How to Choose the Perfect Commercial Dough Mixer
When figuring out which commercial dough mixer is right for you, there are many options to consider. Whether it be more of a retail- or industrial-focus bakery, there is a perfect dough mixer available.
At ProBake, we offer a variety of solutions from small 20-quart stand mixers to large-scale commercial dough mixers and bowl lifts. Among these broad categories, there are many different styles of mixing, and each has an optimal role in the production space. So which is the right choice for you?
Arguably the most common type of commercial dough mixer found in bakeries around the world, the planetary mixer is more of the one-size-fits-all dough mixer. These mixers are always supplied with interchangeable tools like a dough hook, spiral and whisk, along with an interchangeable stainless steel bowl. These mixers are generally referred to and sized based on their bowl volume rather than capacity because specific weights of doughs widely vary.
The mixing action occurs through rotation of the tool against the stationary mixing bowl. This type of mixing action is generally best suited for doughs and batters with relatively high fat content that are not yeasted. This is mainly due to the higher levels of friction and heat input generated by the rotating tool with a stationary bowl. While this type of mixer can produce quality yeasted doughs, the margin for error is relatively small due to the high amount of heat input.
Spiral mixers are a favorite of most artisan bread bakers because of their ability to minimize heat input into yeasted doughs and to properly develop gluten structure without overworking the dough.
These commercial dough mixers are designed with heavy-duty drive motors and gearboxes that deliver high torque to allow them to still be used with low-absorption doughs. In addition, spiral mixers can also properly process even very small amounts of dough in relation to the max capacity (as low as 10% in some cases). Spiral mixers are most commonly named by the maximum weight of dough that can be processed in each batch. The drawback of spiral mixers is their flexibility and versatility in types of doughs that can be processed.
With spiral mixers, the mixing action occurs through simultaneous rotation of the spiral dough hook and stainless steel mixing bowl. This results in only small amounts of dough being mixed at any given time while the rest of the dough in the bowl has a chance to rest between kneading. This design also tends to offer very fast development of the dough along with a relatively large margin for error for over mixing.
The diving arm or twin arm mixers are more commonly found in Europe as they are better suited for higher hydration doughs or doughs with lower protein European flours. They are gaining popularity in the U.S. as more and more bakers move toward extremely high-quality, high-hydration formulas.
This type of commercial dough mixer is the most gentle form of mechanical dough mixing available and heat input is almost nonexistent. These machines develop the dough very slowly as the motion of the mixing tools closely mimics the process of kneading by hand. The lack of intense friction also allows bakers to mix longer for maximum gluten development without worrying about overmixing.
The main drawbacks to this style of mixing are as follows:
- Extremely long mixing times and power consumption. (sometimes 30 to 45 minutes or more per mix)
- They are suited for very high hydration doughs. (or lower hydration doughs with very low protein content)
- They cannot process small amounts of dough in relation to the max capacity like other styles of mixer can.
Fork mixers, much like diving arm or twin arm mixers, are more often found in Europe (predominantly in Italy and France). They too are a very gentle form of mixing that produces minimal friction and heat input into the dough.
There are two versions that are found in the market today — either with a motor driven bowl (Italian type) or with a free-rotating bowl (French type) — that rely on the interaction of the mixing tool and dough against the bowl to spin it. In both versions, the fork mixing tool rotates slowly and essentially folds the dough over itself to develop the gluten structure. Again, these very gentle forms of mixing allow for longer mixing times to reach maximum dough development without the risk of over mixing.
Fork mixers have a wider range of acceptable hydration than diving arm mixers, although they are more commonly used with higher-hydration doughs. Fork mixers fit somewhere between spiral mixers and diving arm/twin arm mixers in terms of mixing time, so the mixing time and power consumption are higher than average. They tend to require batch sizes that are close to maximum capacities as well.
Overall, there is no style that can do everything perfectly, and each type of commercial dough mixer has a specialty. The most important aspects to consider when choosing a mixer or system of mixers are the product mix to be produced (and absorption/hydration range), the quality level desired of the final products, available resources/capital, and the available space in the bakery.