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Scale-up of Thermally Dried Kefir Production as Starter Culture for Hard-Type Cheese Making: An Economic Evaluation

Koutinas, Athanasios A., Bekatorou, Argyro, Katechaki, Eleftheria, Dimitrellou, Dimitra, Kopsahelis, Nikolaos, Papapostolou, Harris, Panas, Panayiotis, Sideris, Kostas, Kallis, Mihalis, Bosnea, Loulouda A., Koliopoulos, Dionisis, Sotiropoulos, Panayiotis, Panteli, Ageliki, Kourkoutas, Yiannis, Kanellaki, Maria, Soupioni, Magdalini
Applied biochemistry and biotechnology 2010 v.160 no.6 pp. 1734-1743
European Union, accelerated ripening, biomass, bioreactors, cheesemaking, cheeses, coliform bacteria, ethanol, fermentation, freeze drying, glycerol, kefir, lactic acid, lipolysis, manufacturing, production costs, starter cultures, value added, whey
This paper concerns the effect of thermal-drying methodology on the investment cost for dried kefir cells production in order to be used as starter culture in cheese manufacturing. Kefir cells were produced at pilot plant scale using a 250-L bioreactor and whey as the main substrate. Kefir cells were subsequently dried in a thermal dryer at 38 °C and used as a starter culture in industrial-scale production of hard-type cheeses. The use of thermally dried kefir as starter culture accelerated ripening of cheeses by increasing both lipolysis and fermentation rate as indicated by the ethanol, lactic acid, and glycerol formation. Additionally, it reduced coliforms and enterobacteria as ripening proceeded. This constituted the basis of developing an economic study in which industrial-scale production of thermally dried kefir starter culture is discussed. The industrial design involved a three-step process using three bioreactors of 100, 3,000, and 30,000 L for a plant capacity of 300 kg of thermally dried kefir culture per day. The cost of investment was estimated at 238,000 €, which is the 46% of the corresponding cost using freeze-drying methodology. Production cost was estimated at 4.9 €/kg of kefir biomass for a 300-kg/day plant capacity, which is the same as with the corresponding cost of freeze-dried cells. However, the estimated added value is up to 10.8 × 10⁹ € within the European Union.