A colleague of mine pointed out to me that our machine shop in the lab at work has all the equipment (and folks with expertise to help) I would need to fabricate my own cheese vat. While for now it's just a dream (I'd like to be able to produce consistently good 4 lb cheeses before I start making bigger ones...), I have been trying to think of what a well designed vat would look like and include.
A cubic foot is about 7.5 gallons. I have been thinking about a vat that would accommodate 20 gallons. A vat that's 2 feet x 2 feet and 10 inches tall (would hold about 25 gallons filled to the brim) would work. I could do deeper and not so much area, but shallow seems better to me for heat transfer and for curd cutting. I'd like to have it be a water-bath type, so the milk would sit in a pan that sits in another water-filled pan.
I'd like to include a drain because siphoning whey from my 4 gallon turkey roaster seems messy enough.
My questions at this point are:
How would you heat the water?
- electric heaters in the water (but if I'm limited by 110V, heating would be really slow)
- gas burner underneath the vat
- pull hot water from a separate water heater
What do you think of the 2'x2'x10" shape?
How do you prevent the drain from getting clogged? I envision milk going to the valve and then coagulating after rennet is added. Just put a plug in it and pull the plug when it's time to drain? Put a filter over the drain after you've cut the curd, so the curds don't escape, too?
If one day I were to decide to sell cheese I made in this vat, what concerns of the inspector should I take into consideration before making it?
What else should I be thinking about?
Finally, people who have gone from making smaller batches of cheese to bigger ones, what surprised you/didn't you anticipate?
Long post, thanks for reading...