grain is guided over two sieve screens. On top a sieve for coarse materials, and below a small sieve. The grain can fall through the course sieve; the small particles such as sand and dust will fall through the small sieve. What is left over passes through an upward stream of air, any remaining dust particles are sucked away with the air flow, while the grains are collected below.
During the fourth cleaning step, stones are removed using a destoner. A vibrating screen (sieve) carries the grains and any stones upwards. A powerful air stream lifts the grains up while the impurities remain on the vibrating screen and are disposed above.
The fifth cleaning step separates the different types of grains. In a trieur, a rotating drum with indentations in its sides, the cereals are rotated. The indentations are made to exactly catch the grains that have to be collected. Grains that do not fit exactly (being either too big or too small) drop from the slot. The desired grain kernels remain in place longer, and then fall into a collecting tray, which is a stationary part in the middle of the drum. The remaining grains are used for different products, for example, for another meal or flour type, or in the animal feed industry. The trieur is not used if a mix of different types of cereals is purposely made, because then this step would separate the grains again.
The final purification step takes place in the scouring machine. Here, the grains are beaten against the coarse side in a drum. Any impurities that were attached to the grain are removed in this way.
After cleaning, the grains are temporarily stored according to class and protein content.
In order to effectively remove the bran during grinding, the grains are conditioned. The desired moisture content is 16-17%. The cereal grains have a moisture content of 13-16%. In most cases, the cereal grains are thus moistened with 1 to 4% of water. This moistening can be carried out using steam and pressure, and takes up to 8 to 20 hours to complete.
To obtain the desired grain composition of the meal or flour, some grains are mixed. This mixing process is referred to as blending.
After the conditioning step, the grinding process can be started. The grinding process is divided into two phases: the scrap phase and grinding phase.
During the scrap phase, the conditioned grains are divided into three segments, namely, the germ and bran, large parts of endosperm (middlings/ grouts), and a small amount of fine flour. The distance between the rollers, that are rotating in opposite directions, at different speeds, is reduced after each rolling step. Furthermore, the grooves in the rollers are becoming finer and after every step the whole is sieved.
The germs are separated during the scrap phase and the brans are further processed in a bran brushing machine, where any flour particles sticking to these parts are removed. These particles can be ground further down to flour using grinding rollers. The endosperm advances to the final phase: the milling/grinding phase.
Milling/ grinding phase
In this phase the endosperm is first divided into two groups: coarse and fine grinding. The coarse grind (middlings, groat) is finely rolled using up to 12 consecutive smooth rolls. After every rolling step, the whole is sieved, creating different fractions.
The fine grinding, which consists of lumps of endosperm and flour, is cleaned in the middlings purifier. After brushing, the semolina (finest parts) are also milled. The middlings go with the bran to a dissolution roll. Here, the bran is separated from the endosperm.
The wheat grains have now completed a large number of rolling steps. The three streams that ultimately result from the milling process are the bran and the germ, the flour and the meal with small parts of bran and germ. The size of these fractions are dependent on the type of meal or flour. The whitest flour results from the first scrap and milling rolling.
Before the flour is packaged, it is occasionally bleached some more or enriched with vitamins and minerals during the refining step of the production. In general, the different types of meal and flour are delivered in bulk. In addition, approximately one-fourth is packaged in bulk packs and 5% in small packages.
Food Safety & Hygienic Design
The general rule is, that as long as the product produced is a dry food, each machine design is sufficient, as long as no physical or chemical lubricants are used, and there is no transfer of allergens. This rule applies to the entire production process. From grain to flour, this means a moisture content of 11-16% should be maintained. This rule only applies as long as the machines are only dry-cleaned, and no water is used, and no condensation occurs.
However, the moisture in grain is not evenly distributed. Increased moisture on the outside, can still lead to mold growth, the system must therefore be visually clean. No old product can remain - even though the meal or flour is baked later. There is a high probability that certain fungi will produce heat-stable toxins. Moreover, meal and flour are also used for decoration and are sprinkled on freshly baked bread.
The conditioning step is the critical stage in the production process, due to the use of a relatively large amount of water. This section should therefore be hygienically designed.
For the remaining equipment a GMP design is sufficient, that is, if the equipment is easily accessible and dry cleanable. A thin layer of residual product should not pose a problem, as long as no significant amounts of leftover product stick somewhere in places where condense could be formed.
When Aviateur does a job, it does it well
Aviateur Banketbakkerijen B.V. steals market share by focus on food hygiene
More than half a million Dutch short biscuits, almond boats, treacle waffles and almond rounds roll off the production line every hour at the five factories owned by Dutch pastry specialist Aviateur Banketbakkerijen. What started as a small-scale family enterprise in Wogmeer has grown to its current position supplying a long list A-brands in the (inter)national food industry, and as a purveyor to the Royal Household.
Aviateur's head office stands right between two large production units in Broek op Langedijk in the Province of Noord-Holland, looking out onto the Wijde Vaart polder waterway at a particularly pleasant spot on the Spanjaardsdam. Here administration, transport and sales staff work literally side by side with production staff in the factory. The logistics heart of the business is housed in the adjoining distribution centre, where Aviateur trucks are loaded up with the daily production yield from the 6000m2 workfloor of the industrial bakery. The twelve ten-tonners operated by Aviateur distribute the produce and come back fully laden with packaging materials and basic ingredients so that production can keep going. The production lines only go quiet during the daily cleaning cycle.
Cake with your coffee
Dutch people enjoy a cake with their coffee, but even beyond our borders Dutch pastries enjoy great popularity. Aviateur currently exports nearly forty percent of all its products. The producer is aiming to grow its exports further in 2018. Aviateur believes this is achievable since demand for Dutch treacle waffles is growing exponentially in the US and China. As part of its strategy, Aviateur is constructing a completely new line for the production of 40,000 treacle waffles per hour in Broek op Langedijk. This is enough capacity to bring the waffles to the (inter)national market at a competitive price.
The new line is a model of modern industrial design, based on the latest developments in food-safe production facilities. Aviateur has considered every angle in its efforts to eliminate all risks of bacterial contamination and foreign objects entering the food chain - from the stainless steel cooling towers and hygienically designed junction boxes to the easy clean cable conduits for the motor drive of the transport and handling systems. The company is willing to innovate and is not afraid to play an active role by investing in new solutions. Aviateur uses the freedom of choice it has as a family-owned enterprise to focus in on sustainability, user friendliness and food hygiene without compromise.
Safe Food Factory
As Technical Facilities Manager, Jaap Jonk has had charge of the technical facilities at the Aviateur production locations for many years now, including in Broek op Langedijk. He brings a down-to-earth Noord-Holland outlook to his role. According to Jonk, "The best way to ensure maximum food safety is by eliminating all risks of bacterial infection in your production environment. To be able to do this, you first need to identify the risks. Two years ago, I attended a seminar run by SafeFoodFactory on the subject of hygienic cabling which made me look at open cable conduit systems in a new light. Many of the cable conduits, that were previously covered, we have now made more accessible and so easier to clean." 'Less is more' seems to be the guiding principle for Jonk when it comes to maximising food safety. He was guided by the same principle in the standardisation of the production facilities. Jonk explains, "In the past, we would build the production space first and then put the production line in the available space. When we were constructing our new treacle waffle line, we did it the other way round. The internal walls of the production unit were only put in place after the production line had been installed. This will allow us to increase production capacity with a second line at a later stage. We wanted to define a new standard through the new waffle line and to apply all the latest developments and understanding in the area of sustainability, hygiene and user friendliness."
Minimising existing risks
As part of the efforts to minimise food hygiene risks, all fluorescent lamps and all plastic cable ties were removed in succession from the production environments. Jonk: "The presence of breakable glass bulbs in the production environment is a risk factor, so we got rid of them. The same went for tie-wraps. They can break off and their use simply cannot be justified in terms of hygiene, so these had to go too.
All kinds of nasties can accumulate in closed cable conduit systems, so we wanted to find a different hygienic solution for the cable conduits for our new waffle line. We found the answer in Streamline HD cable conduits from Gouda Holland (part of the Niedax Group): they are easy to clean and do not need any cable ties."
Michael Evers - Business Development Manager at Niedax Group - explains, "Not only can cable ties break and get into the food chain; because, by definition, they can't be cleaned they pose a potential risk of contamination. If cable ties are not properly tied off, they also have the potential to cause physical injuries. Hundreds or even thousands of cable ties are used in many production environments. By removing them you remove thousands of risk factors at a stroke." Jonk continues,"In the same way, we looked at the housings used for the machine controls. We consistently opted for Rittal HD housings, which have a sloping roof and effective silicone seals."
Freddy van de Kolk, Account Manager Rittal Hygienic Design: "In the period in which hygienic design products came into common use among food producers working primarily with wet processes, Aviateur was one of the first industrial bakeries to install our Rittal HD housings. Others followed their example and HD products are now used in other dry environments too. This is partly because everyone started to look more closely at and became more aware of the role of peripheral equipment in production environments. No one can or wants to run the risk of a nidus of bacteria in a switch box or cable conduit leading to contamination and the recall of products. The hygienically designed products from Rittal and Niedax minimise the risk of anything like that happening."
Evers, "Through the application of Rittal HD housing and the Niedax Streamline HD cable conduit system, Aviateur can now have greater certainty about the hygienic status of the housings and cables. At Aviateur all employees are involved in the drive for maximum food safety - it's something we go into deeply and because we talk about these issues everyone looks at the processes in their part of the business with a more critical eye. This is the most important step in being able to implement changes and the best guarantee of maximum food safety."
Jonk: "We are happy to research new ways of making our processes even more sustainable and user friendly. The safety of our employees and food hygiene in our products are our most important priorities in this respect. It all starts with maximum hygiene. Eliminating food hygiene risks also makes the work environment more manageable, and we are developing our own construction standards that we can stipulate in specifications for our suppliers. This in its turn delivers savings in time and stock. Investing in hygienic design is not only a given for me – our entire board is of the same persuasion."
Featured expert: Michael Evers