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GENERAL CHEESE MAKING BOARDS (Specific Cheese Making in Boards above) => EQUIPMENT - Aging Cheese, Caves => Topic started by: xyztal on December 16, 2012, 10:40:55 AM

Title: cheese aging room planning - keeping the cave warm?
Post by: xyztal on December 16, 2012, 10:40:55 AM
Hello all,

I am drafting the floor plan for my small cheesemaking facility in the barn at the moment.  I think, for a starter, a 10' x 8' cheese aging room would be more than adequate?  We plan to insulate the room well and run AC (coolbot) system in that room... it's easier and cheaper than putting in a walk-in fridge in our barn....

The problem for us who live in Saskatchewan - is that I need to keep the room 'warm' rather than 'cold'.  The temperature reads -15C/5F as I am writing this post, and we have this type of weather (-15C/5F below, plus the windchill) for about 4+ months every year?!  I am not sure if I want to put a heater in the room because it will just make the room even drier?! 

Any suggestions?  I would love to go for a root cellar type cheese aging room... but unless I am willing to dig deep, the cellar is going to be colder than what I'd like in that 4+ months of winter....

Thanks!
Title: Re: cheese aging room planning - keeping the cave warm?
Post by: Tiarella on December 16, 2012, 11:09:31 AM
We have similar temps here.  I'm assuming your cave will have wiring, right?  maybe a heater like those fluid filled ones that look like a radiator would work.  Or a few light bulbs might do it depending upon insulation success.  What about a heat lamp.....since I remember someone saying that cheese should ripen in the dark.  Can you get a plug thermostat that you could plug a lamp or two into and dial whatever temp you are targeting? 

hmmm, quandaries like this are fun to think about and I'll likely be facing the same problem when I move into the project of building a root cellar and cheese cave.
Title: Re: cheese aging room planning - keeping the cave warm?
Post by: linuxboy on December 16, 2012, 12:10:20 PM
This is easy to solve with a combo of stainless heater coils and cooling coils in a custom fabbed unit. But, those run 10-20K. Are you looking for a cheap solution? Anything cheaper will have issues like temp and humidity gradients, excess condensation, inadequate air velocity, etc. But it can be done so long as you manage the humidity and try to have even air dispersion (using a duct sock, for example).
Title: Re: cheese aging room planning - keeping the cave warm?
Post by: xyztal on December 16, 2012, 05:49:07 PM
Just came back from the farm - it was -11C/12F but with the gusty wind it felt much much colder.... *frozen*

Things could get much colder here.  Two years ago, we had about -30C/-22F below for about a month and a half... 10 - 20K is really expensive, because I am hoping to set up my cheesemaking facility within 30K...  Maybe I should just reduce my inventory and move the cheese into a couple of fridges instead...?!  A small walk-in fridge instead (3 - 5 K?)....
Title: Re: cheese aging room planning - keeping the cave warm?
Post by: Mike Richards on December 16, 2012, 06:09:38 PM
Regardless of how you choose to heat the air, if there is any air exchange with the outside, you will need to add moisture to the air.  The better the room is insulated and the more you can reduce the amount of air exchanged with outside air, the easier it will be to maintain temperature and humidity.  But, there's probably an optimal (or minimum required) exchange rate.  Additionally condensation issues and gradient issues (having different temperatures/humidity in different parts of the room) are reduced with better insulation and adequate air flow.  But, you're going to have to heat the air one way or another.

If you're using a window a/c unit with a coolbot for the summer, you might be able to get a heat + a/c combo unit and use it to heat the room in the winter as well.

Pav--what's the desired air velocity (is it cheese dependent)?  Also, can you tell us anything about optimal air exchange rates?
Title: Re: cheese aging room planning - keeping the cave warm?
Post by: Banjoza on December 17, 2012, 01:00:38 AM
WOW.  I have never experienced temperatures like that (the coldest I have ever been was about 3C below zero).

I am a little ashamed to be offering a suggestion in view of that, however I have heard of under-floor heating (I don't know the costs involved) which I presume could be put into walls too. Then regarding the air flow, would it be essential to bring in much outside air?  Could the air that is in the room not be re-circulated constantly, only being refreshed by your visits to your cheeses?

The other suggestion would be that the entrance to your cave have a second, external self-contained cubicle to prevent much warm air escaping while you are entering.  You go into the little room and close the door, only then open the cave door. Obviously that outer chamber is also well insulated.

Hope my cheekily offered suggestions are of some help!  Could you let us know how you go with your project? (with photos if possible?)
Title: Re: cheese aging room planning - keeping the cave warm?
Post by: xyztal on December 17, 2012, 01:09:01 PM
Thanks everyone for your help!  Yeah... that kind of temperature is tough (I have my husband to blame because we are both from Ontario and he decides that *this* place is the place to be)...

I found this in home depot and maybe this would work? http://www.homedepot.com/Electrical-Portable-Heaters-Humidifiers/h_d1/N-bve5Z5yc1v/R-100648223/h_d2/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10053&langId=-1&storeId=10051. (http://www.homedepot.com/Electrical-Portable-Heaters-Humidifiers/h_d1/N-bve5Z5yc1v/R-100648223/h_d2/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10053&langId=-1&storeId=10051.)  As per Banjoza's advice - I will probably add the cubicle between my make room and my aging room .. that cubicle can serve as the brining area (if needed).

I'd definitely put photos as I go.  Right now I am still working on finalizing the floor plan for health authority's approval.  Here we cannot find a facility unless the health autority has approved the plan.  I hope to get the plan on the dairy inspector's desk by end of January...
Title: Re: cheese aging room planning - keeping the cave warm?
Post by: linuxboy on December 17, 2012, 01:40:45 PM
Quote
Pav--what's the desired air velocity (is it cheese dependent)?
It is, but perhaps for a different reason than is most obvious.

- Ammonia must be evacuated, rate of flow partly determines rate of withdrawal.
- More importantly, the dynamic air movement is crucial to keep the air hydrated. If it's static and stagnant, what happens is that you get pockets of differences in temp and humidity. You also get the potential for water to drop out and condense. But if it's moving, this is less of an issue.
- Air flow is also important to maintain air exchange and provide oxygen especially for bloomies. This is why for bloomies, there are overhead fans to keep air moving.
- Optimal rate in terms of velocity? It's a bit hard to say. Do you mean in the duct? If you want a round range, 0.15-0.25 m^3/s. Fast moving, highly hydrated air does well in maintaining cheese in a cave. You don't need to finaggle a lot to add or remove moisture, then.
Quote
  Also, can you tell us anything about optimal air exchange rates?
Depends on the oxygen demands and ammonia production. Huge oxygen for bloomies at first, then huge ammonia production. For other cheeses, it's mostly about getting rid of ammonia. Also keep in mind positive pressure... need to exhaust it in a predetermined way, else it will go through all the cracks. Best to design up front.
Title: Re: cheese aging room planning - keeping the cave warm?
Post by: NRG on December 17, 2012, 07:18:25 PM
hi, I'm new to cheese, but i got a ton of room climate control experience from a career in the snake biz. lots.

When snake people in your area need to heat their room(s) they use an appropriately sized room heater hooked to a greenhouse thermostat. As some else said you get gradients of temp an RH. This is solved with a ceiling fan on low. Nicely the fan motor also adds heat to the room. Make sure thermostat  can handle the wattage of the heater.

In Canada snake people have three units to control. Cooling in summer. Heating in Winter and humidity all year 'round. Different temps, but still the same stuff.

good luck. Would love to see pics of your cheeseroom.
Title: Re: cheese aging room planning - keeping the cave warm?
Post by: linuxboy on December 17, 2012, 07:45:13 PM
Curious, what humidity levels do they have to hit? Because a solution for 60-70% takes a different approach  than having to hit 90-92% consistently. Similar approach and controls, but often takes more expensive gear and materials.
Title: Re: cheese aging room planning - keeping the cave warm?
Post by: NRG on December 18, 2012, 02:41:04 PM
Curious, what humidity levels do they have to hit? Because a solution for 60-70% takes a different approach  than having to hit 90-92% consistently. Similar approach and controls, but often takes more expensive gear and materials.


Fortunately for snakes the humidity is not critical as the temperature range. In general the snake guys just want their humidity above 60% RH while the room in in the high 70's or low 80's. Mostly, they use a room humidifier hooked to a humidistat. If the animal (or eggs) need higher they do so with microchamber within the enclosures or the room.

I have friends with master bedroom suite sized incubation rooms. The temp is held at 88-89F and the RH is as 60's+ but the eggs are in closed boxes with moistened vermiculite to keep the eggs closer to 90%. This is my friends setup in Utah. http://ballpython.com/index.php?page=facility (http://ballpython.com/index.php?page=facility) Unfortunately they do not use a gallery so you should see the various images in a slide show. Looks to me like it could easily be a aging cave!

ADDED: This is the egg incubation. Room in the 50-70% humidity, eggs 90+ (http://ballpython.com/facility/tsk-8097.jpg) Notice the fan to homogenize the temperatures and humidity?
Title: Re: cheese aging room planning - keeping the cave warm?
Post by: linuxboy on December 18, 2012, 02:48:27 PM
Oh way cool. Thanks for sharing. With caves for cheese it's a tougher issue for one other reason in addition to the challenges mentioned (ammonia, humidity, temp, exchange, velocity). That issue is cheese moisture loss. Cheese is sold per lb and for the artisan, a 10% difference in profit can make or break the bank over a 6-9 month maturation. So if you get a cave to balance at 85-90% RH consistently, you're losing water, losing profit from that cheese. Over the course of a typical mid-size 30,000 lb artisan production facility, that's a lot of money. It more than justifies a proper system.

That said, many people start with smaller volumes and with the idea of starting small or not at all. When the production is 2,000 lbs in a micro dairy, losing water from cheese isn't as big of a deal. And at those levels, the profit issue is better addressed by cheese style (eg doing high moisture lactics or bloomies). It's very doable to cut corners, build a product and market, save pennies, and then upgrade. And you will need to upgrade because most low cost aging caves fail within 5 years or require serious retrofitting.
Title: Re: cheese aging room planning - keeping the cave warm?
Post by: NRG on December 18, 2012, 03:00:08 PM
So if you get a cave to balance at 85-90% RH consistently, you're losing water, losing profit from that cheese. Over the course of a typical mid-size 30,000 lb artisan production facility, that's a lot of money. It more than justifies a proper system.



oooopsie! Did I join the wrong group? I was hoping to learn how to make say 50# of cheese PER YEAR! I thought I was in the company of folks making far less than 15 tons of cheese a year. Hobby cheesemaking...

The pics of the egg boxes. Eggs gain water per egg. I would assume that for a smaller hobby operation this could be easily adjusted so the cheese weight would remain static. I know how to adjust it for snakes, but for cheese I am nothing.

ADDED another image (http://ballpython.com/facility/tsk-8098.jpg)

You can see the eggs.
Title: Re: cheese aging room planning - keeping the cave warm?
Post by: linuxboy on December 18, 2012, 03:31:13 PM
This forum is for everyone :)

xyztal is building a cave that is bigger than most hobbyists have, and I wanted to bring up the issues for consideration, and also leave this post here for anyone reading later on. So long as one is aware of the issues and tradeoffs, any solution, even aging in the ambient environment works. I've aged great cheese before on nothing more than a bed of straw sitting in a box inside the house. No controls of any kind. Many solutions out there. If one is concerned with commercial production, then the tradeoffs for going cheap may not be worth it.
Title: Re: cheese aging room planning - keeping the cave warm?
Post by: xyztal on December 18, 2012, 06:26:49 PM
Thanks everyone for the suggestions!  I am so glad that I joined this group when I decided to go commercial (well, depending on the health inspectors, I am still about 2 years away from actually selling my first cheese yet... )

I am actually thinking of making my first aging room smaller (8' x 8').  I know that the local consumers have totally taken on the 'cherve' thing, but they are still very ignorant about sheep cheese... especially the hard cheeses that are made of sheep milk...  we can always invest in making a bigger and much more sophiscated aging room later if things work out.
Title: Re: cheese aging room planning - keeping the cave warm?
Post by: linuxboy on December 18, 2012, 08:32:50 PM
If you go with a small room like that, then you can use a classic design with a coolbot and a heater on a thermostat (with a duct sock if you can afford it) and an ultrasonic humidifier on a timer. Once you fill it with cheese, it will be stable. Add in some ammonia exhaust (fan) and a source of filtered air and you're done.
Title: Re: cheese aging room planning - keeping the cave warm?
Post by: CheezSorce on January 02, 2015, 10:23:15 PM
Did the Cave ever get built.  The source of heat as long as it is moisture neutral doesn't really matter.  Electric, hot water coil, heated floor will all work fine.  Make sure the box is super well sealed as the external DP is so low in the winter months that all the humidity will race out through the cracks.  If you are still looking for controls check out www.sanitarydesigns.com (http://www.sanitarydesigns.com)
Using coolbot necessitates the use of a humidifier in the summer as the coil is small and very cold.  Steam humidifiers work best located outside the room.
Title: Re: cheese aging room planning - keeping the cave warm?
Post by: John@PC on January 03, 2015, 03:42:24 PM
If you go with a small room like that, then you can use a classic design with a coolbot and a heater on a thermostat (with a duct sock if you can afford it) and an ultrasonic humidifier on a timer. Once you fill it with cheese, it will be stable. Add in some ammonia exhaust (fan) and a source of filtered air and you're done.
Sorry I missed this thread, but fyi we have supplied several small creameries now in this cave size range with ultrasonic humidification and control (http://www.perfect-cheese.com/larger-caves), and also have temperature controllers that can be used to plug in up to a 1,750 watt heater.  I quoted Pav because it reminded me that maybe we need to put together an air exchange system for these small-to-medium sized caves as well.  We have a customer in WA who told me their two new caves were designed to have 12 air-exchanges per 24hr, and because of that was having trouble maintaining humidity which was corrected with a 3-head fogger.  I would like to find out more about air-flow and exchange so maybe worth a seperate thread to tap the forum's resources?

I will add that I've experimented with "pumping" un-filtered air using a small aquarium pump into a 21 cu. ft. fridge.  If there is a preferred exchange rate it's possible a mini-system could be designed as well if it would be beneficial.