When automating artisan baking, patience is a virtue because this process often requires extended fermentation times. However, artisan operations have several options.

“Continuous fermentation is very popular but only in a first-in and first-out basis and must include a clean-in-place system,” said Ruud van Mer, mixing specialist, Bühler Group.

Many artisan bakeries use preferments to reduce labor for creating Old World breads.

“Liquid pre-dough and sourdough fermentation have been added to the artisan bakery process to avoid a lot of manual work and to save space and time because the fermentation process with liquid pre-dough is much faster at the same result,” said Ronald Falkenberg, regional sales director USA & Canada, Diosna.

In a larger operation, he noted, one mixing operator can rely on robotics to shuttle mixing bowls on tracks from the fermentation storage area to various mixers at rates up to 20,000 lbs per hour.

To automate gentle mixing with extended fermentation times, high-volume artisan bakeries can integrate fork, spiral and other mixers with multiple dough rest stations, said Melanie Gay, marketing manager for products and services, VMI.

While adding preferments makes the mixing process more complex, she said combining automation and process controls allows bakeries to produce artisan baked goods on a consistent basis.

“The bowls can be easily transferred for resting, fermentation or other steps in the mixing process,” she explained. “The use of buffer tanks for these fermentation steps, automatically managed by a monitoring system, makes it possible to implement batch technology to enable flexible and scalable processes. The batch technology allows a complex and long process of mixing and fermentation while keeping a high productivity from 15 to 16 bowls per hour.”