How to Consistently Make the Perfect Soft Mint Centres
September 27, 2019
Soft mint centres have an iconic flavour and texture that is globally loved and recognisable from the moment you bite into one. Creating and sustaining this sensation is paramount to anyone involved in their development. The confectionary manufacturing industry goes through a series of processes and methods in order for sweets to eventually be distributed. In soft mint production, the climatic conditions of the factory and equipment will dictate how long these varying processes will take or if production can be achieved at all. A lack of humidity control will result in a lack of control over your production cycle and making it difficult or impossible to create a sustainable production plan. With this in mind, the question to ask is how can we control this process and constantly create a reliable, high-quality product?
HOW ARE SOFT MINT CENTRES MADE?
The process starts with a sugar-based mixture made in a jacketed cooking vessel where ingredients are mixed and flavourings are added. The mixture is then conveyed to the batch roller used to start the cooling process and extrude the product down to size. Once this has reached the desired size for the centre of the soft mint, the mixture is shaped, passed through cooling tunnels and put into a WIP (work in progress) room in order to let these centres cool before moving on to the next stage of production.
This next stage takes place in a pan coater. The centres are taken from the WIP room to the pan coater, this is where sugars, flavours and/or colours are added to the mixture in this rotating machine that constantly coats the centres, providing them with a harder exterior that is layered over the soft, hygroscopic interior created in the batch roller. Due to the chemical make-up of the ingredients at play in the early parts of the process, the production of soft mint centres is dictated by the humidity in the air around the centres. The glass transition of the centres are constantly monitored and measured and degradation of the product can sometimes take days to be observed without the correct humidity environment. If the conditions aren’t right in the batch rolling, WIP room and pan coating parts of the process, then the rate at which you can produce soft mints can be extended or the product can potentially be an impossible process due to climatic conditions.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES?
The main challenge faced in this industry stems from a lack of control over the environment. When a workflow or process is dictated by such environmental factors, you lose control over production timings and inevitably suffer from production bottlenecks. As the rate of production directly correlates to the amount of income that can be brought in, this is something that you want to be able to have total control over to be able to have confidence and security within your production line. Another challenge comes from keeping the ingredients at the right RH levels and thus prevent them from caking, spoiling or having their molecular level changed in any way by an external factor. Keeping direct control over the environment allows for production speed, consistency and quality to no longer be a challenge.
HOW CAN THIS BE IMPROVED?
As it is in the nature of warm, sugary products to reabsorb as much moisture as possible, making it sticky and almost impossible to work with- it becomes clear that the best piece of technology to help with this issue is in the climatic control of the environment.
In the batch rolling phase of production, blowing dry air on to the roller will take the moisture out of the environment surrounding the ingredients. With no moisture in the air to be reabsorbed into the product, the RH levels of the room can ensure that there is no spoilage of the confectionary and help create a reliable and constant level of production that is uniform in its quality.
The WIP room where the reserve of centres are held requires similar levels of control. The conditions in this environment have to be cold and dry in order to maximise the speed of cooling and drying without affecting the chemical make-up of the ingredients. If this process is neglected, then it just negates all the work from the previous stages as reabsorbing moisture from the air will have an obvious effect on the moisture content of the solution and make it unusable to carry on the process.
For the final stage in the pan coater, creating and maintaining a dry environment can lend a huge helping hand when it comes to uniform production. The hygroscopic centre of a soft mint needs to be at a relative humidity of under 20% in order to stay in the right conditions. If the relative humidity level stays at a constant level, then not only are you maintaining the optimal levels for the centre of the sweet but you are also creating a constant level that will provide further control over the quality of manufacturing as every soft mint made will be drying in the pan coater at the same rate. If these layers of coating can dry quicker, then the efficiency in manufacturing the product is obviously increased alongside a constant level of quality.
There are clearly a multitude of processes within the production of soft mint centres that can drastically be improved by the introduction of dehumidification and climate control. From maintaining the quality of ingredients from start to finish and speeding up the overall production process to manufacturing the conditions required to create the perfect textures for your sweets; humidity control can be the tool that unlocks your quality and production potential.
For more information on how Dehum can help with your soft mint production please visit https://www.dehum.com/applications/food-drink/ or call us on 01926 882624.
For over twenty-one years, Dehum (Sorption Wheel Services Limited) has been a major supplier of humidity control systems. We are a true Engineering Company, designing, supplying and coordinating installations of equipment alongside complimentary services. Our global client list spans across all industries, including food & drink, pharmaceutical, nuclear, automotive, aviation, chemical processing, ice prevention/cold storage, car storage and archives.