Food Engineering

Field Reports: Sanitizing system solves dish dilemma

December 4, 2003
If awards mean anything, Cypress Grove Chevre may be the premier processor of goat cheeses in America. Ensconced in the foggy Redwood forests of Humboldt County in northern California, this specialty cheese maker could fill vats with its awards.

"Our company is our world," says owner Mary Keehn, "and we try to make it as good as we can in every way." This translates into the highest quality product for its customer base of chefs, specialty food stores and top-line restaurants.

"Dishwashing is the number one job people hate to do at our plant," notes Keehn. "We used to hand-wash everything. Hand-washing is labor-intensive. We needed a cost-effective method of cleaning our molds."

Cup-like molds, three inches tall and three inches in diameter, are the first cleaning targets. They must be resanitized each day before they are filled with product. Since the cheese spends most of its slow five-day process in the mold prior to aging, clean molds are imperative. Made of a lightweight plastic material, the molds are tough to clean. They float free and bang around in most panwashing equipment.

Keehn contacted Douglas Machines Corp. and inquired about several models of panwashers to clean and sanitize the molds. Then she mailed Douglas dirty mold cups so they cold perform wash tests. Noting the potential cleaning problem with standard design panwashers, Douglas engineers custom-designed a cage-like device to hold the molds through the cleaning cycle.

The Douglas Model SD-36 Panwasher installed at Cypress Grove Chevre features a programmable controller that allows the push pad to function as a diagnostic center for advanced trouble-shooting.
"By actually having the molds tested in our facility, we determined a special tray was needed to hold the molds down. They were lighter in weight than we had anticipated," recalls Kevin Lemen, Douglas Machines' vice president.

Keehn decided to purchase the larger Douglas Model SD-36 Panwasher due to its versatility. In addition to the molds, it could clean vats, racks, and dollies and carts for aging cheese as well.

Douglas' design does not damage containers or allow them to flip over during cleaning, says Keehn. "The machine causes much less abrasion to the molds and vats. They stay in good shape much longer."

Recirculated water pumped through high-velocity V-jets cuts through caked and hardened residue and removes tough stains. The machine offers moisture-resistant control gauges and a removable dual-filtration system. Recently added features include easy push-button control and an information center that monitors and digitally displays key performance functions.

The operation is swift as well, with an average wash/rinse cycle of five minutes. It is available with electric, infrared gas, or steam heating.

"Before, two people hand-washed containers and equipment for six hours a day," recalls Keehn, who was very concerned with employee burnout. "Washing time is dramatically less than that now!"

For more information:
Suzanne Whitehurst, Douglas Machines Corp.,
800-331-6870, ext. 208,
swhitehurst@dougmac.com; www.dougmac.com