Monday, 10 March 2014

A Frantic Finish

It was difficult to predict how busy the last night of my first week of nightshift would be.  Sometimes the last shift of the week is very quiet if crushing is finished by the afternoon, but if crushing continues into the night, it can become a very hectic race to get everything finalised before 6am on a Saturday morning.

Turns out this week crushing ran very late, so it was all hands on deck early Saturday morning to get everything cleaned up for the weekend.  The major task is to strip and sanitise each of the five grape presses.  For each press, this involves roughly the following steps:

1. Arrange a confined space permit.
The task requires two people - the person inside the press doing the stripping and cleaning and someone who is the 'standby person' to ensure that you remain safe whilst inside by monitoring the atmospheric conditions and checking there are no other untoward events.

2. Shovel out the bulk of remaining grape skins
Even after the contents of the press have been discharged, there is always a fairly significant buildup of grape skins remaining.  It's much quicker and easier to first shovel out as much as possible.

3. Remove all the stainless steel drain bars
The press contains a number of rows of stainless steel bars with fine holes through which the grape juice drains.  They get quick clogged up with grape skins, so each one needs to be unbolted, removed and hosed down.  A time-consuming task.

4. Thoroughly hose out the press
Once everything has been removed, the entire internal cylinder must be hosed clean so that there is no grape skin residue.  The most difficult part of this is removing grape skins hiding in the folds of the bladder.

5. Reinstall the drain bars
Once the drain bars have been cleaned (by the standby person), they pass them all back in for re-assembly.

6. Sanitise the press
Similar to the method for cleaning tanks, a wash of caustic soda, followed by neutralisation with citric acid is undertaken to remove any remaining contaminants from the press surface.

my first time stripping the press
Overall, steps 1 to 5 of this process took me 2 hours and 20 minutes (it was my first time assisting with this task).  Supposedly, an absolute gun at a press 'strip and sani' can do it in 1.5 hours, but that's really pushing the boundaries!