Which noodle machine should you choose?
Like many questions of similar nature, the answer to this one is, of course, “It depends”. Exactly what it depends on can be explored by answering the following three specific questions which are:
1. What kind of noodles are you planning to produce?
2. In what quantities?
3. For what purpose?
Thus, selection of the most appropriate type of noodle machine would and should be contingent on which noodle production solution can suit your current and future needs and goals the best.
When people not very much familiar with the field of noodle production think of making their own “noodles” in many cases they are thinking about a kind of generic noodles (sometimes collectively described as “pasta”), and implicitly assume that all noodle making equipment is the same – which, as will be subsequently explained, is, of course, not the case.
I. So let us start with the topic of noodles, which can be classified by
2) methods of production
3) dough hydration
4) method of processing / storage
1) Noodles can be defined as a food product made by processing ingredients into flour or paste for mixing it with liquid to make dough, and forming / cutting it into separate thin / flat strands. Leaving aside various exotic noodle-like / shaped products, noodles are mainly made from the following types of ingredients:
a) gluten grains (wheat)
b) non gluten starchy grains (rice, buckwheat, etc.)
c) starchy parts of plants other than grains (konjac, corn, etc.)
d) combination of the above in different proportions
2) Noodle production methods can be divided into
c) one-directional machine-rolling
d) multi-directional machine-kneading
3) By degree of hydration noodles are generally classified into
c) high hydration
By default, hydration implies not only the nominal amount of liquid directly added to the dough, but the overall volume of water contained in the dough including hydration contained in ingredients themselves (e.g. moisture in flour and other components).
4) According to methods of processing and storage, noodles can be divided into
a) raw (chilled)
b) raw (frozen)
c) dried (stored at room temperature)
II. Although the concept of quantity is ultimately subjective, in terms of noodle production we can talk about three main patterns:
1) very limited volumes: under 10 kg / < 50-100 portions of noodles a day
2) large but limited volumes: under 100-200 kg / < 500-2000 portions of noodles a day
3) very large production volumes: above 200 kg a day (this category also includes high capacity factory-scale production lines)
III. In terms of purpose of noodle production we can distinguish:
1) personal consumption / limited scale commercial use
2) noodle specialty small-scale food business supply
3) mass market bulk supply
Each individual pattern of your needs and goals comprising different options related to the type of noodles, production quantity and production purpose would warrant selecting a technical solution with a particular configuration using certain types of noodle making machinery. And, of course, let us not forget that the same factors may also justify ruling against the option of in-house noodle production altogether – as, depending on the circumstances and conditions, it may as well be more reasonable to procure noodle products from third party suppliers.
When it comes to noodle machines themselves of particular importance are points I. 2 (noodle production methods) and II (production volume), but several other parameters can be added for a full picture as well.
Thus, noodle machines can be classified by:
1. production method
2. production volume
3. dough ingredients / hydration
4. machine size
5. machine price
6. machine application
Let us examine several possible scenarios of how can you choose a noodle machine that would be the most appropriate for your needs and goals.
1. For cooking enthusiasts planning to produce limited amounts of noodles for personal consumption in home settings there are two possible solutions:
a) hand-operated rolling type pasta >machines<
b) manual / electric extrusion type noodle making >machines<
These two types of machines can process dough with medium to high water ratio, and can make dough from gluten and non-gluten grains (both rolling and extrusion types), as well as starchy plants and rice / buckwheat flour (using extrusion production method). Their production volume is small, and can satisfy needs of a family or a non-noodle-specialty food business using them to produce occasional noodle offerings for their menu. Considering their limited functionality and production volume, such machines rarely cost more than several hundred USD.
2. Aside from the options examined above, when it comes to noodle machines for business application there is a great diversity of different products suited for different needs, ingredients and production volumes.
To make standard wheat dough-based noodles, a small-mid seize food business fully or partially reliant on serving noodles can start with high capacity tabletop pasta >extruders< or pasta >sheeters/cutters<.
Usually combined with a built-in dough mixer, such machines can make medium to high hydration pasta and other types of similar noodles, egg noodles, and gluten free noodles from rice or buckwheat flour (extrusion type). These machines usually have a capacity to produce up 10 kg of noodle products per hour, and have a cost range within several thousand USD.
At this point of machine size and production volume we are still talking about “machine-rolling” and “machine-extrusion” type of equipment because due to specific features of their production processes noodle machines using such methods as steaming (to make pho noodles) and hand-kneading (for udon and soba noodles) usually require relatively bigger space to place and operate.
As noodle machine size usually corresponds to its production volume – i.e. the larger the machine, the more noodles it can produce in a given time – to achieve a bigger production volume one would usually need to invest in equipment larger in size than described in the section 2.
However, noodle machines with a production capacity of more than 10 kg of noodles per hour but smaller in size than factory lines are rare, especially when we talk about equipment of rolling, hand-kneading and steaming varieties. But it is this very category of equipment that many businesses serving more than an occasional noodle portion but requiring far less production capacity than a large factory line are most interested in, especially in terms of noodle quality – that should be better than of the noodles produced using consumer-grade appliances or on mass production lines to justify the price tag these businesses put on their products.
Under this rubric fall most noodle machines designed and produced by Yamato: more production capacity and exponentially better noodle quality than household noodle making appliances on the one hand, but on the other – far smaller in size, and offering far better noodle quality compared to big factory lines for producing noodles in bulk.
For example, different models of Yamato “Richmen” series rolling-type noodle machines can produce from 100 to 250 portions of noodles from wheat, buckwheat or rice flour (or a combination of them) per hour, require a minimum personnel of only 1 operator, and have a size compact enough to allow them to be installed and operated in an environment with a limited space.
A small but important caveat is that for noodle machines that have a wide range of product options that can be made on them, it is usually rather difficult to define their production volume in mass units as each recipe would require a specific set of noodle making procedures which in their turn greatly affect total output: for example, taking into account time to mix, roll, thin down and finally cut the dough, on average more (by mass) high water content noodles can be made in a given time than low water content noodles.
A price for dough rolling and dough kneading type noodle machines in this category usually starts at around 10 thousand USD, averaging at 20, and can go up to 30 or more depending on the production volume and a type of equipment (shipping cost can also significantly increase the final price).
Of course here you need to consider a whole set of various factors in total including running cost, customer service, compatibility with various safety and industry standards (which may be legally required depending on a country), availability of support from the manufacturer regarding recipes and other advice (refer to our >Guide on noodle machine price<).<
What is important here is to be absolutely sure that a machine you are planning to purchase is fully capable of producing the kind of noodles you want to have – and be capable of doing it not only in exceptional cases but as a standard mode of operation:
for example, certain varieties of low-water content noodles (like those used for Hakata-style ramen bowls) require great pressure to form their dough into sheets – which, as a rule. is beyond the capacity of most noodle machines for pasta (that is not to say that pasta machines cannot make such noodles by default, but trying use them for this purpose on a regular basis would greatly shorten their service life span).
Very large production volumes (starting from mid-scale rigs for several hundred kilograms of noodles per day to large factory size lines with a daily output measured in tons) are usually used to produce noodles with a long shelf life, and are combined with drying/packaging equipment to process the noodles they make. Such production solutions may require significant amounts of investment which can reach hundreds of thousands if not millions USD.
In this article intended to offer an advice on choosing the right noodle machine, we tried to give a cursory review of what types of noodles exist, what kind of equipment can be used to produce them, and what machine you should choose to buy.
Although it may sound obvious, but in the end of the day, there is no best or worst noodle machine, but each machine’s respective merits are determined by whether it would suit your particular needs and purposes, which can vary depending on noodle ingredients, production volume and application (personal consumption / commercial use).
Despite being a producer of noodle making equipment itself, Yamato clearly understands that certain solutions, including those offered by Yamato may not necessarily be appropriate for all situations: having a relatively big noodle machine with a big production volume may not be appropriate for home noodle enthusiasts or those businesses who want to produce noodles only occasionally and in very limited quantities, while compact noodle machines which can satisfy needs of a noodle specialty shop would be lacking in production capacity for high volume industrial applications.
But for those who are looking for a noodle machine for small-mid scale commercial production of craft noodles we can offer the followings advice:
– if you are planning to have your own noodle machine, make sure its production capacity is enough to produce a required amount of noodles in a short time allowing you to concentrate the rest on other aspects of your business (i.e. if you run a noodle restaurant you would obviously prefer not to spend all your time just on making noodles)
– it would make sense to ensure a room for growth: even if you do not require that much production capacity at the moment, it does not necessarily mean that you won’t need it in the future (for most stand-alone noodle machines gradual scaling up is impossible)
– if you plan to produce a certain variety of noodles do not choose a machine for which production of this type of noodles is rather an exception than a standard mode of operation: for example, although it may be theoretically possible for pasta machines to produce low-hydration hard-texture ramen noodles, using them for that purpose on a regular basis would definitely shorten their service life span (perhaps, very quickly)