The Role of Heat Exchangers in Apple Juice Processing

November 24, 2020 Categories: Food - Opinion Piece
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While heat treatment is important in ensuring the safety of apple juice through pasteurization or sterilization, for some products heat plays an important role in the production process itself.

The physical and chemical properties must be considered when they are juiced and processed. Sugar content is typically around 11%, while dry matters vary between 13 and 20 % depending on variety and growing conditions.

In order to produce a high-quality product, it is necessary that the treatment processes described below are non-aggressive and do not affect the product in a negative way. Another factor to consider is that apples contain starches which will foul surfaces during thermal treatment. This makes corrugated tube, or even scraped-surface, heat exchangers more appropriate as they require less cleaning and are more energy efficient.

Because apples are a hard fruit, in order to obtain the most juice, it is important to break them down prior to pressing, a process known as maceration. This mechanical process turns the whole fruits into pulp and enzymes are sometimes used to increase the juice extraction. Some processes heat the pulp to a set temperature before juice is extracted, and a scraped surface heat exchanger, such as the HRS R Series, is ideal for such purposes. The juice is usually extracted using some form of mechanical pressing and what happens to the raw (cloudy) juice which is obtained depends on whether a cloudy or clear product is required.

Separation of the various parts of the apple product and pulp is carried out using decanters and clarifiers during various stages of the process. Depending on end use and available heat sources (such as heat left over from pasteurization, left over pulp (pomace) may be dried or concentrated for other uses.

Cloudy Juice
Where a cloudy juice, which contains particles in suspension which will not precipitate out, is required, the pulp temperature is normally raised from around 10°C, to 25°C in order to efficiently extract the product, then further heated to 55°C to carry out the enzymatic treatment, which extracts more juice and makes the juice sweeter. The extracted juice is then sent for further treatment.

Clear Juice
Producing clear apple juice follows a similar process, but the pulp temperature is raised to 55°C for the enzymatic depectinization treatment. This removes pectins and other compounds which give the juice its cloudy appearance.

Once the juice has been obtained, it may be pasteurized (or sterilized, depending on market requirements) and if being sold as an ingredient, it will also be concentrated to save on storage and shipping costs. Both of these processes may be carried out using heat exchanger-based systems such as the HRS Thermblock Series of pasteurizers and sterilizers, or the HRS Unicus Series of scraped surface evaporators.

From here the finished product then cooled to around 3°C for storage (either as part of the pasteurization system, or using another separate heat exchanger, before being aseptically packaged, either for the consumer (in bottles or cartons) of for industrial customers (in lined boxes or IBCs).

Thermal treatments play an important role in apple juice production, and therefore the energy costs associated can be significant. It therefore makes sense to choose the most efficient equipment for each stage of the process.

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