Author Topic: Opinions on Heating Cheese Vat  (Read 927 times)

Offline minkcar

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Opinions on Heating Cheese Vat
« on: January 13, 2017, 09:44:45 AM »
After a long hiatus, I'm getting back into cheesemaking.  (Just got a Jersey, and my wife is letting me do up to 8 gallons a week of cheese...)  I always struggled keeping temperatures right, in part because I never had a decent cheese vat.  So now I'm going to make one.

After reading online and on the forums, I'm really liking the steel steam table pans, and will probably go with the 6" ones.  Long ago I saw people using a water bath (with a water heater element) to heat them.  Now I'm seeing a bunch of posts with people using a griddle (with some heat distributing pad or block in between).  I lean towards the water bath, but it'll be more work to build, probably not any cheaper, and it's really just what I know.  So, if you were building a new vat out of a steel 6"-8" deep steam table pan, how would you heat it?  Would the water bath make much practical difference for heat retention?  (It seems like it would keep the temperature more stable, but then I wonder if the thermal mass of the 4-5 gallons of milk would outweigh what's in the bath...)

Anyhow, your thoughts are appreciated, even if it's just "search the forum more"  ;D.

Offline Al Lewis

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Re: Opinions on Heating Cheese Vat
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2017, 10:36:28 AM »
You can get heating elements and rheostats fairly cheaply these days for placing under a stainless tub. https://www.matsmatsmats.com/commercial-industrial/heated/heated-foot-warmer-mat.html  Necessity is the mother of invention.  I just purchased a Sous Vide heater for doing butterkase.  These are also very reasonable. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B017HX1FTC/ref=abs_brd_tag_dp?smid=A1T3IQGGKLZB4Y  Just depends on what you want to do I guess.  I got this one for $85.00 on Amazon and bought a 3.5 gallon poly tub to use it in for $16.00.  I won't be using it to heat milk but to keep the molded cheese warm.
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Offline awakephd

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Re: Opinions on Heating Cheese Vat
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2017, 12:15:12 PM »
Welcome to the forum, and welcome back to cheesemaking, and I hate you for having fresh raw Jersey milk at hand every week. Sorry, ignore that last bit - a little of the green-eyed monster emerged there for a moment. :)

I can't offer much insight on how to heat using 6-8" pans, but I would suspect that the thermal mass of 4-5 gallons of milk may be sufficient. I have gone to using direct heat for all of my cheesemaking, and I find that the difference from using a water bath to not using one is negligible in terms of heat loss. My cheese making pot, with a little under 4 gallons of milk, holds its temperature for quite a long time; at most it may drop a degree or so over the time from adding the cultures through ripening, setting, and cutting. Big caveat - this is in a round pot; a rectangular pan will presumably spread the milk out more, allowing a greater surface area from which heat can be lost, so YMMV.
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Offline minkcar

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Re: Opinions on Heating Cheese Vat
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2017, 10:43:01 PM »
Thanks Al and Andy, that's helpful.  The links gave me a few other ideas on setting up a heater.  I'll post pictures with whatever I put together over the next few weeks.

Offline Bantams

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Re: Opinions on Heating Cheese Vat
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2017, 01:07:24 PM »
I agree - using more than 4 gallons at a time in a big pot will be sufficient to retain heat.
How many gallons per batch do you plan on?
I make batches of 4-7 gallons and have never had issues maintaining temperature.

Offline minkcar

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Re: Opinions on Heating Cheese Vat
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2017, 03:12:14 PM »
I'm planning on 3-5 gallon batches.  I'm shooting for 4 gal batches.  I'll probably leave 5 gal as my max on the high end for now (basically the capacity of the pans I plan to use, but probably won't bother cheese-ing anything smaller than 3.  So I'll probably be just fine on the heat retention front.

Of course, plans are notoriously fickle things, so I may end up doing something smaller, but then I'll just go with the mental note of "possibly unstable temperatures".

Offline Gregore

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Re: Opinions on Heating Cheese Vat
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2017, 12:42:39 AM »
I use a seed mat  under the pot and a towel wrapped around it . Holds 80f+ easily . They even have commercial heater mats that are adjustable temps . Thought they are far more $$$$ than the one temp seed mats.

Offline AeonSam

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Re: Opinions on Heating Cheese Vat
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2017, 04:48:55 AM »
Minkcar,

For what it's worth - here is my set up. I use an 18qt turkey roaster which can hold up to 4 gallons and it has a liner in it so I found that I don't have to use a water bath with it. I've tried both and have much greater control if the temp probe is in the milk itself. I have a "sous vide magic" connected to it which is an external pid controller. I can set the temperature to whatever I want and it is constantly receiving feedback from the milk so it switches on and off accordingly. The good thing about this controller is that it attaches to any kind of kitchen cooking device from a rice cooker, slow cooker, turkey roaster, etc. It can get as precise as 0.1 degrees. Sometimes it will overshoot. There's some delay sometimes but overall I can set it for a temp and it will regulate itself and hold it. I may get a larger turkey roaster at some point but this works great for 2 to 4 gallon makes.

The controller uses a jacketed wire as a feedback thermometer. I wrap it around my regular food thermometer in order to keep the probe from moving around with the milk.

Just throwing out alternatives!

Sam

p.s. The Roaster cost me around $60 and the Sous Vide Magic around $160.00 but I no longer have to camp out and agonize over the precise degree on my stove top.

« Last Edit: January 30, 2017, 05:02:01 AM by AeonSam »