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I've been playing around building a vortex and was just wondering if anyone is using a dust deputy for this?

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Take a look at Ptomac chocolate. A nice picture is on the timeline.

thanks, is that the same place is Potomac chocolate?

Here is the picture of my winnower that Clement is referring to:

The Dust Deputy just collects the winnowed husk, though. It doesn't do any actual winnowing. Its intended use is as a dust collector, so it is designed to capture as much as possible in the bucket. It would need to be modified somehow to suck the lighter husks out of the vortex while letting the heavier nib drop. 

A while ago (after seeing the Brookly Cacao winnower:, I was thinking about trying this, but never got around to it. 

Hey Ben, I love your work!!!! and thanks for that, I tested it out again today and it did what you said... I tried building a tiny mini one of the brooklyncacao one too but I need to test it again, it did work somewhat. duct tape and wobbly parts wouldn't of help, I tried it with just a single dust deputy too and that kind of worked as well. lots to try......


After posting yesterday, I started thinking that it wouldn't be too hard to test different lengths and/or widths of tube by cutting out the existing tube and replacing it with PVC.

You should post what you've done so far in the new DIY forum:

The dust deputy is not built for winnowing, it's a filter that collects dust and small particles that would otherwise get sucked into a shop vac and clog the fan, lowering the suction of the fan.

From personal experience I can tell you that the Brooklyn Cacao Vortex winnower does not work as advertised.

One reason is that the built-in cracker over-cracks the beans resulting in lots of size differentiation. This results in very inefficient winnowing unless you use the cracker as a cracker and then pre-classify and separately put the different fractions through the machine, altering the vacuum setting for each run.

At $35,000 this is obviously not an ideal situation - you want something that is basically fill it and forget it.

Now - the BC winnower is a two-stage device. You could theoretically add extra stages and handle the classification that way but that increases the complexity of engineering (the need to control the vacuum and votex precisely in each stage) and the cost.

It's a fun idea, hugely expensive for what it delivers, in part because of the cost of parts (lots of custom-blown glass).

FWIW - pre-classifying works extremely well and when it's used on conjunction with a zig-zag design, ( throughput and efficiency are very good.

Thanks Clay. Very interesting information. I currently use a dust deputy to collect the shells in a bucket between my winnower and shop vac. 

From your comment, it sounds like the main problems with the vortex design are similar to most winnowers, specifically how to handle differently sized nibs & shell efficiently. It doesn't sound like the actual vortex separation aspect is the problem--the problem actually being one of feeding a consistent size to the winnower.*

If that's the case, it should be possible to modify a dust deputy to achieve a different separation than it currently achieves. My first thoughts on how to do this would be

  • modify the length or width of the center tube in the DD
  • add a valve to the bucket lid where the DD is mounted to allow a little airflow up through the DD from the bottom. It looks like the BC winnower does this.
  • add a valve between the winnowing DD and the shell collection DD (which would be an unmodified DD) to allow for adjusting the strength of the vacuum on the winnowing DD. This would not be inline, but at a T to the main line to reduce the airflow being drawn from the winnowing DD.

The two valves would be somewhat similar in function to the Chocolate Alchemist design that I use.

I'm definitely interested in messing around with this. I have an absurdly small 'factory', so space is always at a premium. A winnower that could fit under a table would be incredibly useful for me.


* I use a Champion juicer for cracking and have been pretty happy with the size consistency of the nibs that it produces. But the problem could also be solved as you say with post-cracking classification by size.

Ben -

The purpose of this group - DIY - is to encourage all sorts of experimentation on small equipment for the craft chocolate workshop. If you think you can rustle up something built from multiple dust deputies then you have a solution that other people will want to at least look at. So posting drawings (don't need to be plans), as well as photos and videos is always encouraged.

This above is an image from the Oneida web site showing two dust deputies plumbed in series. If you had valves to tune the air flow in the right places (as you start to outline above) then I think this is eminently do-able.

I encourage you to start a separate discussion to present your experimentation and link to it from this discussion.

One of the things that I'd like to see is working to create a large feed hopper for whatever winnower solution is adopted. That feed hopper could sit above the cracker and/or above the winnower.

One vessel I have been looking at for the feeder is 5 gallon water bottles. I'd cut the bottom off (and invert for use) as well as play with cutting the neck to widen the feed opening. 5 gallons is about 15-20kg of beans (whole / cracked). Water bottles are also cheap and, importantly, food safe. The other reason to go with a 5 gallon water bottle is that the dust deputies sit on 5 gallon buckets, so everything is sized appropriately.

I tried a test model with that design Clay out of water bottles...I didnt have the airflow right so the husk went with into the vac and the 2 DD winnower the nibs twice.

At the moment I'm using this model and has worked well. I have a motor controller to control the air flow too. My biggest problems are... the Vac fills up too fast.

My Crankandstein Cocoa Mill isn't breaking the beans up small enough. I'm hoping to try out some new beer mills this week to see if I can get a better crack on my beans with out having to spend 1000nz on a Champion juicer.

This is the first winnower I ever built. There is a blog post and photos about it here on TheChocolateLife.

Based on all my experience using this PVC pipe device (with the pre-classifier method that Ben and I discuss elsewhere in this thread), I firmly believe that the zig-zag winnower is an overall better technique. In part because the process of air mixing, turbulence, and separation is visible.

This makes tuning a whole lot easier to understand.

Plus, I learned that whenever I am using a vacuum (e.g., a shop vac) some sort of vortex dust collector is a requirement to keep the vacuum from getting clogged.


I have been using the Champion for cracking but I am not so pleased.  The major issue is the husk pieces can be quite large which then fall into the nibs.  If I increase the vacuum then too many nibs are lost.  I am considering adding a coarse screen to the exit of the Champion to catch the large pieces and then re-process those large pieces.

I have another bag of beans arriving this week so I will try this and report back.

Paul Picton

Some beans crack & winnow better than others. For the others, I use this 1/4" gold sifting pan:

I put it on the bucket that the winnower feeds into to catch too-big pieces. It works great.


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