I've searched through old forums and not found the answer I was looking for. Perhaps I didn't search hard enough, so please forgive me if this is a repeat question.
After a series of complicated logistics, a CocaoTown ECGC-12SL melanger now makes its home in the tiny workshop of my chocoladies here in Peru. However, they keep telling me that they can't put more than 1 kg of licor (twice ground nibs plus sugar) into the machine or it siezes up. I swear this machine has a capacity of 8 lbs of final couverture. With our current process we put 70% nibs to 30 % powdered sugar through a grinder we have, and then pass the pasta that comes out through the grinder once more. What we have at this point is a licor that's still too grainy to eat, but not *that* bad. However, it's quite thick...like a paste.
From here he put this paste into the melanger. My ladies say that if they put more than a kilo of this mix into the melanger, it seizes up. Additionally, they only let it grind for 2 hours. After researching, I'm relatively certain this isn't enough, but I need more to go on than "the internet said so," or they won't believe me.
So what I'm wondering is, what has been the experience of others, and, obviously there's something not ok about our process. Therefore we welcome all thoughts and suggestions.
Casandra (and the chocoladies of ASDEME)
I use a few of the ECGC-12 melangers (the predecessor of the 12SL) and I generally run 8lbs at a time in them. You can't put it all in at once, though. You have to slowly load the melanger over a little while.
A couple things to help the process go smoother:
1) It works better if everything is already warm. So, warm up your nib/sugar paste and use a heat gun to get the grinding stones and bowl warm.
2) Make sure the belt is tight on your melanger. The stock belt will stretch and wear out pretty quickly. If possible swap the stock belt out with one of the fiberglass link belts like this (although I think it needs a thinner belt than this--I think the ECGC-12 uses a 3/8" belt, so check the belt first before buying a replacement): http://www.amazon.com/Powertwist-Power-Twist-V-Belt/dp/B001BQDS8I
Two hours in the melanger is a very short amount of time. Most makers that I know of will run the chocolate in the melanger for a few days. In addition to refining the chocolate, this also serves as a conching process.
i'm was about to buy one 12sl for lab but now im not sure...changing belts etc does not sound good
I wouldn't let this dissuade you from the cocoatown melanger. Santha's melangers have the same problem, including their bigger ones--haven't heard of this particular problem with the larger cocoatowns, though.
If you look around on this forum or on Chocolate Alchemy, you'll find plenty of references to black belt shavings coming out of the bottom of both types. Swapping the stock belt out for the fiberglass one is easy and solves this problem. I've been running with the fiberglass belts now for a year and a half, with no belt-related problems.
Ben is absolutely right. You can't just dump all the nib/licor in at once; the machine will sieze. The "problem" is that the motor does not generate enough torque to move the bowl when more than a certain amount of product is introduced at one time.
You need to put a relatively small amount into the bowl (which can be warmed to speed up the process) and process that to get it very fluid and warm. Then you can add the rest of the material into the bowl, but again, not all at once.
It's also pretty common to add the sugar after the chocolate is warm and fluid. The sugar in the "licor" increased the viscosity (thickness) which means more torque is required to keep the bowl moving.
Max capacity I've put in are 9.7 pounds (4.4 kg).
If using added cocoa butter (eg. for milk chocolate of more creamy dark) I usually melt it in a saucepan first. I put it in the grinder and immediately start adding the nibs. It helps a lot and you will be able to put the nibs in very fast.
In any case, point the heat gun or hairdryer to the mixture and get to the 120F range. This lets the nibs release the fat and ease the machine.
I haven't had problems with the belts but Ben's suggestion to use fiberglass will be my first pick.
EDIT:: The belt is 9.4-9.5 mm in width as confirmed by CacaoTown.
which is better, the santha or the SL12 Cocoa Town?
everybody say that 12sl is better :)
I have a small CocoaTown grinder and it works fine for us, we don't so chocolate but only small tests that we then bring it to the big machines.
Thanks for the belt tip: i have noticed that it is a bit "sloppy" and seize too easy: it could be me very impatience or the belt.
@ Rene, changing the belt is very easy, if you buy a grinder from CT you will have to open it anyway because the motor is blocked with foam for shipping safety.
THE ONLY thing i find very annoying is the 3 feet base that the melanger stands on: it is horrible, unpractical and if you want to lift, move or do anything to the machine will flip on the side all the time.
I sent an email to Ct about this, i'm just waiting that it breaks to build a proper base with 4 feet...
CocoaTown ECGC-12 had a V belt and some customers had a problem and they changed it to fiberglass belt as suggested by Ben. ECGC-12SL uses poly V belt made in Germany and it does not have the same problem. It is an elastic belt and withstands much better than the V belt.
Regarding the stand for ECGC-12, it was a separate piece and some customers had a problem. In ECGC-12SL, we have installed the feet to the base of the unit so you can transport the unit easily without it toppling to one side.
Same thing with the foam inside the motor housing. We used the foam to transport eCGC-12 to overseas shipment. ECGC-12SL is made differently and no longer we use the foam inside the motor housing.
about adding the nibs into the melanger - It is better to add as nibs into the melanger slowly. If you have a mini pregrinder, you can powder it and add it to the stainless steel vessel. Pregrinding the nibs in a juicer makes the mass sticky and thick and it makes the stones seize up.
If using a heat gun to warm the nibs, make sure to point the gun at the nibs and not the drum or stones. Since the metal and stones expand differently, heating the empty bowl can detach the center pin in the ECGC-12SL drum. If one adds the cocoa butter first, start the machine and adds the nibs slowly, they can easily grind a total of 8 lbs cocoa liquor.
Another mistake some of the new chocolatiers are making is adding the sugar to the cocoa paste (ground in the juicer). Some customers are adding sugar within 30 minutes of adding the cocoa paste. It is not a good idea. When the sugar crystals are ground, it releases a lot of heat and it caramelizes the already thick paste. We found from our customers that adding the powdered sugar (not the store bought one - it has corn starch or other anti-caking agent) after cocoa liquor reaches around 60 -70 microns gives a better result.
We keep improving the machines based on the customer feedback.
I have the small melanger and have had good luck with about 30+ batches so far, usually between 4 and 7 pounds of total ingredients. With nibs, I heat them up on a double boiler and put them in a little at a time. Maybe takes me an hour to get three pounds of nibs in the machine. With liquor, I almost liquify it on the double boiler, and the first little bit you put in needs to soften up well, and then you can put it in rather quickly. It had seized on me a couple of times and added to my lose.
I have been advised and have read on this site, to not add any butter or the sugar at the beginning. I generally let it run between 6 and 12 hours before I add anything. At that point, I take pure cane sugar and put it in a little at a time with no problems. If I add a pound of sugar, that may take an hour or so to get it in. Adding 5-8% additional butter sure makes it easier on the machine.
I did pull out the belt and took it to a number of places but could not find a replacement. Can I get one through you? It is starting to make a little noise to I expect to have to replace it soon.