Author Topic: Cheese vat  (Read 2202 times)

Offline Jesse

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Cheese vat
« on: January 14, 2014, 11:38:37 AM »
I am new to cheese making and want to purchase or fabricate a vat. I am looking into either using a hotel pan with a countertop food warmer or a sous vide setup but unsure of which to route to take. What are the pros and cons of each and are there other/better options?

Thank you for your help.


Jesse
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Offline H-K-J

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Re: Cheese vat
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2014, 11:57:31 AM »
Jesse use the search feature there is a whole bunch of DIY vat's on the forum
act as if it were impossible to fail.

Offline Jesse

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Re: Cheese vat
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2014, 12:24:14 PM »
I have searched the forum and that is where I learned about the sous vide system I was just wondering if anyone has compared the two or if there is anything out there thats better. Thank you for your reply.
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Offline Spoons

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Re: Cheese vat
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2014, 12:52:50 PM »
Hi Jesse,

A sous-vide or PID controller setup is the way to go if you don't mind dishing out a few bucks. I started out with the "stove-top/bain-marie in the sink" method and it worked just fine. It's just that the sous-vide method gives you a bit of set-it-and-forget-it moments, which is a welcome break, and fewer, if no, overshoots.

As for sous-vide/PID method, I would recommend any one of the 3 following setups:

The "griddle" system
Fairly cheap yet very effective. Very versatile as you can switch from full pan to 2/3 pan to half pan if you want. A poster here sells these. You can find more info here:
http://www.perfect-cheese.com/the-griddle-system

The "food warmer" system
Any food warmer plugged into a PID controller. Very effective as well.

The "Sous-vide Circulator" system
You have total absolute control of temperature as the circulator assures precise and even heating on the bottom as well as all sides of your vat. If you want 88F temperature, the circulator warms at 88F, other systems warm at 140F until 88F is reached. Is it necessary? no. This system is fairly expensive, but at least you can use the circulator for some great meals. This is the system I have, I'm a bit of a "modernist" in the kitchen so I didn't mind this extra expense. I would only recommend this setup for a "modernist" cook. Otherwise, the other two systems are perfectly fine and are lot more affordable. Here's a pic of my 8-10L setup:


« Last Edit: January 14, 2014, 01:07:50 PM by Spoons »
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Offline Geo

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Re: Cheese vat
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2014, 03:33:29 PM »
To provide an example of the food warmer Spoons mentioned, here's my 24-litre setup. I was inspired by Spoon's sous vide setup but wanted something larger, and was fortunate to come across a benchtop bain marie for about the same amount of money as Spoon's sous vide controller. This bain marie has a full, 8-inch deep pan so I can do a 6 gallon batch.

Obviously I have the advantage of larger batches, but Spoon's setup has some advantages over mine:
  • The sous vide controller has a better temperature control. The heating element in the bain marie is either full on, or full off. To control temperature, I currently have to keep a thermometer in the milk and turn the heat on in very short bursts, keeping an eagle eye on the temps at all times and allowing conduction to equalise. It's very easy to overshoot temp if you lose attention. By contrast, Spoon's setup allows you to dial a temp and allow the sous vide controller to do the work. I plan to fix this issue in the long-term with a PID controller (there are some excellent examples of this on the forum) but haven't yet got around to it. This will mean a little extra expense and the wiring involved with a PID. You can also buy plug-in temperature controllers but they are more prone to overshoot temp compared to a PID.
  • The bain marie is prone to hot spots in the water. Ideally, one would have a small hot water pump to circulate the water: but this also adds to the cost. I get around this by stirring the milk well as it warms, and taking my time to warm the milk so I don't overshoot. The disadvantage to that approach is that I can't really leave the cheese vat while making cheese. I find that the size of the water bath and the insulation provided by the bain marie means that the vat keeps its temperature well once it's reached temp, so rarely needs to be topped up with heat except on the colder days.

An advantage of my system over Spoon's is that I can press directly in the vat with my smallish home-made cheese press (very high-tech: two pieces of wood, four lengths of dowel and some gym weights!). For very small batches (4-8 litres), I still use the stove-top, two-stockpot bain marie method.

The image shows the bain marie with a 24-litre (6-gallon) batch of milk in it, with thermometer on the left and spoon handle on the right.


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Offline Spoons

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Re: Cheese vat
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2014, 06:26:50 PM »
... Oh and I'd also like to add that it's hip to be square  ;)
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Offline Geo

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Re: Cheese vat
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2014, 07:41:43 PM »
HAH!  ;D

Offline Jesse

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Re: Cheese vat
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2014, 10:19:55 PM »
Thank you both Geo and spoons. That is exactly the info I was looking for. That being said I believe I will go with the sous vide setup but I am looking at materials to setup for a 6"full size hotel pan. I want to do a little more  shopping around but once I build my vat I will post pics.
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Offline Geo

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Re: Cheese vat
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2014, 11:29:57 PM »
Pleased to be of help Jesse. Do let us know how you get on.

Offline Tiarella

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Re: Cheese vat
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2014, 09:15:37 AM »
You could also check out what John is offering at his web site.  Www.perfect-cheese.com.   And a couple of forum members have had great luck with turkey roasting pans. 


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Offline ArnaudForestier

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Re: Cheese vat
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2014, 09:24:46 AM »
I got John's controller and will be hooking it up to an Avantco food warmer and 6" deep hotel pan, in a water bath setup.  John was great to work with, and I can't wait to start back again, using his elegant design.
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Offline Tiarella

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Re: Cheese vat
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2014, 09:40:25 AM »
I got John's controller and will be hooking it up to an Avantco food warmer and 6" deep hotel pan, in a water bath setup.  John was great to work with, and I can't wait to start back again, using his elegant design.

Paul, you should share the link to that cool Avantco food warmer you found.  That looks great and I can imagine others wanting it.  In fact, a question about it.....is it a water bath method or is there a heating element in there and does it cause hot spots?   ???

Offline ArnaudForestier

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Re: Cheese vat
« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2014, 09:52:29 AM »
Thanks, Tiarella, here's the Avantco...I actually got it somehow on this forum, someone mentioned it in lieu of a very similar Adcraft (and $70ish v. $130ish to boot). 

I have heard people just describe using the warmer as the water bath, and sinking the 6" in...knock on wood, that's what I hope to do.  I have several 4" pans, but those won't give me the volume I'm looking for on my tommes, so...fingers crossed!
- Paul

Offline Jesse

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Re: Cheese vat
« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2014, 08:32:08 AM »
You could also check out what John is offering at his web site.  Www.perfect-cheese.com.


Thanks for the link Tiarella. I looked at Johns website and I will definitely be purchasing the temperature and humidity controls from him for my cheese cave and if needed the cave cube. I really like their design and abilities.
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Offline Jesse

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Re: Cheese vat
« Reply #14 on: January 17, 2014, 01:05:01 PM »
spoons, what is supporting your hotel pan when it sits in your food container.
The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.