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    New addition to the portfolio: the VarioAsept D direct-heating module

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    The VarioAsept D will be officially premiered at the drinktec. What makes this module ingenious is that it enables heat-sensitive products like milk, coconut water and plant-based drinks to be heated up in a process that is not only extremely swift but also gentle on the beverages, thus guaranteeing both fresh taste and optimum product quality.

    For extending product shelf-life, conventional UHT systems like the VarioAsept include a built-in plate or shell-and-tube heat exchanger which works on the principle of indirect heating. In a shell-and-tube heat exchanger, for example, cold product flows through an inner tube that is surrounded by a jacket pipe, through which hot water flows in the opposite direction in order to heat the product up to the desired temperature.

    Lower investment costs and higher energy recovery are two reasons why indirect heat exchangers are a popular option. “But this technology does in fact have its weak points, particularly in regard to thermal impact: In the UHT process, the product is heated up to maximum temperature for ‘only’ a few seconds, that’s true, but the individual pre-warming steps, plus heat-holding – for 120 seconds at 90 degrees Celsius for protein denaturation, in order to increase continuous production time – and subsequent cooldown to filling temperature all add up to several minutes,” explains Stefan Höller, head of Product Management Processing Unit at Krones. “Especially at temperatures of over 60 degrees Celsius, however, chemical processes are triggered that adversely affect the product’s taste. So it’s vital to keep this timespan to a minimum.”

    But not every product shows the same sensitive response to thermal treatment. Milk, in particular, has to be handled to maximised standards of carefulness and gentleness. The motto here is “the faster, the better” in order to minimise thermal stress. High temperatures and extended treatment times likewise increase deposit formation (also known as fouling) and lead to a reduction in continuous production time. In other words: They impair efficient production because the heating systems must be cleaned at regular intervals.

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    With its VarioAsept D module, Krones now offers a product-friendly alternative to the direct-heating process.

    Newcomer: the VarioAsept D for direct heating

    The direct-heating process reduces this kind of stress on the product and therefore enjoys widespread acceptance on the market. Krones has now developed its own module for this, the VarioAsept D, which also has a heat-holding phase of only a few seconds but largely does without time-intensive pre-warming steps in the critical temperature range. There are two different methods for heating the product, both of which use steam as the heating medium after the product has first been pre-warmed to approximately 80 degrees Celsius:

    • Injection: Here, an adjustable nozzle is used to inject steam directly into the product, thus heating it up to 145 degrees almost instantaneously. This temperature is maintained for about five seconds.
      This process is ideally suited for low-viscosity products like milk and milk-based mixed drinks. As compared to the infusion method, injection scores points with significantly lower investment costs and a smaller module footprint.
    • Infusion: This is regarded as the supreme method because it enables the product to be heated up “in free fall”, as it were. The product falls through the steam-filled infusion chamber in controlled streams and, in the process, is heated up to the target temperature, without ever coming into contact with the chamber’s hot stainless-steel surfaces. That’s what is so ingenious about this method since it means there is hardly any taste impairment. Not only is the product heated up to 145 Grad Celsius, it is also deaerated.Not only is the product heated up to 145 Grad Celsius, it is also deaerated. 
      Infusion is regarded as a highly flexible technology for demanding products with high quality requirements and is optimally suited for milk and products that are difficult to heat up like plant-based drinks.
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    The VarioAsept D direct-heating module integrated into a conventional VarioAsept M UHT system. Since some of the heating and cooling takes place in the direct-heating module itself, less heat-exchanger surface is required.

    Ideally suited for dairy products and plant-based drinks

    For Stefan Höller, direct heating is a process optimally suited for these highly sensitive products: “Thanks to the product’s short dwell time in the system, we prevent any impairment in taste and freshness (and thus in product quality) during heating,” he says. But this process is perfect not only for milk and plant-based drinks but also for products like cream or ice cream mixes, which are more difficult to heat up due to their higher viscosity or substantial solids content.

    Image 29547
    Thanks especially to its extremely short heat-up and cooling times, the direct-heating process is particularly suitable for highly sensitive beverages like dairy products and plant-based drinks.

    “Direct heating has proven itself on the market for decades, and obviously Krones did not re-invent the wheel here,” says Stefan Höller. “However, since we are now able to offer our own module, the VarioAsept D, our customers get an end-to-end solution from a single source, a solution that also reflects Krones’ inventiveness. Our development engineers have rethought and improved a great many details, so that our customers can make top-quality products in an energy-efficient operation. We are now looking forward to presenting the VarioAsept D to a wide audience at the drinktec.”

    Grand premiere at the drinktec 2022

    The Krones process technology team had already showcased the direct-heating module as an in-house product at the Anuga FoodTec in April, but it was then still a development project. The VarioAsept D will now be officially premiered at the drinktec 2022 with its own exhibit – as an integral part of the Krones portfolio.

    Hot topic: plant-based drinks

    These two magazine articles provide more details on the trendy-drink category of milk alternatives and the matching line and system concepts, which have been included in Krones’ process technology portfolio especially for the production of oat drinks.

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