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Commercial Bread Ovens

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  • Commercial Bread Ovens

    Hi Folks,
    I'm semi-new to the forum. Looking for info on commercial scale brick bread ovens. Any thoughts on designs would be great. Windage's oven in Kentucky looks pretty amazing. I'd like to see more photos of that project.
    We stopped in at FornoBravo in Marina, CA and talked with Amir, who is a real nice guy and even baked a loaf of bread for us! Their ovens are a little small and I gather that those style ovens don't really have the insulation necessary for commercial scale bread baking.
    We then stopped in at the Wildflour bakery in Freestone, CA and were VERY impressed with their Ovencrafter design oven and their whole operation. Even though they were cranking full tilt, Jed instantly invited us back to the oven to have a look and talk with David who was working the oven. They bake amazing sticky buns that are as big as pizzas!
    We then contacted Ovencrafters and Lila has already been very, very helpful.
    Has anyone here built one of their ovens? That 6' x 8' oven at Wildflour was a beauty.

    All the research is to establish a women's co-op bakery for the less than privileged women in our small town in Mexico AND to get some good bread locally. Rather than moaning about how poor our local friends were and how there wasn't any good bread in town, a few of us decided it might be time to do something about both issues.

    I'm hoping that this forum can provide a lot of the answers we'll obviously need in building and establishing a commercial bakery operation based on a big brick oven.
    Thanks for any and all input!

  • #2
    Re: Commercial Bread Ovens

    It looks to me that most modern ovens are deck ovens. Some of these have turn table decks, some have steam. For breads, I'd think steam would be important and if I were going to use wood as the heating source, I'd want to include some sort of ash slot designed so as not to promote heat loss.

    Here are a few quick questions.

    How primative is this location?
    What heating sources are available? Propane, natural gas, electricity, wood?
    How many people are in the village? In the surrounding area?

    Here is a link to another forum group that you may also find helpfull.

    These folks are all about bread, but not specifically wood fired ovens.

    Keep us looped in please!



    • #3
      Re: Commercial Bread Ovens

      You might want to check out Alan Scott's book, the Bread Builders. I think ovencrafters is/was his company (he passed away last year I think). The Pompeii ovens we mention here are perfectly capable of baking bread, but the Alan Scott design has a lot more mass in it which is better for a commercial baking operation. You can also contact one of our members, CannuckJim at :: Mary G's Artisan Breads :: Traditional wood-fired brick-oven breads made to uncompromising gourmet standards, he has an Alan Scott oven and offers bread baking classes as well. Also these Alan Scott ovens are also referred to as Barrel vault ovens.
      My Oven Thread:


      • #4
        Re: Commercial Bread Ovens

        Isn't Wildflour bakery a great place. Giusto's flour, a huge bread oven, and great bread.

        I can add a couple of comments on commercial bread ovens.

        I think Wildflour is a great example of the type of business where the Bread Builders oven is appropriate. It's a commercial bakery, where the oven is fired every (most?) days and they are baking large volumes of bread every (almost every?) day in mlutiple batches from a single, large firing. They clean out the ovens, let the temperature regulate and then they are off and baking large quantities of bread.

        Commercial bread ovens require a lot of thermal mass, unlike a residential or commercial pizza oven, in order to hold bread baking temperatures (400F'ish) for hours from a single large firing. The Bread Builders oven dome is about 9" thick, which is what you want for that type of baking.

        You also need serious insulation (about the same as a pizza oven). It's the mass that is thicker.

        You might want to contact the Wildflour folks and ask a few more questions about their oven construction. I know there were some issues a few years ago, and the oven was substantially re-built. It would be very helpful for you to understand what happened, so you can avoid any potential problems in the future.

        If I was going to be starting a commercial wood fired bakery, I would take a very serious look at the Bread Builders design.

        Last edited by james; 05-19-2010, 02:39 PM.
        Pizza Ovens
        Outdoor Fireplaces


        • #5
          Re: Commercial Bread Ovens

          Hi Rob!

          I have a hybrid oven in that I have a modular Italian oven on an Alan Scott base. I did that to get extra mass. My time on this forum leads me to think there is one key modification to the Scott base design that would be particularly valuable. The Scott ovens put the hearth slab on top of the hearth insulation (to give more heated mass). The Scott instructions are pretty good but I think the hearth slab should have an insulation break so the heat can't leak out the sides of the hearth slab.

          And I support James and Drake, for a commercial bakery it is hard to go wrong with a Scott oven though I think hanging around here will (properly) lead you to more insulation than Scott used. A pizza oven is fine for one or two batches and can with extra mass do three, but...a Scott is made to bake all day, every day.

          Good luck!


          • #6
            Re: Commercial Bread Ovens

            Thanks everyone for the quick input. I knew this would happen. You folks are an amazing resource.
            I'll answer your posts in order.
            Chris, Alamos is a town of 9000, 500 miles south of Tucson in the Sierra Madre foothills.
            It is one of Mexico's "Magic Cities" and an incredible colonial jewel. It's advantage/disadvantage is that it is kind of in the middle on nowhere and until very recently at the end of a dead end road. Now it is possible to drive through on the way to the Copper Canyon, which is much larger than the US Grand Canyon and has a railroad that took 100 years to build.
            So there aren't a lot of tourists, but there is a significant x-pat resident population that has been very involved with the town for a very long time.
            Amigos de Educacion has been helping educate the local kids through college for decades and it is that organization that is now contemplating switching from fund raising to enterprise building to accomplish that goal.
            We've tossed around all sorts of enterprises, but a bakery that could supply Alamos and nearby Navajoa with artisan breads is certainly the most viable.

            We already have our choice of sites, donated by Amigos members. One downtown and the other (my preference) slightly out of town on the site of an ancient tequila factory with large solid building in place and lots of acreage for commercial activity.
            The Amigos organization is made up of very accomplished and resource laden folks who are very serious about the mission. A business model will need to be formulated and passed by the board, etc. The bakery is my big idea, so I'm going to need all the fact finding help I can get. hint, hint.
            I've lurked this board for quite a while, waiting for the right time. When we saw the Wildflour bakery, the project made sense to pursue, and Jed at Wildflour has already volunteered to be a valuable resource.
            Back to your post Chris:
            We have propane, electricity, and a wide variety of woods available from mesquite to fruitwoods to species you may not be familiar with. The prefect wood would be easy to come up with.
            The Fresh Loaf forum is amazing. There are great cooks in Amigos and I'm going to ask a couple of them to represent us there.
            As our project goes forward we will certainly extend offers for on site help, which will mean putting our visiting experts up in the lap of luxury in either wonderful haciendas or the fine hotels owned by Amigos members. I'm guessing we can lure the experts we might need for this benevolent project to spend some time in our sunny little jewel of a town. I'm counting in it!

            Drake, I'm waiting by my mailbox for the plans for a 4 x 6 Ovencrafter oven.
            We settled in that size rather than the larger oven at Wildflour, thinking that it would put out a lot of bread, could also be used for pizzas for an evening option, and if we are fortunate enough to need more production, we could always build another one. Lila talked with me about the efficiency benefits of keeping the oven cranking and that seemed like a good size to start with.
            I checked out Mary G's and not only is it a good resource, but I'm thinking the CannuckJim might be a likely suspect to lure out of the frozen tundra of Ontario for a little on site assistance. Thanks for that link.

            James, you bet, Wildflour is a very cool operation. Jed mentioned the oven failure to me, referring to brick quality as the culprit. He nearly pleaded with me to make sure we contacted him about materials etc as we moved forward, not that it'll take any pleading.
            One of the great aspects of the Amigos is that they are spread out around the US and the world, coming together every year in Alamos. Two members live in the Bodega Bay area in the summer months, one of which is an architect who is very keen on the project and visits Wildflour on a regular basis, so Jed and the folks at Wildflour will likely be more help then they ever expected.
            Meanwhile, the brick quality thing brings up an important issue; materials quality, and specifically sourcing it in Mexico. We can certainly haul what we need across the border through Nogales, but it's not like Mexico is unfamiliar with masonry, and there are already thoughts that this may just be the first of a chain of co-op bakeries in Mexico, so finding the materials we need in country would help.
            So any input on materials quality and sources will be very helpful.

            Jay, I hear ya about insulation and will certainly take modifications like the one you suggested into account as we start the build. I've never read a recipe, set of plans, or an instruction manual that I didn't tweak just a bit, so I don't doubt there will be some customizing and it's great to have experienced builders here to bounce things off of.

            Thanks for all this input already. I kind of figured this would happen. This forum is an incredible resource.
            My next step is to come up with all the build out costs and projections to show to the board, plus a reasonable timeframe to completion. With curing times etc, the Mary G project seemed to take about 8 months start to finish. Personally, I can't think of anything better to do than spend the next year building and organizing this enterprise for the wonderful women of Alamos so they will be guaranteed a way to pay for their children's education with their own efforts. Mexico doesn't fund education past the 7th grade, which is partly why it is so tough to move from the lower rung into the middle class. This project will provide them with that opportunity in perpetuity.
            Thanks for all your help.


            • #7
              Re: Commercial Bread Ovens

              Good luck Rob!

              You don't have to worry about tweaking oven plans. There are always decisions/compromises to be made and every oven is different.

              I have not been to Alamosa but have been over much of Mexico. Have an aunt and uncle in Green Valley AZ who go to Alamosa periodically.

              Keep us informed. And again, Good Luck!


              • #8
                Re: Commercial Bread Ovens

                Hi Jay, Great to hear that you have a connection to Alamos (no "a" a the end).
                I have no doubt that your aunt and uncle know some of the Amigos. It's a pretty tight community. You'll have to come down for a visit.


                • #9
                  Re: Commercial Bread Ovens

                  Oops on the spelling. I have heard it is a nice place. Will work on that!

                  Again, good luck!


                  • #10
                    Re: Commercial Bread Ovens

                    I’m very intrigued, it sounds like a tremendous project and in the end a huge asset for the community and surrounding area. The setting sounds spectacular! I’m hoping that at some point my family and I can visit your town.

                    It sounds like firewood won’t be an issue, your resource bakeries can tell you what you can expect to need.


                    Although it's early, anybody up for a road trip?
                    Last edited by SCChris; 05-20-2010, 09:55 AM.


                    • #11
                      Re: Commercial Bread Ovens

                      Rob, are you just down the road from Minas Nuevas, mabey 50k or so from Navojoa?



                      • #12
                        Re: Commercial Bread Ovens

                        Hi Chris, You've got it. Here's a link to some photos.
                        Alamos Mexico


                        • #13
                          Re: Commercial Bread Ovens

                          My much-less-than-expert bit: You might want to seriously consider using two fuel sources - gas and wood, for example. I'm only familiar with New Mexico (everybody has to go to college somewhere... well, everybody who goes to college, anyway) so it's quite possible you have something they didn't (or that I didn't come across). But none of the native woods in NM were hardwoods - they were all soft and most were really fast burning. I recall a bonfire with a huge supply pile - at least 10 x 20 x 8 - a quantity I would fully have expected to be barely touched by the next morning were it here in Alabama. Started at 7:00 pm the last stick went on at 5:00 am - it burned unbelievably fast.

                          For a WFO that's going to be a problem as it takes time to get up to temp esp. if it's a large mass oven - it could consume massive amounts of softwoods. If your part of Mexico is like NM you would probably be better off using gas to get the oven to temp and then wood for flavor.

                          And if you do have a good supply of long burning hardwood, never mind.

                          Oh, from what I've read around here, bread and pizza ovens can interchange but usually aren't efficient in doing so (i.e. bread ovens make poor pizza ovens and vise versa). Getting a bread oven to pizza temps is a big headache so if you really want to have that versatility bi-fuel is probably the way to go.

                          Okay, that's my 'for what it's worth' section. Hope it helps - or at least provides a good laugh.
                          Last edited by Archena; 05-21-2010, 06:43 PM.
                          "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." - Jim Elliot

                          "Success isn't permanent and failure isn't fatal." -Mike Ditka


                          • #14
                            Re: Commercial Bread Ovens

                            We can certainly consider multiple fuel sources. There is a propane station not too far away and a big tank on the property already.
                            The Ovencrafters plans aren't here yet, but I imagine they account for fuel sources.
                            Our climate is a bit different than New Mexico. The location itself has a number of 200 year old mesquite trees and there is a lot of mesquite in the area, but I'm thinking that it's a bit too oily a wood for the ovens. Maybe not. Any thoughts?
                            Meanwhile, there are fruit orchards in the surrounding area and some fairly dense hardwoods, the names of which I don't have. We'll definitely have to research that.
                            Your point about pizzas and bread from the same oven is well taken. My initial thought is that if we were to get interest in pizzas for the evening hours, the women could crank the oven up, cook pizzas at the high temp needed, and then seal up the oven in hopes that it would be just right when time came to bake bread in the early AM. That might be dreaming though.
                            Another thought is to actually start the bread baking in the late afternoon and into the evening, so fresh bread is ready to go in the early AM.
                            Any thoughts?


                            • #15
                              Re: Commercial Bread Ovens


                              Mesquite is a great wood for flavor but burns really fast. The oily-ness shouldn't be a huge problem as the oven will consume any residue in it so long as it is fired correctly. I'd check into how it treats the chimney, though. Resinous woods like pine gunk up a chimney pretty badly so it's something to keep in mind. But a commercial bakery should have routine chimney sweeping as part of its maintenance plan anyway.

                              The fruit woods are great for flavor and long burning but the question would be supply. Not many orchard owners are going to be big firewood suppliers beyond prunings (good for chips and flavor) and culls (great firewood sources but fairly infrequent). But if there's enough around it'll work great.

                              I think your first plan is probably the best. Bread ovens hold their temps well so it may well be ready by morning - and bread baked early will have people lining up early. A second firing later in the day could keep you baking all day long - assuming you have the market for it. My thought would be that the lower afternoon temps could be used for bread puddings and cakes. The bread puddings and like items will use up your leftovers and would probably go to the restaurant market well. Day old bread can be sold at a discount but by day three you'll need a Plan B. Those fruit trees could also supply fruits for pies and tarts, also late day baking items (lower temps).

                              You might want to try it out before getting the big oven under way. Cob ovens are cheap and easy to build and would give you an indication of how your wood would behave. Drawback is that they are commonly built at pizza oven size but I don't see why they couldn't be built larger or at least more massive. (I'm a big believer in try it out small scale before committing to large scale but that doesn't apply so much in your case given the level of expert help you're getting. Still, it might answer some of your wood questions and give you a chance to make pizza!)

                              Disclaimer: I'm also the biggest cob fan here.
                              "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." - Jim Elliot

                              "Success isn't permanent and failure isn't fatal." -Mike Ditka