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Hello, all!  I’ve found what seems in many ways an ideal space to begin making chocolate commercially (it is a 570 sq ft room in a building that includes a commissary kitchen, so I would have access to their 3-compartment sink for dishwashing, but otherwise use my space and equipment).

 

I am concerned about microbial contamination.  I plan to have a closet built in my 570 sq ft space for bean storage, and to sort and roast beans immediately outside of the closet.  But the location of my unit in relation to the delivery area means wheeling bags of cocoa beans on a dolly through a room that is currently empty but could be used for food prep in the future, and into my room.  And I would be sorting and roasting beans at one end of the same room in which I’ll refine and temper.

 

I suppose I’ve had the idea that segregating raw bean storage, never using raw bean bowls/utensils to handle finished products, proper hand washing, etc. was the most important factor in avoiding cross contamination.  I assumed somehow that salmonella was not likely to become air borne or “crawl,” and that direct contact was the biggest risk.  Yet looking briefly at industry papers and seeing mention of beans stored in entirely separate buildings, people changing clothes before they move between rooms, etc….surely the average artisanal chocolate maker is not following all of these steps, but I am terrified of inadvertently failing to follow some important safety guideline.

 

I know salmonella has certainly been touched on in other threads, but is there a “best practice” for bean storage and handling I should be aware of?  I would greatly appreciate anyone’s experience or thoughts on the space I have until today felt so confident about. 

Thank you very much.

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Best practice is to store raw beans separately from your finished goods, ideally under a negative pressure room (positive airflow outside the room), and have separate employees/clothes/traffic patterns/air handling systems from finished goods.  Airborne dust will be an issue.  i'm assuming you're going to have a very difficult time doing that  in the space you have available.  You  might consider a scenario where your 'dirty' room is separated by a physical wall - one one side of the wall you've got your bean storage, roasting, and winnowing - with the discharge of the roaster going through the wall to your 'clean' side, where you mill and make your chocolate.  an environmental monitoring program would also be considered best practice to ensure the controls you put in place are effective.

Thank you, Sebastian.  I was hoping you might see this and have the time to reply!  Now that you mention it, I don't see why I couldn't add a second wall to fully segregate the raw bean work area.  I've uploaded a basic floor plan that illustrates this (existing walls in black, future walls in gray).  

I'll still need to periodically wheel bags of raw beans through a room with the potential to become a food prep area (although this is by no means a certainty), but they will at least be stored, unpacked and processed in a more fully segregated space.

Thank you again- for your reply both on this thread and on the many threads I've mooched off of quietly.

Attachments:

would you be able to close off the doorway from the 'clean room' to the roasting room, put a  hole in the wall for your roaster to discharge into the clean room and seal it up tight, and configure the HVAC such that in your clean room there's more air blowing into it than in the roasting room (positive pressure to keep the dust out)?

Hi, Sebastian- yes, I apologize for not drawing doors, but all doorways (including the one from roasting to clean room) would have doors.  And I don't see why I couldn't have the roaster discharge into the clean room (I gather that that encourages positive airflow outside the room?).  There is a small vent into the roasting area, but the larger amount of air appears to flow from a larger vent into the clean room.

My overall space will be fully walled in from other rooms.  Because the ceilings are very tall and sloping, I had heretofore thought I would wall in the bean storage space (I wish I had an exact figure, but I'd estimate the walls to be about 8 ft tall) but not add or reach a ceiling.  I thought that would provide a barrier against small amounts of rising dust, but allow air flow into the closet from above, so the beans would not become too humid.

Likewise, I had envisioned another partial wall between the roasting room and clean room.  I don't want to cut corners, as salmonella is something that terrifies me.  It sounds like I should closely consider a floor to ceiling wall between the roasting and clean rooms- this would entirely enclose the roasting room and closet area.  Again, I believe based on the size of the vents that there will be a greater amount of air flowing from the central AC into the clean than the roasting room.

Would it be idiotic not to fully enclose the storage closet (again, I'm not looking to cut corners; any stupid questions stem from astounding ignorance rather than willful disregard for safety)?  Perhaps there's a way to bring air from the roasting room into the closet that I have not thought of, other than installing a new AC vent.

Thank you again for your help and patience- I know how busy you must be, and your quick responses are greatly appreciated.  The commissary kitchen owner is going to submit final plans in the next day or so- I found out about this project only a few days ago, and it's moving very quickly.

Regards,

Carol

PS- I just met with the owner, and it sounds like a variation on my plan will be workable.  I think I'll go ahead and bring all walls to the ceiling.  The roaster room includes the draw for air, so air will be pulled from adjacent rooms (clean room included) through the storage room, then through the roasting room and then into the filter.  I suppose this creates something of a negative pressure storage room, if I draw out more air than I pull in?  It also means drawing air from the storage room into the roaster room before it is drawn out again, but I'm not sure if there's a way around that.

Correction to my above post: of course there's a way around recycling that air.  I'll be venting both the storage closet and the roaster room to the exterior of the building.  This will create negative pressure and not re-circulate "dirty" air.  

To Ash below- now that I've redesigned the floor plan, I won't be using Sebastian's through the wall idea after all.  Pity, I thought it was a cool one!

Hi there, Seems to be a great idea doing the through the wall roaster. Just out of curiosity as I am drawing up a floor plan as well, on a bit of a larger scale,

Would there be any benefit to trying to harness the heat of the roaster to add to the clean room to keep the oils in the grinders and conch a bit warmer? Rather than what some people do by adding a heat gun. Provided the grinders had there own room and where not in your cooler tempering area.

Then provided you didn't put a door between the dirty and clean room and instead whent through another room first would it be easy enough to test your roast without having to walk all the way around each time. A very roaster specific question I suppose.

sorry guys, have been travelling a bit and unable to respond.  looks like you've got most of it worked out, if you have more questions let me know.  Ash your idea is ok as long as y ou run it through a heat exchanger  (ie you don't want the air 'touching' the finished product as it's likely that some of the air will be drawn out of the roaster before the kill has occurred, resulting in a very efficient salmonella distribution system...)  run it through an enclosed heat exchanger to prevent that.

Thanks, Sebastian- you basically told me everything I needed in your first two responses, it just had to knock around in my head a couple days before it clicked.  I really appreciate your help!

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