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Anyone able to offer reviews/have personal experience with their equipment (any item of it?)

 

While I'm not looking to get into bean-bar right now, I stumbled across their site the other day and thought "This looks too good to be true".  So is it?

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Yes, $100K is well out of my current commitment level and means. We run a little orphanage in Honduras and I am just trying to start a small business that  our older boys can start a career with.

Hi Clay,

Well, I finally got the machine today, and I felt like a kid opening a candy store, before I even opened it. The company actually delivered it within a week, but it had to go to another shipping company that ships to Honduras and handles customs. That second step took four weeks.

My initial observations:

The machine does in fact press out cocoa butter.

The cocoa butter is not free of solids as it is brown, although completely liquid. Unless you plan on selling the cocoa butter rather than using it to make chocolate, this should not be an issue.

I am going to enhance the feed hopper by putting small rectangular walls on top of it, perhaps made of wood. Otherwise it's a full time job keeping it fed.

The solid is expressed out the front in hollow tubes that break off due to stress when it reaches 6+ inches. The tubes can easily be crushed into cocoa powder. I am eager to try this but there's a meeting going on in my house that I would disrupt. Reselling the cocoa powder is a crucial factor in reducing my costs. There is a good market for this in Honduras as Hershey's powder is about $11/pound locally and people have few phobias about buying outside of the big name brands.

The machine looks pretty solid. When I turn off the motor, the shaft takes 10-15 seconds to spin down to a stop, which is usually a good sign that you have some solid gears in the box. My 30 year old Hobart meat grinder and KitchenAid mixer do the same. Many of my lesser machines do not. Based on this, I am hoping that it will give me years of service.

I was able to express over a pound of cocoa butter in less than an hour, maybe 30 minutes. I am eager to go weigh the butter versus the solid to see my yield, also crucial to costs.

I need to build some kind of container to catch the cocoa solids, which are bulky because of the hollow, spiral shaped tubes that are produced. With this and a feed hopper enhancement, this machine could batch 5-10 pounds of cocoa nibs, hands free. It would probably handle about that much per hour.

Initial impression is that if you are looking for an economical machine to press out cocoa butter, this $200 machine is hard to beat. It's definitely less of a commitment than the $26K Cacao Cucina butter press.

Will update later on the yield etc.

The final note on my first use of the machine. The machine did in fact yield 50% cocoa butter, by weight. Also, the cocoa solid easily ground up, in my coffee grinder, into powder. My son took some of the powder to make hot cocoa and gave it a thumbs up. I took some, made an 80/20 sugar/cocoa mix with a little lecithin and stirred it into some milk. That also worked.

I know I'm not on the same level, quality wise, with you artisans, but I am excited about the bean to bar possibilities on a budget. :-)

Mark -

When you get a chance, a video of the machine in operation would be fun to see, also a photo of whatever hoper design you put together. I wonder if you can make a simple hopper from a 5-liter water bottle?

This is great news for small craft producers.

A 35 kilo batch of 70% chocolate at 10% added cocoa butter is what ... about 2-3 kilos? This could easily be done in short order it sounds like.

Real, single-origin chocolate ... where the butter is from the same origin as the beans ... on a budget.

I think I found a vid Clay at this address:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCCxeODNTK4

Looks like an automated screw expeller, like the hand worked Piteba one. I bought one of these and had no luck in getting cocoa butter out of it. However Bob Rankin also had a Piteba and was getting it to work but he died before he got around to helping me tweak what I was doing to get it to work. Just wondering what options are available in the automated version for speed and aperture for the solid and liquid output. These things need to be adjusted as the system warms up too (with the Piteba). 

Found some instructions for use.

Looks like heating is controlled by thermostat for expelling the solid which is good as I found the end of the Piteba sometimes cooled down and this stopped the cocoa solid from coming out.

Yes, Tom's video shows the same type extractor I have. It does have a separate switch for the heating element, which you need to turn on 3-6 minutes before you start the press.

The cocoa I used was already roasted, cracked and winnowed, because I want to grind the solid into powder, which worked well. To be honest, the cocoa powder is something I can market right away, whereas I need to improve my chocolate making skills and process before selling any of that.

Hey Mark,

Many thanks for pointing us in this direction. I now too have one of these machines but I am having a hard time operating it. After receiving it, sanitizing it and putting it together per the instructions, I was excited to put the first batch of nibs through.

Just when it appears to start working (ie cocoa butter is coming out and the first cylinder of cocoa powder is coming out the end), the machine seems to overload and then shut down.

At first I thought perhaps the heating element hadn't run long enough to keep it going. So, I cleaned it out and let the unit heat up for an entire hour prior to using it.

It went a little better the second time, but again stopped after about 60 seconds of operation. 

Thanks for any help you can provide.

Ah... I see. Needed to use the 110v->220v converter that came with it. It was not running full power. Ha!

Use of the 110V to 220V transformer is important. :-)

I did have the machine shut down on me once also. I'm not sure what happened, but I also removed and cleaned the drill bit and it started working again.

You are going to notice that if you run enough nibs through the machine that butter will spurt out in every direction, within the housing. I just make sure the housing is clean before using and scrape it down with a spatula, saving the butter that did not make into the pan. Other thing I do is try to line the pan with foil that runs up the sides of the housing so it will be more apt to drip into the pan. Still, some will drip out.

One other thing I do to speed things along...Don't use that little reducer tray for the nibs. Keep the opening large. To do that you will need to raise up the mechanical housing. I do that with some small pieces of 2x4" lumber. This will let the housing for the butter pan drop all the way onto the drill bit feed so that no nibs will fall around the opening. Without that reducer tray, I have to refill the the hopper every minute or so. With the reducer, it takes much longer and I have to manually shove nibs around.

Hey, a little update on this. The last time I extracted butter, I took a break to do something else, but left the heating element on. When I came back and resumed the extraction, the butter began coming out pretty much pure (the yellow, creamy color). Also, on this run, the butter did not splatter around the housing. It actually came out the way it should. So, long story short, be sure and run the heater a good 8-10 minutes before starting.

Hi Mark,

I've now gone through a full batch test with some clean Dominican I roasted and winnowed. I rigged up a hopper and pulled off the bottom so that I could process in bulk.

The full batch was about 20 lbs of nibs that took a few hours to process. At the end, my final numbers were 25% solids removed vs the 50/50 split you seemed to get.

Was there anything special you did to get the yields so high?

Hi Michael,

     I'm not sure. When I said 50/50, I might have been a little sloppy on the numbers. It's probably more like 60/40. One thing that does happen, is that the solids that come out the front end will fall into your butter pan at times. I don't have a permanent solution for that yet. For now I just shape some aluminum foil in various places to try and keep the solids going out. I also use foil to line the sides of the container so that the butter that shoots the wrong way will drop down into the pan. However, I still use a spatula to scrape off around 1/2 cup of butter from the housing.

     I just keep telling myself that, while the Cacao Cucina solution is better, I have not had to commit $27K to this machine.

     There is a research team at California Poly, led by Dr. Thomas Neuhaus, that is designing a low cost, lightweight butter press, which is powered with a 20 ton hand jack. It's still in progress, but their goal is to bring a low cost solution for expressing butter, so that they can help African cacao farmers earn more than commodity prices for cacao. The farmers will also be able to make their own chocolate and sell it to tourists.

Thanks,

     Mark C.

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