High-tech hydration makes a traditional drink even better
An African beverage manufacturer uses steam infusion to hydrate maize flour and grains.
Trade Kings, an African beverage manufacturer based in Zambia, wanted to resume the production of “maheu,” a drink made from maize. Having produced and marketed maheu until 2008, Trade Kings knew the traditional processing methods for hydrating maize flour, but it wanted to employ new technologies to reduce operating costs and improve product quality.
“Our company was seriously considering re-entering the market, but we needed to do this with a product and process that were superior to those of our competitors, as well as being cost effective in this very demanding marketplace,” says Winani Chiwowa, manufacturing director for Trade Kings.
Trade Kings chose an OAL steam infusion system incorporating cutting-edge Vaction technology after testing showed the technology improved product quality and significantly reduced the processing times of the maize and other grains. OAL Group designed, built and commissioned the Trade Kings system in Zambia. The system uses only one 5,000-liter vessel to hydrate maize flour in concentrations up to 12 percent at a rate of 15,000 liters an hour. The maize slurry is then fermented at 60°C for two hours before passing through two Vaction steam infusion units that heat the final product to 90°C.
The Vaction units create a unique processing environment, yielding significant business benefits. For instance, the units inject steam at a rate in excess of 1,000m/sec., generating a partial vacuum in the units and preventing exposure to excess temperatures. Plus, the units have no moving parts, simplifying the cleaning and maintenance of the system.
To meet consumer preferences, smooth and gritty products are being produced. Thanks to the Vaction units, both can be manufactured on the same line; the granular level can be increased and decreased by altering the steam flow rate through the units.
The system also has simplified the manufacturing process. Traditional methods involve premixing the maize slurry by hand before heating it in a vessel with a steam jacket or a steam coil; the steam infusion method instantly hydrates maize flour on a single recirculation system.
“We are producing a superior maheu product, as well as a wide variety of other ambient drinks, that are being exported to many African countries,” says Chiwowa.
Trade Kings has also benefited from energy savings. The OAL system transfers 95 percent of the steam energy to the product.