Connoisseurs of capsaicin, that fiery oil in chili peppers, are a rare breed. Hot-headed food lovers know that truly spicy food is a bit hard to come by, often produced in small, custom ordered batches.
Sausage artisan, Jim Cefelli, says his company may produce just 10 pounds of their Triple-X Spicy sausage in a week, even though the facility produces nearly 20,000 pounds of sausage on an average day. Cifelli & Sons has shipped gourmet meat — most the non-spicy variety — throughout the East Coast, and as far as Bermuda, since 1974.
“When my father went into business, he was producing 16,000 pounds of sausage a week,” said Jim Cifelli, who runs the company with his brother, Anthony. “We now process about 90,000 pounds a week, and we’ve outgrown our 3,000-square-foot facility.”
The Cifelli brothers have been seeking a larger building for a few years. A bigger facility with more walk-in cooler space would allow them to further expand their operation and expedite production. Last year, when a conveniently-located commercial lease opened up, they decided to retrofit the 13,000-sq.-ft. building to meet their needs.
“The basics were here,” said Cifelli. “It’s the right size, has loading docks and is easy to get in and out of with a box truck. What it lacked was a processing room, freezer space, and the robust plumbing needed for meat processing.” Luckily, the property owner was happy to facilitate the extensive renovations.
During the planning phase, Cifelli sought the expertise of George Sansiveri & Associates, a plant engineering firm that specializes in FDA and USDA inspected facilities. A key facet of Sansiveri’s design was a hot water plant to supply ample volume throughout the day. Work on the facility began in March of 2015.
“We use a lot of hot water,” explained Cifelli. “Before lunch break, the processing room is hosed down with scalding water, and at the end of the day, we do a full cleanout of all six machines. At that point, the USDA inspector comes and must approve the state of the processing room.”
The building’s owner introduced Cifelli to Gene Celler, owner of Heritage Plumbing and Heating, Inc. The five-person company was hired to install the new hot water plant in a tight mechanical space adjacent to the processing room. Celler took the design to his Bradford White wholesaler, Steve Morris at the Aaron & Company’s Freehold, NJ branch and to Focus Sales, in Middlesex, NJ, to select the best equipment for the application.
“The four wash-down hoses can dump as much as 10 GPM each,” said Al Puccio, manufacturer’s rep at Focus Sales. “And it needs to be much hotter than at a residence.”
Heavy duty plumbing
Because a failure to produce hot water could shut the plant down for days, Cifelli was adamant that the system be as close to fail-safe as possible. This was reflected in the design. Two light commercial volume water heaters were used instead of one larger unit. The original design specified a pair of 85% efficient volume water heaters, stacked one above the other to save space. It also called for a large storage tank.
“Gene brought the design to me with a few ideas to improve it,” said Puccio. “He needed water heaters that would fit easily into a small mechanical room, and we both saw the advantage of using condensing units as opposed to atmospheric.”
After a discussion with the engineer, Puccio selected two, 285 MBH Bradford White Brute Series volume water heaters. These heat a 415 gallon Bradford White storage tank, which is made by a subsidiary company, Niles Steel Tank.
“Aside from higher efficiency and the ability to modulate firing rate, we wanted to use the Brute Series units because of their flexibility of installation,” said Puccio. “The top connections allowed Gene to position the units side-by-side to save space, without sacrificing room to service them.”
Hot water on demand
“A one-and-a-half-inch water line from the street enters the top of the big storage tank,” said Celler, who started Heritage in 1985. The water heaters draw and return water from near the bottom of the tank. This helps us de-stratify its water volume.”
A pair of valves and temperature gauge on each wash-down hose bib can be used to dial in the exact temperature needed, but the storage tank is set at 150°F. An aquastat will fire the lead water heater, followed by the second unit two minutes later if needed.
Heritage installed a one-and-a-quarter-inch hot water recirculation line to ensure fast delivery to all points throughout the building, including restrooms and break area. As stainless steel Taco 007 pump is used for the loop.
“I took this design to Focus Sales because I wanted to install Bradford White water heaters,” said Cellar. “I’ve been using their products for many years, and the tech support and warranty are great.”
According to Celler, the condensing equipment was more expensive, but it will pay for itself quickly. Without the material and labor to install the rack to stack the atmospheric boilers, it was a difference of a few thousand dollars. He calculated that the new, 95% efficient volume water heaters will save Cifelli around $1,000 per year.
“The owner of the building didn’t want us to penetrate the roof to vent the water heaters,” said Celler. “Being able to use a PVC side-wall vent was a big plus.”
Back in business
In addition to the hot water system, Heritage remolded the bathrooms, installed pneumatic lines and six air stations, ran gas pipe for a new generator, put in floor drains and assembled a 300-gallon grease trap.
“About half our work is commercial, but this was the first time I’ve done a meat processing plant,” said Celler. “It came with its own set of challenges. Everything had be to spec, down to the very last stainless steel screw. Sansiveri’s design was fantastic. Everything fit like a glove.”
Heritage Plumbing and Heating was finished in August. The Cifelli Brothers continued to oversee the finishing touches in the cooling spaces and processing rooms while also keeping their original plant in full swing.
“I hope to be producing here by Labor Day,” said Cifelli. “We currently offer 10 varieties of sausage, and this facility will allow us to add a poultry sausage. We’ll also be able to add equipment that’ll remove some of the heavy physical lifting that’s currently a big part of the work at the old plant.”