The JBT Hydromatic is one of the best-selling systems in the JBT catalogue and it is not hard to see why: the system’s capacity to run continuously for many days, after being initially heated – and its ability to sterilize and cook products internally – means that it can effectively save food and beverage processors substantial amounts of time, money, energy and floor space.

Netherlands-based Albert-Frans Brouwer, JBT’s Product Line Director for Hydrostatic Sterilization, has seen at first hand the effectiveness of the system and says it has consistently demonstrated major functionality advantages over other, equally well-established sterilization solutions.

As Brouwer explains, the Hydromatic brand can be applied to a variety of applications, all driven by one key factor: the hydrostatic principle, where sterilization takes place by means of steam or super-heated water.

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Steam or water-based sterilization techniques make use of heat that is locked inside a vessel at a certain pressure to assure uniform processing conditions. Batch retort systems are typically used for smaller volumes where baskets are loaded into a vessel after which a door closes and the entire vessel is heated and cooled. In case of the Hydromatic Sterilizer, the system works through the use of a central tower to house steam. This steam tower is accompanied by two towers, connected left and right, which both contain a column of water, each between 15-20 meters high, acting as a water lock.

Under the hydrostatic principle, steam in the sterilized zone (red) is balanced by the two water columns

The biggest advantage of this system, says Brouwer, is that because it utilizes a water lock, it can pull products into the sterilization chamber continuously, while the connected water columns are used to preheat the product as the first step in the sterilization process and cool down the product after sterilization.

“This capacity for continuous processing is what makes the Hydro Sterilizer so unique,” he explains. “This is a tremendous advantage over batch-type sterilizers.” Because the system can run 24/7, you only need to heat the entire system once, after which it stays at a stable temperature and energy is only used to heat the product. “We can further take the heat from the product after sterilization and use it to pre-heat new product when it enters the system and, by doing that, reduce energy consumption in a very efficient way.”

“Overall, the hydrostatic sterilizers shows energy savings of 30-50% when compared to classic batch retort systems, which is a very substantial amount.”

Because of the presence of stable processing conditions, Brouwer continues, the Hydromatic Sterilizer provides an identical process to each package, which gives a highly consistent product quality. Hydrostatic sterilizers are typically suitable for high throughputs, while also offering great flexibility in container size and type of processing.

Brouwer adds: “JBT has been working with this system for over 50 years and there is hardly any product we have not touched, but some of the most common include canned beans, vegetables and soups, dairy and soy milk, and non-carbonated beverages.”