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Children love them, and adults love them too. Extruded cereal is a typical ready-to-eat cereal with different flavors and shapes. You pour cold milk into a bowl of extruded cereal and eat them for breakfast or sometimes as a dessert. These shapes of cereals are refined by thermo-mechanical cereal extruder machines. Typically, extruded cereal can be categorized into three kinds: direct expanded cereal, co-extruded cereal, and extruded flakes. Depending on which kind of extruded cereal you are making among these three kinds, your choice of processing line will differ.

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Manufacturing processes for direct expanded cereal, co-extruded cereal, and extruded flakes

As it is mentioned above, the cereal processing lines of three types of extruded cereal vary slightly. Firstly, direct expanded cereal – cereal in diverse shapes such as loops, curls, alphabets, and stars – starts out with an extrusion process. Once the batter for the extrusion is prepared, this dough is inserted into the extrusion machine. Using a twin-screw extrusion machine, the ax in the machine cuts the batter into the shape of choice. Heat and moisture are controlled within this machine, depending on the type of direct expanded cereal you are making. Once they are extruded, they go under the syrup coating system and drying process. As the end product, you will be able to make multigrain and fruit loops, bran sticks, alphabet cereal, cocoa balls and curls, cinnamon squares, and so on.

Co-extruded cereal processing line also starts out with an extruder machine, the same twin-screw extrusion machine that can be used for the direct expanded cereal. The machine creates the square-shaped pillows that are hollow in the middle. The special feature of co-extruded cereal is that inside square-shaped pillows, there is filling inserted in the center. To make this composition, the hollow pillows go through the filling process with cream feed and pillow crimper. These stuffed pillows then go into the dryer. At the end chocolate or cream-filled pillows, fruit-filled pillows, and stringy pillows.

Lastly, extruded flakes – such as extruded bran and wheat or corn flakes – are manufactured without any preparation of dough like the two kinds of cereal above. Flour or powdered form of grains or corn can directly go into the twin-screw extruder machine connected to a barrel. Here, in this machine, heating, cooling, mixing and shearing processes are conducted, and pellets are formed through this process. The pellets are now fed to the flaking roll to turn into flakes. Then, the flakes go into the toaster where extra moisture is removed and the color and the flavor of the flakes are improved. Depending on the preference, these flakes then go to the syrup coating machine, then drying and cooling processes are followed.

Benefits of twin-screw extrusion and extrusion process itself

The extrusion process is the essential process in making extruded cereal. But, what are the benefits of the extrusion process other than it can create diverse fun shapes of cereal? The extrusion process can improve the water binding and also accelerate its speed. Also, it enhances the taste and aroma of the cereal and provides better hygienic quality with a longer shelf-life.

For this extrusion process, it is quite common to see twin screw extrusion machines being used. A twin-screw extrusion machine is a device with co-rotating two screws intermeshing simultaneously, eliminating inactive zones in the length of the process. Twin screw extrusion machine is often selected over single screw extruder due its ability to handle sticky, oily or highly wet ingredients. It is also easy to clean as it has a self-wiping feature, and it can be used for a wide range of ingredients of particle sizes – fine powder to grain.

More colors makes extruded cereal more fun! - coloring extruded cereals with natural colorings

You can’t deny that the colorfulness of extruded cereal makes them more fun than other cereals, besides their chocolatey, fruity, and sweet taste. How can you color these extruded cereals with natural colorings? First, you comprehend that the natural colorings are heat sensitive and the colors can change due to pH levels during the extrusion process. Also, the base color of cereal dough is never white, but rather yellowish or brownish color.

Keeping these in mind, you can explore all the natural coloring options. For instance, you can use coloring made out of turmeric to get bright yellow color, and you can use carrots (beta carotene) or a blend of vegetable juice for a bright orange shade. A reddish or dark purple can be attained from the anthocyanin fruit or vegetable extract. Beetroot juice is used for bluish or bright red, and paprika extract can make a reddish-orange hue.

Processing steps involved in extruded-cereals making

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