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I am building a commercial space to house my chocolate business and have many questions about machinery. While still a very small business, I am in the process of upgrading to a larger production and have many questions about small scale universals and tempering machines: 

1-   How loud are these machines and how much heat do they produce?  Are certain machines quieter than others? 

2- Do people generally isolate these machines in another room? 

3- Are there any other options besides cocoatown and santha in the under $10k range?

4- What are people's experiences with the spectra 40 and cocoatown 65 grinders? I was using two cocoatown ECGC-12SL melangers for the last year until they both broke down on me.   I am looking at having to replace the stones and the metal arm (which snapped) because the plastic has now cracked in all the places where it attaches to the stones. I am hugely skeptical to invest in their larger machine because I am already out the $1000 I spent on these machines and they only lasted me a little over a year.   the motor is still fine, but I think there is inconsistency in the tension which creates wear over time and stresses the plastic, as well as the metal nuts that scrape constantly on the plastic, thereby wearing it completely away.  I wonder whether anyone else experiences this?  In my conversations with cocoatown I learned that they changed the machine to include new plastic washers, in order to help with the wear on the plastic, but they don't seem to want to compensate me for this on my machine.  

5-Any good advice on tempering machines? 

6-Does anyone have any good information on homemade cooling tunnels? ...any thoughts on the ideal cooling temperature, should the temp stay the same or change? I am thinking of putting an external thermostat on a freezer and then putting a fan inside, but there is no way to control humidity.  

any helpful advice would be appreciated, thanks, Beth

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You'd probably do well to consult with someone or buy lunch and pick someone's brains - but here's a quick an dirty shot at some answers before i go out to plow my driveway (again!)

1) Variable.  Macintyre type machines will be very loud, the santhas less so - however they're still going to produce a fair bit of noise.

2) Yes.  ESPECIALLY important to separate your unroasted from your roasted sections for micro purposes.  also the heat generated may interfere with your tempering processes.

3) Options for.. grinding?  sure - you don't mention the volumes or the particle sizes you're looking for, but there are plenty of grinders out there such as ball mills, colloid mills, macintyre mills, etc

4) I've never used those models

5) yes, get one if you do high volume.  Less than 50 lbs / day consider hand tempering or a savage kettle.  they are likely to be expensive.

6) ideally you'll want a 3 zone tunnel, coldest in the middle.  the specifics of the length and cooling are dependent upon how much you put into it (i.e. what your tunnels heat load is).  fans inside to push the heat out also help.

Beth -

Sebastian is right to consult with someone. Starting out, you want to think about the flow of production, from accepting shipments to shipping out. The organization of your space needs to accommodate the flow of materials through the space. You are going to want to separate out the space(s) where un-roasted beans are from the rest of your space (to prevent contamination), and then you are going to want separate zones for hot and cold operations, dry storage, and temperature-controlled storage. This gives you your functional zones.

When it comes to equipment, I can tell you that the place to start thinking is from the amount of production you plan to do. If you need to produce 50kg of finished product per day that suggests one or more different production paths. If you need to produce 250kg per day, then other paths need to be considered. I would not recommend scaling up much past 2 or 4 CocoaTown/Spectra "universals" as it's actually a comparatively inefficient way to go (rather than lots of small "universals" it's best to get equipment dedicated to each step in the process - or go with "real" universals. Real universals will be loud so you should consider putting them some place that can be sound proofed.

I was at Alain Ducasse's workshop and they have a half-bag gas roaster into an antique winnower. They grind the nibs in a colloid mill (here's a video of what a small colloid mill looks like) and then put the liquor into a mixer to add sugar to the liquor. The resulting paste is put through a three-roll mill into an old-style Carle and Montanari conche (250kg capacity but they are looking to upgrade to 400kg). With this method they can easily fill the conche in an 8-hour working day.

Think not just in terms of weight of production (kg/day) but also in terms of the number of units. It doesn't take much longer to do 1000 80gr bar than 1000 50gr bars. But think in terms of molds and cavities. If you can fill on average 1 mold/minute with four cavities/mold that's 60 molds/240 bars/hr. 1000, 50gr bars will take about 4 hours at that rate to mold. You don't need a tempering machine capable of tempering 100kg/hr (e.g., a continuous tempering machine with a 25kg working bowl) to reach that capacity.

Until you get into large volume production, cooling tunnels are very expensive propositions. Many small chocolate makers make a "cool room" and you can do this with a conventional through-wall air conditioner and a CoolBot [ referral link ]. Elsewhere here on TheChocolateLife I've posted conceptual plans for a "static cooling tunnel" that several ChocolateLife members have made and are using successfully.

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