From a processing perspective, some companies are looking to promote “mixing to energy” to provide quality assurance and potentially reduce mix time.

Although it’s not a new concept, mixing to energy relies on software to measure the kilowatts per hour (kWh) of the equipment’s motors and variable-speed drives to follow an established energy curve and more precisely target when the dough is fully developed.

In many ways, it takes much of the guesswork out of mixing, noted Terry Bartsch, executive product manager, dough systems, AMF Bakery Systems.

“By mixing to energy, you’re bringing in some quality control versus mixing to time,” he said. “As everyone knows, there are slight variations in ingredients. From a quality control standpoint, by mixing to energy, you know that dough coming out of the mixer has that same energy input dough after dough. It takes out that variable, which may be a slightly different protein level in the flour from another mill or a slight difference in the way a system automatically feeds all the ingredients into the mixer.”

Jerry Murphy, vice president of sales, Gemini Bakery Equipment/KB Systems, said mixing to energy can be a useful feature when applied correctly.

“It requires some effort to establish the baseline energy measurement, but once completed, it helps improve mixing consistency when operators are less experienced to identify rheology changes,” he said.

Mr. Bartsch said testing allows bakeries to create custom mix energy curves for specific products. Once established, those energy curves create a “smart” process that also reduces the need for skilled veteran operators by relying on digital controls to further automate mixing.

In addition to consistency, he added, bakeries can also obtain faster mix times by establishing specific energy levels.

“Ultimately, instead of mixing based only on time, you’d do it based on energy input of the motor,” Mr. Bartsch said. “Once it reaches a certain energy input stage, that’s when you bring the motor down to the optimal torque level. Once it gets to a peak energy point, then the mix is over.”

Andrew McGhie, director of sales, Shaffer, observed that mixing to energy can alert operators to significant variations in the process. That can be especially valuable on high-speed bread and other production lines.

“If there are any variations, bakers normally wouldn’t find out until the dough is in the divider, and it’s very sticky or too soupy or stiff, and they can’t get it through the makeup system,” he said. “The mix to energy graph is more than recording the energy on the dough. It’s a guide that says, ‘Is this dough similar to what’s been mixed before?’ ”

Melanie Gay, marketing manager for products and services, VMI, concurred that energy tracking provides a good way to ensure consistency and repeatability by monitoring the gluten network’s viscosity and formation from premixing to the end of the mixing process.

“It is more reliable when you wish to achieve similar results on various pieces of equipment,” she said. “However, for this method to be truly reliable, you must make sure that the settings are perfectly adjusted. If the mixing tool’s settings are not, or if the motor is worn out, it can impact the energy provided. In this scenario, you can have very different results from one mixer to another.”

The sheer number of variables is why bakeries often rely on their most experienced bakers to oversee the mixing department, even with the latest in automation.

“Controlling the temperature makes it possible to manage product development,” Ms. Gay said. “Meanwhile, continuous metering and weighing devices for all the recipe ingredients, including liquids, are also essential to ensure the repeatability of the produced doughs.”

Most bakeries still mix to time because it’s simple to do. Additionally, old habits often die hard in the baking industry.

“If you’re mixing to time, it’s easy, so you really don’t have to train people that much,” said Ronald Falkenberg, regional sales director USA & Canada, Diosna. “Mixing to energy can get quite complicated, so that’s why people mix according to time.”

However, advances in digital technology may have simplified the use of mixing to energy and given bakeries another tool to consider in their battles to control costs and alleviate the skilled labor gap.

This article is an excerpt from the June 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Mixing, click here.