Three variants of plant-based drinks - Krones focuses on oats and offers techniques for different processes
Plant-based drinks, i.e. drinks that are based on plant raw materials, were still more of a niche product ten years ago, especially in organic food shops. Today, they have arrived in every supermarket - and the shelves are becoming fuller and more colourful. This diversity is re-flected in the processing of the raw materials. This is because every source product has cer-tain properties that have to be taken into account during production. Krones is focusing on the production of oat drinks and offers three different process variants in this context.
Whether it's grains, flakes or flour: oats form the basis for the production of plant-based drinks in Krones' processes. (Photo: © suma film GmbH)
Production from finished oat base material
As in soft drink production, in the first processing variant the oats are available in the form of an already finished liquid base material that can be purchased from corresponding suppliers. As with all three variants, it is then mixed with stabilisers, flavours or fats in order, for exam-ple, to achieve the desired consistency or flavour nuance.
The mixing itself takes place in standard process tanks that are already available in the syrup rooms of many beverage producers. This is precisely why this variant is ideal for all compa-nies that want to quickly start producing oat drinks without having to invest in new equipment.
Producing quickly and with little effort
The use of milled oats is also suitable for a quick start, because in this case ordinary process tanks are also used for mixing. A disperser (for example, a vacuum mixer) is also absolutely necessary for dissolving the oatmeal in the water. The difference compared to the first vari-ant: In addition to water, enzymes are added in the first step, triggering hydrolysis. After that, the solids need only be separated from the liquid in an additionally installed decanter before the so-called "base" can be finally mixed out. The ideal target group for this variant is primarily dairies or other companies that want to produce medium-sized quantities of oat drink with only a small investment.
Know-how from brewery technology
The third variant relies on oat grains or flakes that are freshly ground on site. When enzymes are added, special hydrolysis vessels are used here. These in turn are based on mashing technology from brewing technology. It is obvious that brewing experts can transfer their know-how from the production of beer to plant-based drinks, because both processes have fundamental similarities: Just like barley or wheat, oatmeal is also milled grain - and this is intensively and homogeneously mixed with each other in a hydrolysis tank - first with water and then later with enzymes and other ingredients. The pillow plates and integrated vibration units in the tank also ensure that everything is heated evenly and the soluble oat ingredients can be extracted efficiently.
In addition to the high yield and product quality, the hydrolysis tanks have great potential in terms of saving energy. The specially shaped, internal heat exchanger surface makes the heat transfer so efficient that the heating medium temperature can be significantly reduced and switched over from steam to hot water. This means that the energy recuperated during cooling can be used again in the next cycle.