A ChocolateLife member in Hawaii recently sent me pictures of a Brazilian-made coffee sheller that they've been using in a lab in the University of Hawaii to crack cacao beans for winnowing.
One of the things that makes this device interesting (apart from the fact that it should be inexpensive) is that the gap is adjustable. If so, this could address one of the issues that many people have with the Crankandstein, which is that because the gap is fixed (and narrow) it results in over-cracking the beans and a lot of small particles and dust.
Here are some pictures of the unit:
a) they know anything about these coffee shellers
b) can try them out on roasted beans and let us know how they work (photos, please!)
c) let us know how much they cost
d) be willing to help (translate) to see if it's worth trying to bring them here to the US.
On a related note, John Nanci over at Chocolate Alchemy has finally published a photo for his new winnower - the Aether - that uses a Champion juicer as a bean cracker. I don't have a juicer at the moment, so I was wondering is there are any ChocolateLife members who do have one - and who also have a Crankandstein - who'd like to experiment with using their Champion to crack roasted cocoa beans and compare the difference in the cracking efficiency between the two with us.
In particular, I am interested in knowing about the consistency in sizing and the percentage of very large pieces with shell still attached.
The grid is on the bottom - the output side of the grinding mechanism. My guess is that it's necessary to remove the grid to allow unimpeded flow of the cracked beans. If you don't mind a mess (or can shroud it otherwise - this is a short test), you might be able get away with not using the bottom cover.
Worse comes to worse let me know and I will see about getting a replacement for you.
Hi Clay, I saw an earlier version of the Aether and the results were much better than the Crankandstein.
Also, I really liked how little dust the earlier version produced. Now that the improvements have been made I am even more interested in it.
I tried googling around for more info on these and came across the universal nut sheller. It was originally designed to give people who subsist on peanuts a better way to crack them. Looks pretty easy to build (especially the 2nd revised version at the end of the 'redesigned' video) and could be motorized to really chew through some beans. What do you think?
Redesigned Universal Nut Sheller
I am familiar with this project and have, in fact, tried to contact the Full Belly Project about them. My concern is that roasted cocoa beans are a lot more delicate than peanuts (what cracking cocoa beans is closer to is removing the reddish paper shell that sticks to the nut, not the outer shell) and that it would be difficult to gently crack the cocoa without breaking them into very small bits - which is exactly what we're trying to avoid.
Maybe. I am not convinced. Go for it. Make one and let us know.
There is also the potential to embed small pieces of concrete in the bean that you won't be able to remove via winnowing. That may just be a matter of the type of concrete used - perhaps you could use some sort of resin binder.
Hello to everyone!
I am from Brazil and I bought one of these Botini coffee crackers for cracking cacao.
It's very cheap, about U$ 50,00 (without freight).
It has an adjustable gap, not much, but enought for different sizes of cacao. I don't have a cranckendstein to compare, but I think this one makes a pretty good job.
I'll try to post some photos of the nibs, dust and shells.