Dry beans production goes through a number of processes before the final product is ready for the domestic market or international market. The processing of dried beans begins in the field for dry bean producers – at the end of the season, bean plants are cut at their base and left to dry out. Then, a machine proceeds to collect the pods and shakes loose the beans, which are cleaned and bagged. Then, the beans are transported to the processing facility to be cleaned and processed into consumer or ingredient products – dry beans, bean flours, and canned bean products are all the result of bean processing.
Processed beans are bean products created from dried beans. These edible beans require an additional step after conditioning has been completed, resulting in products like bagged dry beans, bean pastes, cereal products, texturized analogs, puffed snacks, baked beans, and canned beans. From the further conditioned dry beans, processing plants can make bean flours, rehydrated beans, and refried beans. As for dry packaged beans, they have been re-conditioned and packed into plastic bags or other types of bean containers for the retail market.
The beans received from farmers come directly from the combine and have about 4-8% foreign material, beans of varying color, and broken beans (on average). They are then transported to a bean elevator, which conditions the beans in preparation for processing and packaging. These are the beans that consumers need to soak in order to cook them.
What is bean conditioning? The conditioning process is there to remove broken beans, off-colored beans, stones, and other foreign material. Uniformity in the beans helps in further processing and allows them to soak up water before being cooked. Conditioning is done using different methods that include sieves, sifters, color sorters, destoners, and gravity separators.
Separating beans by color is done with a color sorter – a machine that uses near-infrared systems and optical technology to separate the beans by shape and color. As for removing broken and split beans, stones, and foreign material, bean processing plants use sieves, sifters, color sorters, destoners, and gravity separators. By combining all of these cleaning methods, we get beans that are free of split and broken beans and of similar color. Those split and broken beans are typically used for making flours and pastes, while the foreign material is discarded.
Prior to entering the bean processing facility, conditioned beans are always inspected first. In the case of a cooked product, the beans are washed, blanched, and placed in cans, brine, or other sauce. Next, the cans are sealed and placed in a canning retort, which uses high pressure and temperatures. After canning, you get a finished product – shelf-stable canned beans.
Manufacturers can use several methods for preparing bean flour, but there are two main approaches to it:
- The pre-cook method. This method involves blanching and drying the beans before making them into a flour.
- Grinding and heating. The method requires the beans to be first ground into a flour, and then to apply a proper heat treatment. This is not a pre-cooked flour, but a raw flour that’s rarely used by the industry because it can change flavor when stored 3-4 months. Bean flour can be used as a texturing ingredient in pasta, baked products, and tortilla chips, as well as processed into snack food and breakfast products.
Also, bean flour is often used in extrusion applications; extrusion processing of the flour happens under high temperatures and pressure, which allows it to be puffed into a variety of shapes. First, the water and bean flour get mixed and moved down the barrels in the extruder. While moving through the extruder, the bean flour hydrates then turns into a paste-like consistency. It eventually gets plasticized and discharged in a die (that is partly responsible for the shape). As the paste moves through the extruder, there is a pressure build-up inside it, which gets released when the paste moves through the die. Thanks to the pressure drop, the paste mix is puffed and gets the shape of a snack product or puff cereal.
Distribution of Dried Beans through the Bean Plant
With a tubular drag conveyor, food processing plants get a modular system that can be built according to their needs and specifications. And because of the system’s ability to transport natural foods in a gentle and clean manner, it can handle different combinations, weights, and sizes of beans (as well as other materials). For distributing beans throughout the bean processing facility (from the combine to the sealed package), plants used to rely on bucket elevators, drag chains, and pneumatic conveyors. However, when it comes to keeping the product contamination-free and safe while reducing the risk of breakage, tubular cable and disc conveyors have proven extremely effective. These conveyors are flexible enough to operate in the existing plant layout and can accommodate multiple inlets/outlets.
When dried beans arrive at the plant, the unloading and storage system is one of the most important operations. They need a flexible conveyor system that can handle bulk densities of about 50 pounds per cubic foot, as well as move them at a rate of 70,000 pounds per hour (e.g., Cablevey’s 8″ diameter tube conveyor system). The beans are stored in silos, each with enough capacity to hold one or more truckloads of dried beans. Then, the beans are transported from silos to different hydration and canning process areas.
The tubular drag conveyor system can be designed to fit your bean processing facility and move beans between multiple levels and in different directions. Also, there is no need to monitor workers and unloads because modern conveyor systems remove the need for manual unloading of materials.
From Processing to Packaging
When about 2,000 lb. of polished, cleaned beans are dumped into a hopper (with a capacity of 5,000 lb.), beans fall through a sifter at the bottom of the hopper where smaller and larger particles are removed as waste. A tubular cable and disc conveyor then carries the product to the packing line. The appropriate amount of beans is measured with a volumetric meter and then dumped into the bags. After bagging, the bags are conveyed over the checkweigher to make sure that each bag is accurately filled.
Cablevey Conveyors for Safe Bean Distribution
The innovative tubular conveyor technology replaces large pneumatic conveying systems once used in bean processing plants. Despite pneumatic conveyors being powerful and doing a great job at moving material, it breaks a certain percentage of beans in the process, which detracts from product appearance. Most natural foods in their raw form require delicate handling – dry beans ideally should not be broken or distressed on their way from the combine or silos to packaging. The same applies to coffee beans, barley, kidney and garbanzo beans, rice and grain blends, parent seed, and oilseed.
Bean processing plants process and package bean products according to a strict schedule, and efficient product distribution and handling is essential to maintain production schedules. Also, tubular conveyors help maintain system sanitation and prevent foreign matter from entering the tubes, virtually eliminating wasted product.
Any foreign material clinging to the disc and cable assembly can be continually removed during operation thanks to the bristles located in the brush box. When it comes to handling all types of bulk materials, most production plants use bucket elevators, which require extensive cleaning (both on the interior and exterior), leading to production downtime. With tubular drag conveyors, the cable-disc assembly turns around and passes a brush box for cleaning of any residual material (immediately following the discharge) before going to the return circuit. In food production, speed, sanitation, and line changeover have become focal issues in food production – food producers are expected to maintain allergen-free and clean operations while increasing different product lines per shift each day.
Whether you’re processing and moving pinto beans, black beans, red kidney beans, dry edible beans, bean crops, or bean grains, Cablevey Conveyors systems are a perfect fit for moving all types of food ingredients as well as finished products, regardless of the form they are in. Besides reducing the incidence of health hazards, our tubular cable and disc conveyors also reduce the potential of dust explosions. Our tubular drag conveyors can be engineered to support any part of your production process, helping you maintain food quality standards, improve productivity and processes, and save on labor costs.
The list of conveying technologies is long, but not all of them are compatible with the bean industry. The food processing industry has recognized the benefits of tubular cable and disc conveyor systems. If you are ready to invest in a system for your bean processing plant, be sure to educate yourself and understand all the features of tubular drag conveyors.