Water usage in milling

by Susan Reidy
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From right, Marco Galli, Stefano Mazzini and Maurizio Monti discuss the importance of water and its management in the milling process.
Photo courtesy of Ocrim.
 
Ocrim S.p.A organized a technical meeting on Nov. 4 at the Il Cicalino estate in Massa Marittima, Grosseto, Italy, to discuss the importance of water and its management in the milling process.

Addressing the audience, Alberto Antolini, chief executive officer (CEO) of Ocrim, said that “the aim of congressional events is to create a unified spirit and therefore to share skill and knowledge.” The purpose of the event, explained Antolini, was to bring together mill owners, technologists and experts in the milling sector from across Italy. The four-hour conference brought together people who do not normally cross paths in their day-to-day lives or at least not frequently, each one with his/her specific background of experience and points of view to share.

In his opening speech at the convention, Stefano Mazzini, commercial director at Ocrim, referred to the concept — mentioned several times at the previous edition “Grano, Farina e…” (Wheat, Flour and...) — of the importance of wheat as the raw material in milling. He said Ocrim no longer intends to be a plant engineering/mechanical company but, thanks to its partnership with Bonifiche Ferraresi S.p.A, to actually set the standards in terms of the entire production chain as well. Ocrim said this is a challenge it has recently taken on, and that it strongly believes in.

Marco Galli, technological director at Ocrim, and Maurizio Monti, founder of Miller’s Mastery, were the two expert speakers of the technical portion of the program. Both presented theories and arguments based on their personal instruction and experience.

Galli focused on grain preparation before processing, how to manage it in the conditioning phase, which, as per the procedure, changes depending on the type of wheat being used. Galli said that “the entire conditioning phase is extremely important, because once the grain is being processed there is no turning back.” The wheat will retain any errors made during conditioning. On the other hand, correct conditioning can balance and correct any limits over the course of grinding.

The technology being used is of primary importance, Galli said, since mechanical solutions, together with a careful study and analysis of how grain behaves during pre-soaking and conditioning, are crucial for achieving the right results. He said automatic soaking with Ocrim’s MGA system makes it possible to monitor, correct and change the amount of water that is delivered. The real technological revolution of this system is the possibility of its installation and use in the second conditioning phase (on top of the first).

This is possible due to its unique reading technology. The MGA NIR system also detects the protein content of the grain upstream, thereby making it possible to automatically manage wheat mixes based on protein, achieving complete traceability of the conditioning phases. It remains necessary to set the final humidity of the wheat beforehand, depending on the needs and values that you wish to obtain with grinding, he said.

Impact of grain hardness

Galli gave an extensive presentation of problems and solutions, also replying to questions from the various mill owners in the audience.

With his presentation, Monti focused on the importance of grain hardness and the impact this has on the absorption of water in flour. Grain hardness depends on many factors: the soil and the geographical area; climatic conditions; and type of crop. Monti also spoke about the issue of mold in flour due to the addition of water.

He said controls need to be conducted to offer suitable prevention to avoid the formation and/or future occurrences of contamination. This entails a sampling logic, as well as correct monitoring of the incoming product so as to observe the parameters required by law. Indications also were provided on what to do if the legal limits are exceeded.

Monti is a technologist/miller with a long-standing and considerable experience in the national milling industry. He is known for his professional skills and pragmatic approach to his job, but also for his people skills and charisma. His book, “APPUNTI DI UN MUGNAIO – La macinazione non è arte, ma scienza e tecnologia” (Notes from a Miller - Grinding is not an art, it is science and technology), was published in 2016.

Over the course of the convention Marino Scarlino, former professor at the Istituto Arte Bianca in Turin, Italy (Institute for the Art of Baking), said Monti’s book “offers knowledge to millers but also to the entire second converting category: companies and tradesmen.”

Scarlino thanked Ocrim for the opportunity to gather the industry together, and underlined the importance and strengths of the company’s milling school, and for the creation and consolidation of the skills of those who attend it.
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