Based on my personal experience with equipment in the chocolate industry, the quotes I've received from them (their company is to the best of my knowledge a spin-off from "Bottom Line Processing Technologies" in Florida), and the equipment that I currently use to make several hundred pounds of chocolate per week, their prices are outrageous for the capacities their creations can produce.
...but that's just my opinion.
Just curious Brad, what do you consider outrageous pricing? You make several hundred pounds of chocolate per week, what do you charge for that chocolate? $10/Lb? and it costs you what, about $4/lb to make it? I seem to recall you made a similar statement about the NETZSCH ChocoEasy. Yes it's expensive, really expensive, but it's worth it. Is your chocolate worth it? I don't know, never tasted it, but I bet it has a metallic taste based on what you've described in other posts.
I keep reading and hearing about people using this cheap equipment and having to work on it constantly. What's that worth? I've been to BLT, they are good people, and in my opinion, their equipment is more geared in quality and therefore pricing towards the large food companies for R&D, pretty much like our equipment. Our equipment is scaled down for R&D and then the larger production machines are actually very much competitively priced against the traditional conches and roll refiners.
Jessica - you should take a look at that equipment, don't be put off by one bad review. You might want to take a look at our equipment as well, although we don't have roasting, there's too many on the market. Cracking and winnowing however seems to be a real need in the market for a machine, Cacao Cucina has one that works, but it is relatively expensive.
And the above is just my opinion
You're partially correct. There IS a lot of poorly constructed equipment that artisans are using to make chocolate. Most of it is originally designed to mash soft beans and other pastes for East Indian food. The belts fail, and the granite rollers are antiquated. (such as Santha and other similar models)
Roasting: "too many on the market" Really? Where can I get a roaster that will do about 40lbs of beans per batch for a reasonable price? Nowhere that I could find when I was researching my business. Oh.... wait! Cooking ANYTHING is about heat and air flow! Hey! A commercial convection oven for $3500 NEW does about 40lbs of beans per hour, 320lbs per 8 hours, 960lbs per 24 hours, is STACKABLE, so you can easily double this amount and roast as much as 1920lbs of beans per 24 hour period. According to my calculation, for less than $9,000 one can implement a roasting solution which will allow a company to produce the following amount of 70% chocolate per day based on a 55% bean content recipe:
1920 * 0.8 /0.55 = 2792.7 lbs per day X $40 per lb = $111,708 per day in gross sales.
I actually charge MORE than $40 per lb for my chocolate - more like $55-60, and have been told by industry professionals with a lot more credentials than you Harry, that I should be charging more, as it's some of the finest chocolate they have ever tasted.
I've repeated this on many other posts: "Why buy a redundant, single use piece of equipment such as a modified coffee bean roaster (which is what a cocoa bean drum roaster is anyway and that's coming right from the mouths of the people at Probat Burns!) when you can buy a convection oven, and perform many tasks as well as roast beans.
Winnowing: A definite MUST HAVE to make chocolate, and currently the largest hole in the artisan marketplace. I own both a home made winnower, AND a large Jabez-Burns Cracker/Fanner, purchased from an auction last fall. My home made winnower cost me $1,000 in parts and an afternoon of work and easily (and effectively) winnows about 130lbs of nibs per hour. My Jabez Burns is spec'd to crack and fan (winnow) about 200lbs of beans per hour and cost much more.
Refining: Why spend $75,000 on a fancy roll refiner (such as Netsch) when it won't accept nibs? Yes, that's right. The Netsch refiner needs to have the nibs pre milled into a paste. At least that's what the techs said when I was inquiring into the chocoeasy machine. Heck, even a MacIntyre conche/refiner at $30,000 will take ALL the ingredients (nibs, sugar, vanilla beans) and refine and conche it just fine without the need for a mill of any type.
If you look around, you can even find MacIntyre knock-off's for much cheaper (like, say... $8,000 per machine), which will work just fine 24/7 for a couple of years before needing maintenance.
Now you know why chocoeasy doesn't deal with winnowers or roasters : their machines are designed to accept liquor/paste, and NOT nibs.
So... Now the secret's out. A person can buy a convection "roaster" for $4500, build a winnower for $1,000, purchase a couple of MacIntyre knock-off's for $16,000 and be making about 150lbs of world class chocolate per day.
None of this is my opinion. All of this is my reality.
We run an orphanage in Honduras. Incidentally, Hondurans grows cocoa. For this reason I am investigating chocolate production as a fund raiser and as an industry to employ people in a country with 50% unemployment/under-employment. Cocoa Cucina was probably the first site I found that offered everything you needed for smaller scale chocolate production. Unfortunately, buying everything required to bean2bar was quoted at just over $100K.
So for now we are just experimenting with the homemade path, which I like to call "R&D". :-) We roast in the oven. We use the local method of winnowing beans, which is to pour them out in front of a fan, into a large bowl. Then we use the Champion juicer to make the liqueur, followed by a wet grinder for about day, finally tempering in a Kitchenaid stand mixer with a lamp near by to keep it from cooling too much before molding.
Best I can tell, the Cocoa Cucina equipment is for someone who knows well more than I do, is already making good chocolate, but needs to take it to the next level, and willing to stake a good portion of their life's savings on it. I speculate that the CC equipment is about the right size for a downtown chocolate shop, selling at pretty steep price.
A little update on the tempering. We use the method from Chocolate Alchemy's site, to temper in the wet grinder. It's easier to control the temperature in there, and no additional investment is required.
I am waiting on a $300 machine from China, which slowly renders cocoa butter but far more capacity than we need at the moment. It will supposedly extract 1-2 kg per hour. We'll see. It's a pretty simple design so I'm hoping it's durable.