Variability in available energy can cook your cannabis-infused candy operation 

, Variability in available energy can cook your cannabis-infused candy operation 

Your marijuana edibles brand is taking off, which means scaling up production. The big question is: How do you go from a 5-pound batch of gummies to a 30-pound batch while still ensuring the product remains standardized and uniform? 

Beginners might assume that scaling up a recipe is as simple as multiplying the amount of ingredients. However, creating a scalable gummy recipe requires close attention to formula, process and a basic understanding of the science of candymaking. 

There are three elements for any successful candy product: formulation, process and equipment. Often, when transitioning from a small batch to a production-size batch, people tend to focus first on the equipment they need and completely forget about adjusting the recipe. Gummies are especially fussy confections when it comes to recipe and process, so both are equally important. 

Quirks of production 

Gummy products have unique moisture needs. Once deposited into a candy mold, the product must cool and jell for a specific amount of time to achieve the right moisture level. While most commercial gummies are deposited into starch trays, marijuana-infused gummy edibles rely on “starchless” technology. 

The process is a lot less flexible when it comes to formula and processing than the more traditional starch molding. In fact, variations in moisture of 1%-2% can have a huge impact on the product’s depositing and setting. 

These quirks make understanding of basic chemistry of gummy-making important. However, you don’t need to be a scientist or engineer to understand these concepts, especially if you’ve already been working in the kitchen. 

Basic aspects of cooking 

The basics of cooking and heating are intuitive. Very simply, when you place a hot item next to something cold, the hot item loses heat and the cold object absorbs some of that warmth. As the difference in temperature between hot and cold increases, the heat transfer speeds up. Surface area also plays a role: The more surface area you have, the quicker an item heats or cools. 

  • To determine a heating load, or how much energy you need to accomplish a certain task, you should ask the following questions: 
  • How much material are you going to heat? 
  • What is the starting temperature and the target temperature? 
  • Will there be a change in water content from start to finish—and, if so, how much? 
  • Ideally, how much time do you require for a cook cycle?

    , Variability in available energy can cook your cannabis-infused candy operation 

    The table shows calculations to cook 10 pounds of a general confectionery mixture of corn syrup, sugar and water at room temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a total initial solid of 75%. The table illustrates how many kW it takes to cook that solution to various “candy” stages. These calculations do not consider the amount of energy it requires to heat the pot or vessel you are using. This also assumes no heat is lost to surroundings and 100% efficiency.

Sizing equipment choices 

Electric Cooking: Most people use electric equipment—whether it’s a hot plate or induction burner. In each of these cases, the kilowatts (kW) at a given voltage is usually stated on a specification sheet. Both are important!  

If the voltage of a facility is lower than the electric device’s kW rating voltage, the total available kW will be less—and you must take this difference into account. To learn your facility’s voltage, inquire with the maintenance department or take a voltage meter and measure it at a receptacle. 

If equipment is rated at 240 volts single phase and is supplied with less than 240 volts, the kW will be derated. At 230 volts, the output is 92%; at 220 volts, the output is 84%, etc.  

If you have an electric cooker rated at 10 kW and 240 volts single phase that was operating on 208 volts single phase, the available kW would be 7.5. From the table, cooking a 30-pound batch to hard ball stage in 15 minutes requires 9.96 kW (3.32 kW x 3 because the batch is three times larger than the amount listed in the table).  

Cooking it to the same stage in 30 minutes requires 4.98 kW (1.66 kW x 3). With 7.5 kW available at 100% efficiency, you would expect the cook time to be no less than 22.5 minutes. 

Gas Flame Cooking: The output of a commercial single stock pot-sized gas cooker can be as high as 80,000 Btu per hour. That rate equates to about 23.5 kW. With the control turned down to about 33%, this cooker will generate the same 7.5 kW as the electric cooker above.  

With the flame control turned to the maximum, you would expect those cook times to be about one-third of those in the table. That would be 20 minutes, 
10 minutes and 5 minutes to achieve the same energy transfer. 

Steam Cooking: Steam boilers, whether electric- or gas-powered, are generally rated in pounds of steam per hour. A good rule of thumb is 1,000 Btu per pound of steam. A boiler would need to produce at least 26 pounds of steam per hour to have the equivalent of 7.5 kW 
heating capacity. An 80-pounds-of-steam boiler would have a similar cooking capacity as a single stock pot gas burner. 

Final considerations 

This story assumes 100% efficiency, which is rare. Heat loss from hot surfaces is usually not a large part of the calculation, but it should be considered because it may reach as high as 5% of the total available kW. Generally, oversizing by 25% takes care of any losses not specifically accounted for. 

The most common unknown is the product itself. As candy masses cook, they become more viscous and may not transfer heat very well. In this case, the surface temperature of the cooker must be reduced to avoid burning. Increasing the cooking surface would help, but whether that is practical will depend on the size of your kitchen.  

 John Vessa is a senior application engineer at CandyWorx, a Spec Engineering Brand. Kelly Froehlich is the marketing content manager at Spec Engineering. Since 1979, Spec Engineering, a Gray company, has been a single source for system design and process equipment integration. CandyWorx is a custom equipment and solutions provider for the confectionery, chocolate and cannabis industries. Learn more at spec.engineering and candy-worx.com. 

 NEXT: Multiplying in Michigan