The Chocolate Life

Discover Chocolate and Live La Vida Cocoa!

I have a small space (500sf) and want to do bean to bar chocolate making. I cannot seem to find the right assembly of traditional equipment that would work in that space (There is another 300sf working space not suited for equipment).

Has anyone used the NETZSCH machines or know someone who does? It seems like a solution, but I am concerned about reliability, cost, consistency, and of course quality.

I would appreciate any input you have.

Best regards,

Tags: chocolate, making, netzsch

Views: 2478

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

We would like to take this opportunity to respond to Brad Churchill's post. Bottom Line offers three different winnowers with capacities ranging from 15 kgs/hour to 150 kgs/hour. We aren't sure which model Brad is referencing, since none of them are in the $50K range, and none are referred to as "Frankenstien" (sp)! We will gladly quote pricing and offer demonstration tests to anyone interested. Feel free to contact us via

About 6 months ago I was provided a quote for your larger capacity machine. I still have it. I'll dig it up and post it here so we're all clear.

Bottom line (no pun intended) in my opinion? It was WAAAY overpriced, and still required the additional purchase of a high volume air compressor, air lines, and required babysitting by the operator.

Last month, a small Lehmann winnower was sold through online Auction by Jim Greenberg for about $9,000 USD +/-. It's a great size for artisanal production, and is the same one that a well known New York Chocolatier (I think Jacques Torres) uses in his facility. I bid on it, but mine works well, so didn't pursue it aggresively.

As far as calling it "Frankenstein" (I spelled it correctly this time), what can I say? In my opinion, it's how I truly feel. It's apparent that whomever designed it doesn't work in the food industry, and/or doesn't have a good understanding of winnowing. There are a million nooks and crannies, hoses, and wires, and open circuitry to catch the dust that winnowing creates (and it ALWAYS creates dust), along with other debris and cast off that the industry always creates (ESPECIALLY the chocolate industry). Nothing is enclosed and kept away from staff who can be very rough on equipment. It simply doesn't have a professional, easy-to-clean and maintain look/design for a commercial food establishment.

There are much better, and less expensive options out there. That's my opinion, and that's all I'm saying.

Ok everyone.... My mistake.

The quote I received was even MORE INSANE!

This company wanted $77,000 USD for the winnower, and ANOTHER $5,000 for the feed hopper that goes on top, so the operator doesn't have to keep feeding beens into the machine.

Note, that this doesn't include shipping (quoted weight of 2,500lbs), the cost of the air compressor, set up, and electrical work needed.

By the time it's all said and done Frankenstein will cost you about $90,000 to winnow 8 sacks of cocoa beans per day.

I've attached the PDF quote I received from Kim Vessa on January 11, of this year.

Talk about pricing yourself right out of the artisanal marketplace..... Wow....

Again, this is JUST MY OPINION. You can accept or reject it as you see fit.

I have written quotes for their others as well, and for the 15kg version, the likes of which you can find plans on the Internet which will process the same amount, they wanted $11,000.00 not including shipping, set up, electrical, etc, etc. Again, by the time you're done it's a $15,000 kick in the keister.

Why not just design one INTELLIGENTLY - like maybe a scaleable one - and sell it for a price that an artisan can actually afford?

Much appreciated Brad! Thanks! ~Wendy
Thanks - I'm at the early stages of designing an artisan shop and this detailed info is invaluable!
This is an edited version of Brad's response to his own reply.

Apparently Clay has had some pushback from my incendiary posts above. He's asked me to delete my posts, and I've agreed. However I don't readily know how to do that. Instead, now that I've openly slapped a company I think is ripping people off, I'm going to substantiate my claims, and help those of you who are looking for a winnowing solution for your business:

You can buy a good quality cracker from Commodity Processing Ltd in the UK for about $3500 USD, which allows you to completely control the size of your cracked product. One of these units will easily do 100lbs per hour all day, every day without fail. It's a product I use in our shop. (Don't buy their fanning device. I did. It's a POS)

John Nanci on Chocolate alchemy also sells a hand unit that you can attach to an electric drill for about a hundred bucks. I started with this, and it works ok, until you get into more industrial long term use. It would be a good start for an artisan.

You can then have the nibs fall from the cracker directly into the rotating screen (described below).

Winnowing is about airflow and particle separation. Airflow can be created by both suction and/or blowing. The challenge with cracked cocoa is the disparate sizes of the beans and shell, so the first thing that needs to happen is that the particle size needs to be made uniform.

Traditionally screening cocoa is done using a series of vibrating flat screens. The problem with flat screens is that eventually, they clog up with nibs and need to be cleared out by an operator. They are also very very noisy. A better solution (one that I've designed) is a cylindrical screen that the nibs, once cracked, tumble into. The screen is tilted 10 degrees and slowly tumbles the nibs and shell, causing the large pieces and large shell to tumble out the end, and the smaller pieces to fall through. The benefit to this design is that it's not noisy, and the large pieces that get caught in the screen fall out once the screen rotates to where the nib is at the inside top. This design also requires only a small servo motor and a belt to keep the screen turning. Nibs and shell that fall out the end, can continue to be run through the cracker to create more uniform pieces, until such time as product falls out the "reject" end of the rolling screen. Screen size should be no larger than 3/8 ths of an inch.


A single cyclone dust collector with a particle bag, and heppa filter can be purchased from any large woodworking supply company for just a few hundred dollars. I purchased mine at Busy Bee Tools here in Calgary for $269. It creates the CFM draw I need, doesn't use a whack of electricity, and plugs into any standard North American wall outlet.

3. Blowing: You can purchase a series of enclosed fans from any commercial fan and motor supply store for a couple hundred bucks each. the fans you need put out about 300CFM each, and allow a cervo control to be attached (like a dimmer knob on a light) so that you can control the fan speed as it's blowing.

4. Winnower design: Create a box (plywood works) about 4 feet tall, and 1 foot by 1 foot wide, with slopes inside. On one side of the box, cut holes and mount your fans. On the other side of the box cut a slot and mount one of your dust collecor input hoses. The top of the box is open, and is where you dump the nibs. As the nibs fall into the opening, they are directed by the slopes you add to the inside of the box, INTO the airflow of the fan at a 45 degree angle. The fan blows the shell through the nibs, and UP another slope into the airflow of the dust collector. You have three fans mounted on this box, so the nibs pass through the airflow three times, then fall out the bottom of the box and into a bin, ready for use.

Not only is this a system that can be designed and built for less than a thousand bucks, it's scaleable, so that as your business grows, you can build more boxes, with more fans, and just increase the size of your dust collector.

[ this paragraph removed because of offensive language ]
This conversation, with a different emphasis, is being continued here.
One of the issues that does not get covered in these discussions is why equipment costs as much as it does.

While it is possible to build inexpensive solutions like the ones outlined in this discussion and others, problems arise when moving from a hobby stage into manufacturing for commercial sale - which is where serious food safety and liability issues arise.

To the best of my knowledge there is no such thing as food-contact-safe plywood. Anything in a food manufacturing facility made of plywood should instantly fail a health inspection. In the US, you can't even use plywood as a housing for parts that don't come in direct contact with food because of concerns with preservatives and solvents in the woods and glues. NSF-approved stainless steel is a lot more expensive than plywood and a lot more expensive to work with.

Food safety has a range of concerns, the most important of which is that you don't want customers to fall ill from consuming your product. On a practical level, should you get sued by a customer who gets sick and they find out that you've been using non-approved materials to fabricate your equipment – well, you can count on your insurance not covering those bills.

Another thought to consider is the potential impact on the still-small craft chocolate market here. Remember a few months ago and the peanut butter scare? It didn't matter if you bought your peanuts from a supplier that was safe – no one was buying peanuts. What would happen to the craft chocolate market if a customer got sick? While it doesn't make sense that all craft chocolate makers would be affected, history has proven, time and again, that consumer's react emotionally and not rationally, so a food scare is likely to have a relatively broad affect.

Other reasons that much food processing equipment (and equipment for chocolate is included in this list) is that the parts are designed and built to industrial tolerances and duty cycles, not the duty cycles of home appliances, and the fact that they tend to be made in small runs. Anyone who's had a 5-liter countertop grinder knows all too well that they weren't designed to run continuously for 8 hours let alone 48 or 72. Longer duty cycles require that everything be built accordingly – and that's more expensive.

In looking over all the wonderful designs that have been proposed here on TheChocolateLife, it's important to keep food safety in mind. The plastics being used may be food-safe, but are they getting cleaned properly? Is everything that comes in contact with the cocoa is food-contact-safe (did you remember to sanitize the inside of that PVC tube before you started winnowing - and to sanitize it regularly)? Before you move from being a home hobbyist to selling chocolate to the general public, it's worth considering the implications of food safety on your equipment choices.
I agree with Clay 100% on food safety. Never take for granted that you are producing a food for people and in this litigious day and age I wouldn't cut corners. Also, as Clay mentioned, the peanut butter scare created some serious problems for affiliated producers. As a result, it's not only going to effect peanut processors but anyone manufacturing a packaged food product. The Food Safety Modernization act is about to become law and it's going to be costly and time consuming to comply. I won't say it's not necessary, but it only takes one reckless company to create headaches for the honest ones. I recommend anyone starting out in the USA, to get the FDA involved early on in your process. Find out who does the inspections in your area and contact them. It was the best advice I received. Unless of course you plan to stay under the threshold for enforcement. Although, you won't be exempt from lawsuits.

On the equipment side. I started seeking equipment back in early 2007 and the options, especially for winnowing, were very limited. In fact, I contacted Commodity Processing and they dug up the plans and built the unit for me. I now have one of the BLT winnowers, the smaller Winn-15 and I can tell you, it is worth every penny and very affordable. Let's put in perspective too, even at $77k for the 150, your next option for a new machine would be a large industrial winnower for probably no less than $500k, and you would be lucky to get it in your building.

I can also vouch for Kim and John Vessa at BLT, they are honest people, very professional, and it shows in their machines. They've also been in the manufacturing side of the food industry for a long time and Kim knows her stuff as her background is in confectionery technology. She offered up her knowledge at no cost and her advice was invaluable. John's no slouch either. If you take the time to meet them and visit their facility you will see it firsthand. My winnower is all stainless steel, accessible for cleaning, and contains the necessary signage for warning operators. If you have staff and they get injured without them, you're done. It doesn't matter if you built it yourself or not. I spent time in risk management and compliance for a manufacturing company and I've seen what can happen, even with the simplest machines.

Just my two cents, I'm not being paid by BLT for my statements. Anyone starting out now, is fortunate to have them as an option.

David Mason
Black Mountain Chocolate
Hi guys,
I red all comments about machinery, prices, risk and quality.
I am looking for cacao machines, used, or new. Reasonable price.
I´d like to process chocolate bars and bombons, in the first stage.
My production could be 400-1000 lbs/month.
Could anyone help me with this?


There should be quite a bit of used machinery in Ecuador. You might want to check through Tulicorp or one of the other processors to see what they have or can get. Do you have a budget for equipment? I am also curious - are you planning to make chocolate from beans or melting and flavoring chocolate to make bars, bonbons, etc.?

I too share the same concerns regarding food safety Clay mentioned and like David would like to see more in a selection of winnowers. Has anyone gone through the process of getting a homemade winnower (or any equipment for that matter) approved for commercial use - either formally or simply getting a “pass” from a health inspector?

For example, what if I where to build this one using food-grade materials? What challenges would I face using this in an approved manner?
[Presently set aside issues related to production rate and time-to-build vs. cost - which are quite valid - for this particular design.]


Member Marketplace

Promote TheChocolateLife

Bookmark and Share

Follow Clay on:
Twitter :: @DiscoverChoc
F'Book :: TheChocolateLife
F'Book Group :: LaVidaCocoa :: @DiscoverChoc

© 2014   Created by Clay Gordon.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service