Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Joys of Food Processing

Well we got off to a bit of a rocky start, and for anyone who has worked in agricultural food processing (cannery, fishery, brewery, winery, etc.) knows that when the green light is lit, something goes wrong or breaks. I remember back in my days as a QA Tech for Norpac Foods, I would ask the line mechanic why my line wasn't running.

"The sealers too hot and is melting the packaging", he would say. "We just got started", I would say.

Well, all of those memories came rushing back last night.

Our first hiccup was on I-90 East just about 8 miles before Cle Elum, where two lanes converged to one...parking lot. We lost about an hour of time, but no big deal, we have time. We get to the winery at 6pm and I start setting up shop. Buckets, crusher, bins, hose, personnel..check. I direct a bit of traffic, tell everyone their duties and lets start tossing grapes in the crusher.

I hit the green button and immediately something is not right, but I did not see it at first. Three people are tossing grapes in the hopper, but nothing is coming out. Hold it! Hold it! Hold it! WTF? Yup, the crusher broke..sort of. It appears that one of the gears slipped out of position. After a bit of inspection and cursing, I start to wrench on it and take the machine apart.

Ok, problem fixed and machine back together..we lost about 20 min no big deal, it is only 6:45pm. "OK..everyone ready?" Green button..go! The crusher whirred and juice and skins started to flow...for about 5 seconds. Hold it! (more cursing).. take it apart again.

We noticed that there was some other loose bolts that were sliding the rollers our of position during the force and weight of the grape clusters, I cranked them down, and put everything back together.

Now, it is getting dark and a bit after 7pm. I get some cheer leading from the group and we press on. Guess what? held.

We finished 3000 lbs of grapes in about an hour and a half. We cleaned up a bit, moved the fermentation bins from the crush pad to the winery, and I checked the must and added enzymes and 50ppm SO2, took a shower, and hit bed by 11:30 pm.


5000 lbs more to go next week.

Thanx for the help Ben, Tara and Heather..oh and little Ava who helped with her plastic wrench and hammer.

No comments:

Post a Comment