Many of the new generation of craft chocolate makers start out using a 5-liter stone grinder sourced from India. They're great when you're in a startup mode, but issues start arising when you want to scale production - without having to get investors or mortgage your house.
One alternative is to buy larger versions of the 5-liter grinders. Ones adapted for the continuous duty cycles of chocolate making are available in sizes from 30-65 liters that cost under $5000 each.
One challenge, however, is appropriate scaling. For example, using a roaster modeled on a toaster oven with a rotisserie basket might be capable of roasting 5lbs of beans at a time. If a batch of chocolate takes 48 hours in the grinder then it's possible to roast enough batches (and then crack and winnow enough nibs) to start a new batch every 48 hours.
It's questionable if you can have a successful business at that scale. So you get a couple of grinders - because you can't afford $25K for a 50kg universal - and now the question is what equipment for roasting, cracking and winnowing because now you need 30kg of nibs every 8 hours. You can't do that if you're winnowing with a hair dryer (though you might be able to do it with a Crankandstein bean cracker and something more elegant than an electric drill as a motor).
My personal feeling has long been that it will be necessary to get the cost of equipment (bean cleaner, roaster, cracker, winnower, nib grinder, refiner/conche - not including tempering/depositing/molding/wrapping) down to about $1000/kg/batch/24hrs in order to really jumpstart the growth of the small batch craft chocolate "industry" here in the US. Furthermore, I think that at that price point it will be necessary to produce at least 1 ton per month of finished chocolate in order to be able to break even.
SO - what are the challenges you are having with finding equipment ... and what approaches have you discovered that work well for you? For example, one of the things the industry really needs is a small-scale butter press than can get down to 22-24% residual fat in the press cake cost-effectively.
This question also extends to tempering, depositing/molding, cooling/crystallizing, and wrapping.
What are your challenges in sourcing equipment? What wins have you made in discovering/engineering solutions to these challenges?
Thanks in advance for sharing.