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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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Hi Rochelle. By 'dust' do you mean husks?

no if you break the beans up too small the nibs all turn to dust

Rochelle -

In Dave's single-stage vortex winnower, the majority of the fines will end up in the second bucket and not end up in the shop vac. But I don't think that's the question you are asking.

The percentage of dust (or fines) will depend mostly on the type of cracker you are using and something to do with the beans - variability in size, residual moisture content/roast. I use a multi-stage classifier to remove all of the fines before winnowing because I find it to be more efficient. But out of 10kg of beans I might get 50-200gr of dust, a mix of fine bean particles, mostly germ, and minute shell fragments.

I agree with Clay's numbers. Measured a different way, if I start with 10kg of roasted beans, I estimate that somewhere around 8.8kg is the best ideal-case recovery (that assumes 88% nibs, 12% husk and germ). Starting with 10kg I usually end up with around 7.5kg of useable nibs after winnowing and germ removal -- that works out to about 85% recovery -- 15% is lost in the winnowing and germ separation processes.

Hi David,

Great winnow feeder! I had been thinking about using a meat grinder for this purpose but have not been able to get around modifying the thick metal screen that holds the auger in place on all meat grinders. If this were kept in place the nibs and shells would backup into the machine and not exit. How do you keep the auger in place while at the same time removing the metal screen?

Many thanks for any suggestions!

On the KitchenAid food grinder the auger goes through the bearing at the back end and floats free at the exit end, so it runs just fine without the plates in place.

I did find that the KitchenAid mixer, even on low speed, is faster than my winnower can keep up with so I either have to increase the capacity of my winnower (the best solution) or feed more slowly (the immediate solution). To accomplish the latter I found a $15 battery-powered rotisserie drive that is perfect -- I just have to make a drive adaptor to couple the drive to the food grinder. That's a much less expensive option than using a $600 mixer to drive your auger...

Thanks David! That's very helpful, I've been looking into modifying a regular meat grinder, and it wasn't going to be easy. Would you be willing to share the battery-powered rotisserie drive and drive adaptor you find to work?

This is such a helpful hack, manual winnow feeding is not as much fun as it used to be :)


I have been using a manual meat grinder. You run the beans through with no Mincing plates in. they crack in the auger Chamber.

Thanks Clay.... Rochelle here, I'm just trying to find a better solution for cracking my beans. I have this beautiful old hand mincers and thought about placing a motor on it but it breaks the beans up just a little too much sadly.

Rochelle -

Cracking on a small scale is a challenge most craft chocolate makers face.

Most people start with a Crankandstein. This machine, too has a reputation for over cracking, but it's one of the best solutions out there that you can buy.

John Nanci, over at Chocolate Alchemy, has been (pun intended) championing using the Champion juicer without the bottom screen as a cracker. (The link is to Amazon US.) From what I hear, people are pretty happy with it but it's not a barn burner in terms of throughput.

On this note I started a new discussion thread in the DIY group about two different approaches to building crackers that should be easy to do, relatively inexpensive, and, more importantly, adjustable.

As with any discussion on cracking and winnowing it's my experience that pre-classifying the output of the cracker before winnowing is one of the most effective techniques you have to increase yield. I have been recommending gold classifying screens designed to fit standard (food-safe) five-gallon buckets. With a little ingenuity these can be stacked, semi-automating the screening process.

Is it efficient enough to get a crankendstien mill and the shop vac winnower off of chocolate alchemy? Or are these newer ideas going to be much more efficient. I am about to put a winnower together for my first time. :)

Steven - 

As with everything, your mileage may vary and it all depends on your interest in tinkering and your skill levels. Even with the winnower off Chocolate Alchemy the yield will vary based on many factors - the cracker is just one of them (size variability and residual moisture level and roast level would be other). I would tell you to expect to make multiple passes to get the highest yield. How many passes will depend on your patience.

If you want to put something together yourself so that you can tinker and tune, then this approach works fairly well without requiring a whole bunch of mechanical or construction skills.

You may want to make multiple passes, you may want to pre-classify (or both). 

That's the beauty of these approaches - you pick the level of patience you have various parts of the process and make your choices based on that.

All other things being equal, you're going to be able to get roughly the same efficiency out of these various approaches. The Crankandstein and the Champion juicer (as a cracker) each have their own advantages and drawbacks. You would tune your winnower (and process) to match the output of the cracker.


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